Asians excluded from football?
A new book which explores the exclusion of British Asians from football and makes recommendations for achieving equality in the industry has been published by a Leeds Beckett University academic.
In his book, ‘British Asians, Exclusion and the Football Industry’, Dr Dan Kilvington, a Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett, presents his extensive new research collected from interviews with players, coaches, scouts, managers, fans, and anti-racist organisations and highlights both historical and current reasons for the exclusion of British Asians from football.
Dr Kilvington said: “I’ve been researching into this area for almost a decade now but it all started following a conversation with one of my university lecturers in 2007.
“Dr Amir Saeed, a passionate and enthusiastic figure, asked me: ‘where are the British Asian footballers’?
“I couldn’t provide an answer and neither could he. It was like I found my calling. The more I investigated, the more I began to understand the complexity behind this exclusion.
“It was clear that barriers were in place and investigating them, talking about them, writing about them and attempting to challenge them became my work.”
Dr Kilvington then went on to conduct almost 100 interviews with individuals and groups from all spheres of the game over an eight year period.
He said: “The book explores overt and covert racism, highlights both male and female experiences and discusses the similarities and differences between Asian heritage communities, such as Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, from across England.
“It provides a critical overview of equality and inclusion initiatives which aim to increase the numbers of British Asians in the game, in all areas.
“I also make recommendations for reform pitched at football’s key stakeholders which are believed to help achieve greater equality and inclusion.”
The book, published by Routledge, draws on case studies, one of which centres around Bradford.
Dr Kilvington said: “Despite Bradfordian Asians’ passion, enthusiasm and love for football, no one from the South Asian community has managed to maintain a career in the professional game. I carried out in-depth research within Bradford, consulting ex-professionals, former academy players, coaches, scouts, managers and PE teachers.
“What I found was that there is a lack of grass roots opportunities within locales which are densely populated by Asian heritage communities; while the local and national scouting networks tend to overlook such communities and environment, for many reasons.
“The future looks promising for the next generation of male and female British Asian youngsters. Following the move from the subcontinent, the priority for the first generation was work and home.
“For the second generation, leisure became more important and the football seeds were sown.
“For the third generation, these seeds are bearing fruit as opportunities are now more readily available while links with the professional game have been established and maintained.
“Encouragingly, there are now more British Asian players with professional contracts in English football than ever before. Some of these players have fantastic potential and could hold down regular spots at top clubs, showcasing to the wider world that ‘Asians can play football’.
“However, we shouldn’t get too carried away just yet as a considerable amount of work is to be done if we are to see British Asians not only playing the game, at all levels, but taking up coaching, scouting, refereeing positions, and so forth.”
Dr Kilvington believes that football’s key stakeholders have been slow to react to the British Asian football exclusion.
“Yet, positive steps have been taken in recent times. In 2015, the FA launched the ‘bringing opportunities to communities’ four year plan.
“Creating more grassroots opportunities is essential. Therefore, we need more volunteers and coaches stepping forward to help create new clubs and teams. Institutional bodies can play a key role in supporting this through providing access to funding.
“These clubs must be networked with professional and semi-professional clubs in the locale so they can signpost their more gifted players to better clubs so they can further their football development. I also suggest that the Chelsea Search for an Asian Star should be rolled out countrywide so that recruiters have the chance to watch young British Asian players in action because traditionally, scouting networks have overlooked British Asian players.
“Coach education is also important as some coaches still embrace archaic stereotypes and believe that British Asians cannot succeed in football due to physical and cultural differences. With more British Asians in the game, and therefore more role models, these stereotypes will be challenged.”