Culture secretary

Culture Secretary and Sports Minister lead panel discussion on the future of football

The Culture Secretary and Minister for Sport today led a roundtable with current and former players from the Premier League, English Football League (EFL), Women’s Super League (WSL) and Championship feminine, to obtain the players’ point of view on the fight against discrimination and abuse. in the game, as part of their ‘Future of Football’ talk series.

Players who shared their views included Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Rinsola Babajide, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Watford’s Troy Deeney, alongside former players such as Karen Carney and Anton Ferdinand.

Many of those who joined the call shared their powerful experiences of the abuse they or their fellow footballers have faced, and the action they would like to see to address it. The meeting was called by ministers before they introduce new laws to hold social media companies to account for online harm, and a fan-led review of football governance.

The ministers listened to the players talk about their direct experiences of discrimination in men’s and women’s football, and the challenges of reporting and getting help in this regard. Game representatives also spoke of the need to advance diversity in the game’s leadership and welcomed recent moves by clubs to support this.

Ministers in turn shared plans for changes to the law to tackle online harm. The bill, due in parliament in 2021, will force tech companies to take action to ensure that what is unacceptable on the streets and in stalls is also unacceptable online. The government is taking polls of various footballing figures, before formally launching a fan-led governance review, as set out in the 2019 manifesto that will shape the reform of the national game. Ministers opened the series in November bringing together leaders from across football where they discussed financial sustainability and the governance, diversity and growth of women’s football. Following the meeting, a financial package was agreed between the Premier League and the EFL, and the government announced funding for the National League and women’s football clubs.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Hearing the players talk about the level of abuse they faced was humbling. Their input today has strengthened my resolve to pass new laws to ensure greater accountability for social media platforms in the face of such issues.
“As we shape ‘the future of football’ and consider our review of football governance, we must tackle issues of discrimination and lack of equal opportunities head on. I am grateful to this group of players to share their experiences and expertise to help the work of the government.

Liverpool FC player and captain Jordan Henderson said:

“The meeting was very important and I am glad that those with the power and authority to enact changes realize the seriousness of player abuse.”

Aston Villa FC player Tyrone Mings said:

I was delighted that the Secretary of State wanted to engage and listen to our thoughts as players and former players. Hopefully this adds context when he attempts to make changes on our behalf.

Football Association Inclusion Advisory Council Chairman Paul Elliott said:

Just as stakeholders and clubs have shown by adhering to the diversity code, the Secretary of State, DCMS and government have shown a genuine appetite and leadership for change.

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List of participants :