HISTORY MAKERS: Chris Hughton and Hope Powell
THE DEBATE about a lack of black managers and coaches within English football was put to bed for a couple of hours – at least – on the south coast of England.
Fittingly, during Black History Month, there were actually two black managers on show at the recent ‘A Night At The Amex: An Evening With Kick It Out and Brighton and Hove Albion’, featuring Hope Powell and Chris Hughton.
There is a glaring paucity of black managers and coaches within the English game, and Brighton should be applauded for their forward thinking. When diversity would appear to be vogue and the watchword of the day, the Premier League new boys are leading the way in terms of positive action.
Hughton and the club’s women’s manager, Powell, were at the club’s AMEX Stadium for an evening which saw discussion on the current issues of discrimination, equality and inclusion within the game.
The highly respected duo shared their considerable knowledge and experience with the audience alongside other panel members Brighton defender Liam Rosenior, Kick It Out’s transgender ambassador Sophie Cook, Anwar Uddin, head of the Fans For Diversity campaign, and Chris Paouros, co-chair of the Proud Lilywhites.
Chris Paouros, Brighton manager Chris Hughton, Kick It Out host Paul Mortimer, Liam Rosenior, Anwar Uddin, Hope Powell, Sophie Cook and Tony Bloom
Hughton was of the opinion that his club have made a major signing in the acquisition of former England Women’s manager Powell. Hughton told The Voice: “The club has brought in a coach of very high quality and one that has had a lot of experiences in the game.
“Her knowledge will be wonderful for the club.” Powell, whose own playing career saw her play for the Three Lions 66 times with 35 goals, has just started her tenure as Brighton Women’s man- ager as they attempt to gain promotion to Women’s Super League 1.
Powell admits that she’s missed coaching players after being sacked in 2013 – but is up for her new challenge. While she has been away honing her craft and adding to her education, some of the sport’s issues remain the same.
Powell’s own football experiences began when she turned out for Millwall Lionesses at the age of 11. The humble south Londoner went on to win the FA Women’s FA Cup three times, including the league and cup double as captain of Croydon in 1996.
Powell was appointed as the first ever full-time national coach of England’s women’s team in June 1998. With those credentials she was well-equipped, while on the panel, to comment on whether – one day – a woman could manage a senior men’s team.
PICTURED: Hope Powell
A confident Powell said: “It’s all about managing people. Can women manage people Absolutely they can. If you have the qualifications, experience and requirements that meet the job, of course a woman can do it. I think that there is an unconscious bias when it comes to ethnicity and gender.
“I think it’s a long way off in the Premier League but could a woman do it? Yes, 1,000 per cent. It’s happened in France and Italy. I was offered a job in the lower leagues in England. I didn’t take it because I love women’s football – at this moment in time, my passion is the women’s game. Personally, it would be great if there were more women managing in the women’s game – that would please me.”
The beautiful game tends to turn ugly over the subject of homophobia, but Powell says: “In women’s football homo- phobia does not exist. People speak freely about it. It’s very open, so we don’t have the same issue as the men’s game. It was the norm to be a lesbian in women’s football; if you were heterosexual, that was sometimes viewed as abnormal. I think the solution is about leadership.
“The management sets the tone for the environment, which I think is really important. It’s also about educating the young scholars coming through about equality and diversity. If the leader/captain has something about them – if they are open and the players can be themselves – it can only be a positive thing.
“This thing about banter can be dangerous. Players draw on leadership.”
Powell was sacked four years ago as manager of the England women’s football team. She had been in charge since 1998, but was criticised after England were eliminated in the group stages of Euro 2013. Despite the episode, Powell was keen not to put the boot in on her former employers.
“I think that they (The FA) do some really good things, and we cannot ignore that. When things go wrong, that’s when things are highlighted more. I got sacked and I could be more bitter than anyone, but I’m not. We can’t say that they get everything wrong.”
Meanwhile, Hughton is busy attempting to get his team familiar with life in the top flight. However, he – as ever – endorses anything that promotes diversity. The only black manager in the Premier League said: “10 years ago we would not be talking about some of the issues that we have done today.
“The environment is different now, but there is still much to do. Fifteen years ago, it was about racial discrimination against black players and supporters – now there are other issues. Of course, the dynamics have changed, and we now have a very open and inclusive football environment.
“The work that Kick It Out and others have done over the years has been superb.”
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