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FA to announce equality plan 'either side of the new year'

HEADQUARTERS: The FA's Wembley home

THE FOOTBALL Association (FA) has put the wheels in motion for the English game to have ethnic minority quotas for match officials and coaches in 2013 – an idea which the authority hopes will further combat racism, The Voice has been told.

In February, Downing Street tasked the FA to come up with an action plan to curb racism and discrimination in football, while promoting greater equality and inclusivity - a parliamentary select committee was created to investigate the sport's racism problems, its findings, published in September, concluded; "while the general level of progress in combating racism and racist abuse in the UK is positive and should be applauded, there is much more that can and must be done."

The FA's response to the politicians' tasking is currently being finalised, The Voice was told by a FA spokesman, who confirmed the plan is scheduled to be released "either side of the new year."

The FA was unwilling to add further comment on its impending equality plan.

However, an early draft which is "a few months old", according to the FA, has been seen by The Daily Mail. The drafted document, which also creates greater scope for women and disabled people in the sport, reportedly demands that a minimum of 10 percent of referees and coaches from ethnic minorities are given entry at all levels of football.

Also, the FA’s new initiative puts more pressure on all 92 League clubs to act; there are crackdown measures stipulated on clubs which fail to adequately discipline employees who breach codes of conduct, another feature to which the FA wants each club to universally adopt.

In addition, the plan – that will be distributed to each of England and Wales’ 92 football teams – asks for more video and audio technology to be implemented across stadia in order to monitor and capture spectators inciting racial abuse.

Furthermore, a confidential hotline for players to inform of discrimination could be given the go-ahead, a move that may seen as partial appeasement of calls for a new support network or independent black players union that would enable a more conducive environment for footballers to report incidents of racism. The proposed hotline would also include lines of communication, such as email and texting, for fans to identify cases of abuse they have witnessed.

Following a 14 month period where racism has overshadowed the sport, and football’s authorities have come under fire from multiple quarters for how they have dealt with racism cases, chiefly the John Terry and Luis Suarez controversies, this new plan appears to be the FA’s long-term solution to promote inclusivity and address discrimination.

Lord Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, recently criticised the FA as “weak and slack” for their response to the two high-profile incidents in which Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra were subjected to racist language from Terry and Suarez, respectively.

Another prominent figure to voice their discontent with the organisation, led by David Bernstein, was the Society of Black Lawyer’s chair, Peter Herbert. The barrister branded the FA as “institutionally racist” – a term he saw fit because of perceived systemic failures to help black players and promote a message of a zero-tolerance stance toward racism.

One demand conspicuous by its absence from the draft document is the ‘Rooney Rule’ – inclusive legislation enacted in America’s NFL in 2003 which Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, has been calling to be introduced this side of the Atlantic. The rule requires clubs to interview at least one minority candidate when seeking to hire a new coach or general manager.

Many misconceptions surrounding the Rooney Rule remain. One of its pioneers in the States, corporate lawyer, Cyrus Mehri, told The Voice the rule is “the opposite” to affirmative action or positive discrimination and quotas because it does not force employers into filling positions based on ethnicity.

“It offers a diverse slate to clubs, casting a wider net to get the best people for the job,” said Mehri about the rule.

It is understood the FA is willing to set up an inclusion advisory board that will oversee, monitor and guide the implementation process of the proposals. Bernstein has reportedly given his personal guarantee to MPs that the FA will carry out its plan.

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