Brentford FC director Nity Raj says football has a long way to go to normailse the presence of British South Asians across the elite game.
British South Asians are the largest single ethnic minority group in Britain, but remain heavily under-represented across the English game – an issue that football has failed to effectively tackle up to this point.
Less than 0.5 per cent of professionally-contracted players hail from the community, with Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari exclusively telling Sky Sports News earlier this year the community’s absence from the men’s game remains the single-largest statistical anomaly in English football.
The under-representation in the top division of women’s football is even more frightening, with the proportion of professional footballers from a South Asian background standing at just 0.3 per cent.
“There have been some great changes and the visibility of people around the game has been amazing but there is more to be done,” Raj told Sky Sports News at the launch of the Heart of West London partnership at the Gtech Community Stadium.
“I would like to be able to see British [South] Asians in football the way they are in every aspect of life. For it to be normalised, so that it is not a surprise when you see it.”
Raj’s comments come with football authorities facing increased scrutiny over their record on British South Asians in football from leading figures in the game.
Last month, QPR assistant head of academy coaching Manisha Tailor MBE told Sky Sports News the female pathway in the elite game is neither diverse nor representative of the demographic of England.
Derby County Women’s trailblazer Kira Rai last week echoed Tailor’s sentiments, adding: “a lot more work needs to be put in at the elite level to make it a level playing field for everyone involved.”
The Football Association was asked to respond Tailor and Rai’s comments, and was unable to provide any ethnicity data on diverse representation within girls’ and women’s elite pathways when contacted by Sky Sports News.
The FA said its key aims are to provide greater access for more players while diversifying the talent pool, pointing to its Discover My Talent initiative and referring Sky Sports News to its Asian Inclusion Strategy update and wider Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
Davies named Inclusion Advisory Board chair
Meanwhile, Brentford non-executive director Deji Davies has been appointed chair of the Football Association’s Inclusion and Advisory Board (IAB), succeeding former professional footballer Paul Elliot.
FA chair Debbie Hewitt said she is delighted by the appointment, with Davies adding he is relishing the challenge of trying to help the governing body drive meaningful change.
“Football has been a major part of my life from an early age, and I have seen first-hand how powerful it can be in challenging inequality and championing inclusion,” Davies said.
“With my experience both inside and outside of the game, I believe that I will bring a fresh perspective to the role and I look forward to working with the other members of the Inclusion Advisory Board and the FA Board on creating and driving forward positive and meaningful change.
“The value and benefit of inclusion in our game has never been more important, both on and off the pitch, and I’m eager to get started.”
Raj: Preeti and Deji have challenged us
Last year, Sky Sports News broke the story that Brentford were taking the rare step of advertising for someone to join their already diverse board.
After a rigorous interview and shortlisting process, and with little to choose between the standout final two candidates, the Bees decided to appoint both Preeti Shetty and former semi-professional footballer Davies to their board.
Both heard about the recruitment process after seeing it feature on Sky Sports News, and Raj has praised their impact, insisting the pair have new ideas and fresh impetus in the boardroom.
“They are amazing. it’s been great to be working with Preeti and Deji,” he said.
“They have brought new perspectives. They challenge us and that’s what we wanted when we went out there and we said we want to have independent voices on our board, people with a different perspective – that’s what we got.
“We were really lucky that Sky ran that story and that we got amazing candidates. I am really grateful to Preeti and Deji for what they bring this to the club.
“We’ll continue to have a different approach and new ideas and that’s what will hopefully help us become better and better.”
Brentford will sport a heart-shaped QR code on their shirts against Chelsea on to raise awareness about learning resuscitation skills.
A heart-shaped ‘CPQR code’ will feature prominently on the front of the Bees’ shirts for the clash on Wednesday night, to “encourage millions watching around the world to take two minutes to learn the basics of CPR”.
The code will also feature on the screens around the Gtech Community Stadium on the club’s digital platforms, and on the cover of the matchday programme.
CPR demonstrations will also take place around the stadium on the night. In addition, Brentford first-team players Mads Roerslev and Kane Lewis-Potter featured in their own instructional video which will be published on social media.
This forms part of this year’s Restart a Heart campaign and the club’s new partnership – ‘Heart of West London’ – with a number of leading charities to improve heart health in the local community.
The Heart of West London group is made up of Brentford FC, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young, Resuscitation Council UK, Pablo London and A-K-A Day.
Brentford are also naming their new training facility after their late former technical director Robert Rowan.
It will be officially named the Robert Rowan Performance Centre as part of the club’s tributes to his memory and formally opened by his family in an official ceremony later this year. Rowan suffered a fatal cardiomyopathy episode in the early hours of Monday November 12, 2018, and died at the age of 28.
The centre is being built on the site of Brentford’s current training ground at Jersey Road and will be in place for five years.
Chairman Cliff Crown said: “It is an honour for us to be able to name our new performance centre after Robert. He was a young man who made a big impact on Brentford. This will be a lasting legacy for Robert, for his wife Suzanne and for his family.”
There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK every year, and every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by ten per cent.
Recent research carried out by OnePoll found that 74 per cent of people have learned how to perform CPR – but only 44 per cent feel confident in performing it if someone was in a life-threatening situation.
According to the British Heart Foundation, first-generation South Asians are up to 50 per cent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than the white European population in the UK.
For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on skysports.com and South Asians in the Game blog and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital