Former England striker Eniola Aluko says questions must be asked as to why women’s football has not made progress in terms of diversity since she ended her playing career.
The Lionesses squad for their most recent match – a 6-0 win over Northern Ireland in February – contained just one non-white player.
Meanwhile Manchester United boss Casey Stoney said earlier in March that the “very white” Women’s Super League has a bigger diversity problem than the men’s game and called for more diversity at the top of the sport.
As of June 2020, only an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of players in the Women’s Super League were Black – significantly less than in the men’s top tier, where black footballers account for around a third of all players.
Aluko, who retired from playing in 2019 after winning over 100 England caps and is now director of women’s football at Aston Villa, believes there are several different factors that have combined to prevent progress.
“I’m not sure progress has been made,” Aluko told Sky Sports News. “I think when you look at the representation across the England women’s team, it is concerning.
“I’m not one to say that anybody should be picked just because of their race, but I certainly think that in a country like England you have to ask the question of why there isn’t as much representation as certainly there was before, under managers like Hope Powell.
“I think there’s a variety of reasons for that, maybe there’s a disconnect between academies now, and where the game is professionalising, there’s a little bit of a disconnect between inner-city talent and academies that are training in the suburbs of cities.”
With Demi Stokes injured and Nikita Parris unavailable for selection due to Covid-19 protocols, Bristol City forward Ebony Salmon was the sole non-white player in England’s last squad, but Aluko appeared to question why it had taken so long for the 20-year-old to be given her chance.
Aluko previously praised the Football Association (FA) for setting up the Football Leadership Diversity Code in October 2020 in an effort to increase the equality of opportunities within the professional game.
“But also I think at the top level there has to be an appreciation of making sure that every player is given the best opportunity to be judged on their performance,” Aluko said.
“Somebody like Ebony Salmon for example absolutely deserves to get into the team, based on her goals and based on her performance, not anything else.
“And I think that we need to make sure that we are assessing everybody objectively whichever background they come from, whichever experience they’ve had.”
Watch the WSL live on Sky Sports
Sky Sports has announced a three-year deal with the FA to become the primary broadcaster of the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League from September 2021, becoming one of Sky Sports flagship offerings.
The deal will see Sky Sports show at least 35 games exclusively live per season and further strengthens the broadcaster’s commitment to women’s sport.
Sky Sports will now begin a recruitment process for the best-in-class on- and off-screen production team as part of the plan to align WSL with the broadcaster’s other big sporting leagues and events.
The WSL will get the full Sky Sports treatment with lengthy build-ups and reaction to all live matches, plus daily news from the competition across Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ digital platforms.
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