Arsenal’s Beth Mead ‘clumsy’ comments raise profile of diversity debate in England team

Arsenal’s Beth Mead ‘clumsy’ comments raise profile of diversity debate in England Women’s team By Michelle

Arsenal and England forward Beth Mead’s ‘clumsy’ comments sparked criticism on social media and a bit of a media frenzy through last week.  Beth was quoted in The Guardian, following this question:

“…. I am curious as to why there are so few black players in England’s squad. Is there a specific reason for this anomaly or is it just coincidental?

Mead responded, to the somewhat leading question: I think it’s completely coincidental. We put out our best 11 and you don’t think of anyone’s race or anything like that. I think that’s more an outsider’s perspective.

Mead believes more should be done to ensure football is accessible for everyone at grassroots level to ensure diversity at all levels. But she insists she doesn’t think there is concern in regard to racism in elite women’s football.

Since the Guardian article, Mead told Sky Sports: It was a tough one to take. I think it was unfair how it was written.  The Arsenal forward, 27, added: My values and beliefs are completely different to what was written. It’s not a true reflection of me as a person.

In terms of diversity and everything in the game, I want to be there front and centre, helping with that.  I know the FA are doing a lot for that. I said that in the interview and that didn’t get put through.  Unfortunately it made me look worse in that context but these things happen in the media these days. That’s not a true reflection of me and I hope people understand that and sometimes don’t believe everything you read.

On Thursday, England manager Sarina Wiegman said we need to do more to improve diversity in English women’s football.

Mead started England’s 4-0 friendly win over Japan on Friday and was asked by Sky Sports what difficult conversations have arisen since her comments.

I guess it’s brought it to light even more, which I know is not great the way it’s happened, but hopefully it can push things in the right direction.

There’s a long, long way to go, don’t get me wrong, but the FA are doing a lot and people need to get on board with that and try to help that process as best they can – me and the team included.

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright said these were not new conversations and it feels like we’re always starting from scratch as he called for more resources to tackle a lack of diversity in women’s football.

There’s a lot of resources and energy that goes into the men’s game and what you want to see is the same energy and resources in the women’s game, the 59-year-old added.

Former England international Eniola Aluko said the comments from Mead were clumsy and believes changes can be made in recruitment.  It’s about making sure we’re widening the pool of players for Sarina Wiegman to choose from and for the academies to choose from, Aluko told ITV.

The talent is there. The FA needs to sit down and look at whether they can build centres in certain areas.  Just change our practises a little bit. With the professionalism of the game it’s maybe excluded people a little bit.

The Football Association recently launched its Discover My Talent programme aimed at improving accessibility to football, which the governing body hopes will improve diversity.

The Professional Footballers’ Association has also launched its new #SeeItAchieveIt campaign, fronted by former England international Fern Whelan, which is all about increasing representation across the whole sport.

Ethnic diversity in England’s population:

Black population of England – 4% – Representation of men’s team – 54% – Womens team – 7%

White population of England – 80% – Representation of Men’s Team – 46% – Women’s Team – 93%

One potential way to look at this is that because there are 54% in the men’s team that there is a major under-representation of white players?

So essentially, you are 20 times more likely to play for the England men’s team if you are black and almost twice as likely to play for the England women’s team if you are black.

The big elephant in the room however is the British South Asian and Asian population, who represent 10% of England’s population but make up only 0.34% of professional players.  That’s what we need an article about, the lack of this 10% in men and women`s English football.

Your thoughts please?

Michelle Maxwell

Follow Michelle on Just Gooner Women on Twitter for regular updates on the Arsenal Women’s Team!

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  1. For team selections made for any other criteria than ability and performance, would make any team less efficient, which would, as a consequence, show in poorer results. This would give a big advantage to an opposing team, who were not stupid enough to be prejudice in their selection process. As the Lionesses have just won the UEFA Women’s Euro title for the first time, I would suggest there is not much wrong with the selection process.

  2. It is not certain that the Guardian actually printed what was said. I believe Beth Mead when she said that what was reported was not as said.
    Rather than condemn her as ‘clumsy’ you would be better off advising other players NOT to speak to agree to cosy chats with the ‘gutter press’.
    Having won almost everything possible the only thing some parts of the press want to do is shoot players down and if that means dishonest reporting then so be it. Thank you

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