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FA gets down to business

TRIBUTE: Glenn and Hinds with the Voice’s special edition for Cyrille Regis

RODNEY HINDS: You’re a Wolves fan I understand. We’ve just celebrated the life of the late Cyrille Regis who played for the club. Your thoughts on Cyrille’s contribution to the game?

MARTIN GLENN: I was a regular at Molineux and sadly I saw some terrible racist abuse. And you knew it wasn’t right; people were throwing bananas on the pitch and stuff like that. You go back to the early 70s and you know it wasn’t right. What Cyrille helped to do was change attitudes and the stereotypes of black players. He had star quality. Things are not perfect today but they are a lot, lot better. His loss was a shock, he died so young.

RH: After three years at The FA, what are amongst your achievements?

MG: I was brought into the FA as an outsider. The board wanted someone to come in who had a business background. We’ve got a lot to learn from other sports and other parts of life to make the game better – and it can be hard work. We’ve never been in better shape, we have worked on costs. We’ve done a lot of work on coaching, we’ve redesigned the level One and Two courses and the quality of pitches people play on. For a rich country some of the crap we play on is not right. That’s unheralded work but really powerful but we know that’s how we go about winning a World Cup; get kids better trained on better surfaces.

A lot of what we have done has been the infrastructure stuff which includes getting all the England teams better set up than before. We have a strategic plan with several objectives. That plan includes winning England teams. When I get stopped on the Tube I’m always asked when are England going to win anything. For the good of the game - and the nation - it’s important that we do succeed. We are more efficient and effective now.

We have to get more systematic and turn the dial on diversity and inclusion. There were lessons after the Eni Aluko situation. There was previously no
mechanism if players thought they had been badly treated. To make progress you have to be systematic. The FA needs to lead it. My experience in business tells me that things need to start at the top so we are coming up with a diversity plan for the organisation.

RH: What are your hopes for this summer’s World Cup?

MG: We’ve been variously accused of trying to manage expectations down. We are ranked 14th in the world and have given Gareth Southgate a long term contract because we’ve said that he has to bet on youth. We don’t actually have that many English players playing in the Premier League so you need someone like Gareth who knows the talent coming through. He has the freedom to bet on youth. We will have a better tournament than we have had in the past but we might not win it because of that lack of experience. We have a cohort of youngsters who have good international experience at a young age and that counts for something. We are a team in transition. We are doing a lot of work in preparing the players from a psychological perspective. We want them to make the nation proud, so get out of the group stages and see where we go from there. Gareth’s going out there to win!

IN CONVERSATION: FA chief executive Glenn speaks to the Voice’s sports editor at Wembley

RH: Would a men’s World Cup win make your job easier?

MG: For about a day!

RH: From a BAME level, at grassroots level can you share some of the FA’s work and success?

MG: We have an inclusion advisory board which includes a panel of people from diverse backgrounds in most of our counties now. It has to start from the counties up as we have too few women and those from BAME communities doing their coaching badges or becoming referees. We set the counties standards and targets.

RH: Why isn’t there stronger punishments for racial abuse in the game?

MG: We don’t tolerate it – it’s is unacceptable. The number of complaints of racist abuse within the grassroots game has gone up a lot. People are aware of it and it’s getting dealt with. We’ve built awareness for it with the Respect campaign and follow and procedures. All of our England players are trained at the start of a tournament that if you hear anything here’s what you do and in Rhian Brewster’s case it worked well. We telling our elite players to accept nothing. Us making an example of it makes a point of challenging prejudice.

RH: Do you feel the FA needs to employ more people from within the BAME communities?

MG: Yes we do. Some 13 per cent of our workforce are from BAME communities which is above the national average. We’ll report to the Board in March with a diversity plan with a set of targets for ethnicity and gender; it will make us a better organisation. We don’t start at a bad place now, better in terms of gender than ethnicity. We are not a closed shop so we have to get more creative.

RH: What elements do you enjoy most about your job?

MG: It’s an absolute privilege to do the job. Why do I do it? I love football. When I came in I had a strong sense of ‘we can do better than this.’ The better is a lot, lot better than people think it is; opening football up to new ideas has been satisfying, I enjoy that. I really have felt proud about the growth in women’s football, it’s doing really really well. I enjoy the fact that we have made the FA Cup much more relevant to a national audience.

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