New scheme leads to increased diversity in pathway to become a Lioness

<span>Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

The number of black, Asian and minority ethnic players selected for England women youth teams has increased by 10% (from 7% to 17%) between the 2017-18 season and the current campaign.

According to figures from the Football Association, released as part of the announcement of a revamped Women’s and Girls’ Player Pathway, the proportion of BAME players selected for women’s Under-17 camps has seen a seven-fold increase in two years, from 5% to 36%.

The news follows criticism in the summer of a lack of diversity in the Lionesses Euro 2022 winning squad, with an all-white starting XI relied upon throughout.

Related: Lack of diversity in England Women squad will stop many girls from dreaming | Anita Asante

A big factor in the increase has been the introduction of the Discover My Talent scheme, which was launched in 2021 and allows anyone to recommend and refer a player with potential directly to the FA through a website. In one year, more than 3,000 players have been referred through the scheme, with 320 players going on to be recommended for follow-up and 74 going on to England longlists across the U15 national talent camp and the U16 and U17 teams.

A total of 50% of recommended players through Discover My Talent have been identified as having come from areas of higher deprivation, with an Index of Multiple Deprivation measure (which looks at income, employment, education, health, crime, housing and environment) of six or below. Meanwhile, those in the top bracket with an IMD ranking of nine to 10, from areas with the lowest levels of deprivation, represent only 28% of referrals.

The figures reflect a drive from the FA to unearth the best talent in England and make the game more diverse and accessible. The Discover My Talent referral scheme helps extend the FA’s tentacles to a wider pool that may not usually be able to access the more traditional routes into the system, allowing anyone – a teacher, a friend, a parent or a coach – to put a player on the radar of the national setup.

Kay Cossington
The FA’s women’s technical director, Kay Cossington (right), says the FA ‘have a responsibility to ensure every young girl who wants a football career has a clear pathway to doing so.’ Photograph: Paul Ellis/PA

The changes to the pathway have been welcomed by the anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out, whose chief operating officer, Hollie Varney, said: “Kick It Out welcomes today’s announcement that the FA is developing its talent pathways to provide greater opportunities for aspiring women and girls, and we are encouraged by their ambition to ensure that every talented player, regardless of background, has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

“We hope these initiatives improve the player pathways to bring in more diverse talent, which will ultimately address the lack of diversity in the Lionesses squad in the years to come.”

The FA’s women’s technical director, Kay Cossington, said: “We have a responsibility to ensure that every young girl who wants to have a career in football has a clear pathway to doing so.

“These changes ensure more focused investment and will address some of the historic challenges many different age groups have faced when trying to access the game. We strive for our game to be more reflective of wider society and making our game more diverse, inclusive and accessible is the central ambition to the restructure of our pathway.”