Does Liverpool FC have a problem with institutional racism?
From the death of George Floyd to Black Lives Matter protests and the unceremonious dumping of the statue of Edward Colston into the Bristol docks, events across the world have put a magnifying glass up against how our society behaves when it comes to the treatment of ethnic minority groups.
While clubs have sort to deliver messages of support across social media, greater scrutiny should be placed on whether they are doing enough to tackle racism within their own institutions – and Liverpool is certainly not exempt from this.
Liverpool’s playing staff is a picture of multiculturalism, with members of the squad hailing from as far away as Brazil, Senegal, Guinea and Japan, as well as an array of different ethnic groups.
However, the picture is markedly different when we look at the diversity amongst the coaching staff.
Of the 22 first team coaching staff members listed on the club website, the solitary representative of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities is assistant fitness coach Jordan Fairclough.
Equally, of the academy staff and members of the Board of Directors listed on the club’s website, there are zero people of BAME backgrounds.
Frankly, the lack of representation is stark.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that, if you aren’t white, the chances of you getting a position of influence at Liverpool are seemingly next to zero.
The club isn’t entirely to blame for this, of course. It operates in a structure that seemingly has institutional racism at its very core but that doesn’t mean the club can’t seek to work towards increasing the diversity of the people in positions of power.
Some will argue against proactive efforts to increase the number of BAME coaches, such as quotas, claiming that the world of coaching should be a meritocracy and that coaches shouldn’t get jobs based on the colour of their skin.
However, it is unfeasible to believe that of the 60 coaching positions available across Liverpool’s men’s first team and academy, a white man was the very best person to fill 56 of them.
And this is a story replicated up and down the pyramid of English football.
Nobody believes that somebody should get a job based solely on their ethnic background but the point at which it becomes a problem is when potentially good coaches cannot get one because of theirs.
There is a significant number of BAME coaches within the UK that have obtained their UEFA Pro Licences, only to find that despite their exemplary playing careers and qualifications, the paths into coaching are blocked.
The England national team has led the way for football clubs across the country, with its BAME Coaching Placement Programme facilitating a significant increase in the diversity across its coaching staff and it would be good to see a club of Liverpool’s stature step up its commitment to doing the same across its elite staff, too.
With the English Football League stating it does not intend on implementing an equivalent of the ‘Rooney Rule’ to English football, it is up to clubs like Liverpool to implement a proactive approach to creating a pathway for ethnic minority coaches and tackling the institutional racism that has blighted football ever since its inception.
Research into organisational behaviour shows that an increase in the diversity of members can deliver better performance outcomes, improve culture and generate new perspectives on how to tackle issues.
By having the bravery to commit to a percentage of the coaching staff being from a minority group, Liverpool can become a beacon of tackling institutional racism within football, as well as utilise the potential competitive advantage and other benefits that increased diversity could deliver.
It was great to see the players come together to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement when they took a knee at Anfield but now is the time for the club to take the step from making symbolic gestures to implementing real change across the institute as a whole.