Is South Asian representation in the English game a football emergency?

Daily News
8 Min Read
Is South Asian representation in the English game a football emergency?

Football Association diversity chief Dal Darroch says he understands why many people would describe the lack of South Asian representation in the elite game as “a football emergency”.

The 2023/24 Premier League season did not feature a British South Asian for the second successive campaign – the first time the country’s single-largest ethnic group has been absent from the top division for two seasons in a row in almost 15 years.

The number of British South Asians with a professional contract in the English game has also fallen sharply since a Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) update last year, with Danny Batth, Otis Khan and Aaron Drewe among the players being released. Sky Sports News exclusively revealed last week that goalkeeper Rohan Luthra is also leaving Championship side Cardiff City.

Datawrapper This content is provided by Datawrapper, which may be using cookies and other technologies. To show you this content, we need your permission to use cookies. You can use the buttons below to amend your preferences to enable Datawrapper cookies or to allow those cookies just once. You can change your settings at any time via the Privacy Options. Unfortunately we have been unable to verify if you have consented to Datawrapper cookies. To view this content you can use the button below to allow Datawrapper cookies for this session only.

Barely half a per cent of professional footballers in England are from South Asian backgrounds, with just four players from the community totalling at least 500 minutes in the EFL across the 2022/23 season.

Twitter This content is provided by Twitter, which may be using cookies and other technologies. To show you this content, we need your permission to use cookies. You can use the buttons below to amend your preferences to enable Twitter cookies or to allow those cookies just once. You can change your settings at any time via the Privacy Options. Unfortunately we have been unable to verify if you have consented to Twitter cookies. To view this content you can use the button below to allow Twitter cookies for this session only.

The FA recently told Sky Sports News that the gross under-representation of South Asians in the professional game is “stark” and that taking steps to address the long-standing issue is now “a long-term aim” for English football’s governing body.

The Frank Soo Foundation are joined by the Football Association, Sky Sports News and the Football Supporters' Association at Frank Soo Street at the site of Stoke City's Victoria Ground former stadium

Image: The Frank Soo Foundation are joined by the FA’s Dal Darroch, Sky Sports News’ Dev Trehan and Nilesh Chauhan from the Football Supporters’ Association at Frank Soo Street at the site of Stoke City’s Victoria Ground former stadium

FA head of diversity and strategic programmes Darroch has now conceded the community’s well-documented absence across the game could be viewed as a crisis.

“Many people would say it is a football emergency,” he said in Sky Sports’ Football’s Hidden Talent documentary.

The documentary heard from the Premier League, Football Association and the PFA about their respective South Asians in Football initiatives to boost representation.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FA director Yasir Mirza admits South Asian representation in elite football is a ‘stark’ challenge but says the FA is committed to addressing it

Premier League director of football Neil Saunders said: “What I can say from the Premier League is that we’re absolutely committed to improving the pathways for young boys of South Asian heritage into our academies.”

Nasir: We’re ‘nowhere close’ to dealing with this

Former FA National Game Board member Abu Nasir at Wembley Stadium

Image: Former FA National Game Board member Abu Nasir says ongoing concerns need to be addressed

Sky Sports News has learned the FA is bringing English football together to regularly discuss South Asian inclusion. Former FA National Game Board member Abu Nasir has formed part of those discussions, and says the game is nowhere close to tackling an issue “that has blighted the game for more than 50 years”.

“We’ve noted the range of recent comments made by stakeholders who appear to be making some genuine efforts,” Nasir told Sky Sports News.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

The final part of Football’s Hidden Talent hears from the Premier League, EFL, FA, PFA and Kick It Out and asks what more can be done to find the next generation of footballers from South Asian backgrounds

“But the reality is that football is nowhere close to dealing with an under-representation issue that has blighted the game for more than 50 years.

“That requires appropriate investment and urgent discussions about that, and much more detail because at the moment we are failing to address ongoing concerns.

Twitter This content is provided by Twitter, which may be using cookies and other technologies. To show you this content, we need your permission to use cookies. You can use the buttons below to amend your preferences to enable Twitter cookies or to allow those cookies just once. You can change your settings at any time via the Privacy Options. Unfortunately we have been unable to verify if you have consented to Twitter cookies. To view this content you can use the button below to allow Twitter cookies for this session only.

“We really need to get serious. A lot of questions remain unanswered, especially around data transparency, real collaboration and openness, as well as a joint strategy between all stakeholders that aligns resources and ensures football’s hierarchy delivers real meaningful outcomes.

Datawrapper This content is provided by Datawrapper, which may be using cookies and other technologies. To show you this content, we need your permission to use cookies. You can use the buttons below to amend your preferences to enable Datawrapper cookies or to allow those cookies just once. You can change your settings at any time via the Privacy Options. Unfortunately we have been unable to verify if you have consented to Datawrapper cookies. To view this content you can use the button below to allow Datawrapper cookies for this session only.

“Having been involved in football at various levels since my childhood, I can’t help but feel frustrated by the lack of progress. My family has a long history of playing and supporting the beautiful game, yet not much has changed since my grandparents’ time in the 1950s.”

British South Asians in Football

For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on skysports.com and South Asians in the Game blog and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital platforms.

Share This Article
Leave a comment