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QPR boss says: 'leave my colour out of it'

LONE RANGER: Chris Ramsey is the only black manager in the top flight

"I DON'T want to be known as a black manager… I want to be known as a manager." That was the message from QPR boss Chris Ramsey on Wednesday night at Wembley (April 15), as the second cohort of footballers graduated with their ‘On The Board’ qualification.

Ramsey, like his Rangers colleague Les Ferdinand, are success stories of this particular course having both gone on to land prestigious roles in the game since.

In fact the latter credited the course in helping him become director of football at QPR, while Ramsey has been placed in charge of the west London side until the end of the season as they battle to retain their Premier League status. Nathan Blake, another of last year’s graduates, has also gained a non-executive position at Newport County AFC.

The ‘On the Board’ initiative, created by leading governance consultant Karl George MBE, is part of a wider commitment from the PFA and FA to tackle the lack of diversity in boardrooms within football.

Currently just 4 per cent of backroom jobs go to black and ethnic minorities (BME), with recent findings from the Sport People’s Think Tank revealing that only 19 ethnic minority coaches are employed in 552 positions across 92 professional clubs.

Among the 20 graduates this time around were Brighton & Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, Ugo Ehiogu, Marcus Gayle and Rachel Yankey.

George believes that this six-month programme - designed to equip individuals with the know-how and expertise required to land themselves senior administrative and governance roles in the game - is already showing signs of progress, but people must continue to stand up and talk about the issue.

He told The Voice: "First and foremost I want us to make sure we continue the programme to make sure there are people getting the qualifications, but also to continue lobbying to enforce change.

"We’ve got a unique partnership with the PFA, FA and players for an on-going challenge that we know we’ve got not only in football but across all of society, too.

"Part of making sure people get the message in this programme is engaging with them in the way you present, and getting them to understand the contents of what is a difficult and serious topic.

"It’s also about articulating that information, too. In a lot of cases people know there on a course learn all the information and then it’s all forgotten down the line.

"What I’ve tried to do is make sure people learn it, understand it and then integrate it, so they’ve got that knowledge to sit on a boardroom table and hold down these roles."

Speaking in a forum to the audience alongside the likes of Ramsey et al, Hughton explained how the On Board programme has benefitted him in his current role as manager of Championship side Brighton.

He said: "I’ve learnt a lot more about corporate governance and the facets of it for a start, and what this course has also done has made it clear that I want to go into some type of administrative role when I finish management.

"It’s massively enhanced my ability to relate to the board of directors in my current role now too, something which I wouldn’t have been able to do to such a large extent before."

Ehiogu, the former Aston Villa and England defender, and now a coach for Tottenham’s Under 21 side, admitted that he initially struggled with the course but by the end had expanded his range of skills and greatly enhanced his CV as a result.

"It was tough to start with, especially those first few sessions, but by the end of the course there was a great spirit amongst us all," he said.

"I feel it has given me a much better understanding of mechanisms and how big organisations like a football club operate.
I see glimpses of governance every day and Tottenham are great in this respect in terms of procedures and plans.

"The first part of progress is always difficult. It’s going to need continued voice and will be an on-going struggle, but it’s something we need to change in society, not just football."

Former Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle believes progress has been made in the last year, but not enough BME coaches are commanding roles all across football.

"My vision has been broadened significantly in terms of what goes on and doesn’t go on in boardrooms," said a passionate Gayle.

"It’s about diversity and opportunity and the net hasn’t been thrown out far enough to catch at the moment - there’s some really talented people out there.

"This year there has been positives though, at the start of the season there were no black managers holding managerial positions, and now there’s several around – which is obviously great.

"Especially considering I finished the highest black manager in the country last year when I was at Staines Town, that spoke volumes to me.

"It’s just a case of inclusion at the end of the day. It’s not just football, it’s society. Some people just look at you and form an opinion straight away.

"We’re good enough to play at some of the biggest clubs in the world, captain our countries, win major trophies and play in the best league in the world, so why can’t we obtain these roles? It's clear we have the experience and know-how."

Roberts, one of the co-founders of the initiative, believes that while this programme is a sign of progress, it is only a small step in reality with inequality still ripe through football, in particular at boardroom level.

The former Reading striker said: "I’m very passionate about this course because I was one of the founding members of it.
But I recognise that through this course alone it is not doing anything, especially if opportunities are not put forward to the guys who have given up their time to gain the necessary qualifications to try to move things forward.

GOOD TO TALK: Former Reading striker Jason Roberts (right) being interviewed by Sean Gallagher

"It’s a small step but the issue of diversity isn’t going to improve without people showing leadership. At the start of the season there were no black managers involved in the game at all, and the latest statistics from the Sports People’s Think Tank in regards to the number of ethnic minorities involved in the game were particular damning and that is unacceptable by anyone’s standards.

"If the issue is important enough, things will change. When the minimum wage was an issue in football it was important enough to the players to speak up about it and they enforced change.

"Until change happens from the top we’re going to have the same results and we’ll have 15 years of the On Board course with 1 per cent in leadership positions – and that obviously isn’t good enough."

Another of the co-founders and also a graduate of last year’s programme Michael Johnson, echoed Roberts views in that fundamental change needs to be made through the face of football sooner rather than later.

"If football think this is a worthwhile course let’s get some of these graduates from On Board into these positions," said the Birmingham City ambassador.

"The course has given me knowledge in the role I’m now undertaking, but my issue is whilst it’s great shadowing and doing all that, we’re doing this course to go one place – to obtain the necessary qualifications to gain a position in a football boardroom.

"The FA and PFA could really help in regards to this and call a meeting alongside the Football League and identify qualified people from BME backgrounds for these roles.

"People say we’ve made great progress since the dark days of the 70s and 80s, but the reality is we haven’t moved at all really in the last few years.

"I don’t want to wait another 10/15 years before change is enforced and clear to see, it needs to happen before that. I want there to be an impact now.

"I don’t think there’s enough people within football banging the drum, either. These events are great but what’s going to happen after this? We can talk the talk but are we going to walk the walk, let’s wait and see."

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