Former England star Luther Blissett believes greater diversity should be encouraged from top to bottom throughout professional football clubs in order to combat ongoing race issues in the game.
The Watford legend wants current professionals to inspire all children, regardless of their skin colour, to aim for jobs in every department, so to speak, so that football clubs can accurately represent wider society.
Blissett – who is currently involved in the Watford Helps project aiming to support vulnerable people during lockdown – believes it is the responsibility of all society, as well as the Premier League and FA, to assess how we can make a difference.
He exclusively told RadioTimes.com: “I was a guest at the FA a number of years ago and I was sat in there with the people that invited me.
“I said to them: ‘What do you see in this room? Apart from myself, there is not another black face anywhere in this room apart from those being put to work, serving.’
“There are lots of jobs at football clubs where people of colour can and should be employed in those positions just as they have people of white skin in those positions now.
“It should not just be you get into a football club because you’re one of the players. It’s been that way since I started playing, for 40 years or further on, and we’re still having this ridiculous thing. You look right the way through football clubs and quite often you arrive at a football ground and the people that greet you in security tend to be of colour.
“They need to have representation that represents what the game, what society is all about. We live in a very multi-cultural country and with football being a major part for everyone in the country, they should reflect that same picture in the way they employ.
“And football clubs should be the same. You don’t have to be a footballer to work at a football club, look at all the various jobs whether it be marketing, whether it be in sales or HR or PR or whatever.
“It’s a job of all of us. If we’re in a position of influence, and the Premier League are in a huge position of influence and anyone who works for the FA and football clubs and players, you’re in a position to influence others.”
Numerous black footballers have taken to social media in recent weeks to support the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of US citizen George Floyd’s death following an arrest.
Based on his own personal experience inside the football world, Blissett believes a key area for players to promote is that all jobs should be available to all people, regardless of skin colour.
He said: “There are certain things I’ve observed in this past week or so with footballers and black players putting things out. They have to be very mindful of how they influence people.
“They should always be influencing black youngsters at the moment, whether they be boys or girls, that they can do any job. Any job you put your mind to, if you get the qualifications and you are able to apply for that job, that is where these things start.
“Sometimes it’s limited because you think ‘Yeah, I want to be a footballer because of the cars and the money’ and all this, but there are lots of ways for you to get there. That message is very important.
“My son knew he didn’t want to become a footballer and he went down another road and he is now a director at a large bank. It just goes to show all avenues are open if you are willing to go down there.
“We do need role models to take that first step to say this is possible and then it needs to be spoken about in a positive way so that it becomes normal thinking, so that all the kids – it’s not only black kids I’m talking about now – every kid that goes to school, while they’re at school they’re thinking ‘There is no job out there that I cannot do’ apart from something they’re physically unable to do.
“But that there is no job out there that isn’t open to them if they’re willing to put the work in and work towards it.”
There have been fresh calls to assess the current situation with a lack of black managers throughout the Football League, and Blissett thinks player descriptions must change in order to dispel myths akin to a controversial situation over race in the NFL.
He said: “There have been far too few [black managers] over the years. It’s been brought up by a number of players about the way black players are described to the way that white players are.
“It’s no different to the way it was in American Football. The [white] quarterback was always the intelligent, clever one and that myth has been dispelled as they’ve had very talented black quarterbacks over the years who have won Super Bowls and whatever.
“That is dispelled in America, and we need to dispel that here. Anybody can become a coach if you have the attitude to do that and that’s what you want to do.”
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