Tyrone Mings is proud to see the strong stance of players with regards to Black Lives Matter leading to tangible change in the English game through the FA’s introduction of the Football Leadership Diversity Code.
Over 40 clubs have committed to the charter, which aims to remedy the lack of inclusion in the sport across senior positions, broader team operations and coaching roles.
The Aston Villa defender was one of the players pivotal in informing the design of the code, which promotes greater gender and ethnic representation in football, while increasing accountability and transparency.
Mings answered questions put forward by a media panel involved in helping develop the code, including The Independent’s Senior Football Correspondent, Melissa Reddy.
Here is a selection of questions and answers on the code and why it signifies important progress:
There will be people that label this move ‘positive discrimination.’ What would you say to that?
TM: I mean criticism of the code is one thing, but who is criticising it? If it is people on Twitter, it really doesn't bother me if thats where the criticism is coming from. The most important thing for me is what the clubs do, what the CEOs do, people in leadership roles within clubs do. Are they going above and beyond to identify the best talent out there for the role. I don't think theres one black person out there who would want to be interviewed for a role they really aren't qualified for, or really wouldn't have a chance of getting a job if they were white. Its important clubs have to try and find the best talent that is available wherever that maybe in the country. Wherever the criticism comes from doesn’t really bother me. We will flush out the clubs, people or organisations who are doing it as a token gesture or doing it to please the wider community. We will find that out by not only how many people they employ from those backgrounds but how many people thrive in those roles. How many people go on to be better, to be promoted, because as I said nobody wants the job if they are not qualified. Nobody wants the job for 12 months and then get booted out the back door because they weren't good enough. It’s about creating roles for people like myself, or for people like myself to see people that look like myself in influential positions. You cant tell me that the only people who are working in senior management roles at the moment are black or from an ethnic minority background are the only ones that are qualified for the job or should have had the job. But at the same time we don't want the job because we’re black, thats not where we want to get to either.
What makes this code different to the Rooney rule?
TM: I guess only time will tell. I can’t sit here and tell you what what will happen or what differences there will be or what ultimately the world will look like in a few years. This isn't the finished article. This doesn’t change everything, this doesn't make everything better. What I think it is is a step in the right direction.
Would you ever play for a club that didn’t sign up to the code?
TM: Very good question. It was something that we were speaking about throughout the creation of the code - that may be an issue that those clubs may have to deal with this in the future, those difficult conversations around why haven't you signed up? I don't know what the reasons are right now. I don't know whether they couldn’t achieve the targets or whether they didn't want to sign up, I don't know. You’d have to think it is not because they don't want to increase the diversity in the senior management positions or coaching roles, you'd like to think that it is not anything sinister. So it is something, of course, that would come into a player’s mind - you would want to ask the question, 'why?' Now what their answer to that is maybe justified, I don't know, but then I guess off the back of that you have commercial sponsors and fans will also be asking the same questions ‘are you not committed to creating those pathways or creating those opportunities for black people and ethnic minorities?.' It is something of course that will come into players’ minds if they see that one club has alienated itself from the code by choosing not to sign up or choosing to not be a part of it. I guess everybody will live and die by their decisions, everybody will have answers for the choices that they make so who knows, hopefully I don’t have to get to that point.
Are campaigns still important in football?
TM: I don't think we have moved past the point of campaigning, that it dilutes itself so much that it's ineffective. There are so many campaigns these days that try to highlight difficult situations. Only a couple of days ago we saw an ex-Man City player take his own life, just after Mental Health Week. So there are campaigns that try to highlight these things, but ultimately it falls upon people to continue the message. To take a campaign and take its meaning, whether it be racism or mental health, use them because I think it's important that we still use football to highlight these difficult situations. It's important that we still highlight injustices. It's important that we still highlight conversations that are difficult to have really. It's not easy to speak about mental health, it's not easy to speak about discrimination in any form within football. So I think campaigns will always have a place in football. I think the problem and the place we were getting to was that was all they were. They were campaigns, they were t-shirts we wore before games, they were slogans that were all inclusive. But it wasn't really doing anything, it wasn't really moving the needle to have any form of impact on the game or have any form of impact on creating pathways for people like myself. I don't think we will ever get to the point where campaigns aren't effective, it's just what you do off the back of them. I think we campaigned so hard this year with the unfortunate situation around the injustices in America and everything that was happening over there which then led to worldwide campaigns. What we did off the back of that in terms of this code, it would have been a real shame if we didn't take the campaign and create real change, create something tangible and something we could all use. I understand the point, because where we were, we were getting to the stage where the Premier League probably wanted to help but didn't know how to and felt that campaigns were the best use of their time and of their resources. But ultimately, t-shirts are great because they highlight the issue, but then what to do with it, what do we want to happen from that? I think now we're in a good place. We've created this code and I can only speak on racism and this code, but we've created this code off the back of a lot of campaigning and that's not just this year. It's people who've come before me people that have been campaigning for years ever since they've played football or they've been in the boardroom. So we're fortunate enough to sit here now and speak about a code that's been developed off the back of, really, 100 plus years of campaigning. Campaigns will never be dead, but we just have to use them effectively.
Will black players be sceptical about this?
TM: I think that's natural. I think that whenever something is introduced and you haven't seen change for years, any time something new is brought to the table you're going to rightly feel a little bit sceptical about how much people want to change and how much people want to stop themselves from being criticised. It's probably a lot easier to sign up and not have to answer difficult questions as it is to not sign up and be out on your own. Of course there will be some scepticism. Some people will rightly feel that this won't move the needle enough in terms of the problems that we've faced historically, but for me and for my ambitions post-football I can see how it will be useful. I can see how people will have to at least identify the demographics of their senior management teams and try and make them reflective of their population and the society around the football club. Obviously there are different problems around different parts of the country in terms of demographics of people. I can speak on my football club and certainly for Aston Villa they don't have that problem it's a very diverse population around Birmingham and it's important that football clubs are at the forefront of trying to change. We do so many good things in football both on and off the pitch for the local communities that this has to be one of them. So going back to your point about black footballers feeling scepticism I can only speak on behalf of myself and I feel like it moves things along. It nudges things along in terms of having a fairer or more representative backroom staff or football club. It's not the finished article it's not going to make things perfect but what it will do is change things for the better.
Will the code need to be updated with targets raised?
TM: Yes, with these things it is very difficult to pitch what a fair starting point is. There are different clubs around the country that have different problems in terms of the travel, or where they are, or the populations that they serve. And that should not be an excuse, what it should be is a gentle nod of acknowledgement to the fact that it is not easy for everybody to all meet the same percentage. And of course these things are based on annual reports, and it will be interesting to see how clubs get on over the next couple of years in trying to implement it. I guess we will separate the ones that are really trying to do something positive against the ones that have just signed up to keep themselves out of the spotlight. So it will definitely have to change, like anything when you set something up, there has to be constant reviews. Some clubs will find it easier simply because of where they are, and what demographic of people they have working for them at the moment, what diversity they have in their staff at the moment. Some people will be starting from a lot better positions than others. So it will definitely have to be reviewed. I have no doubt about that.