A new report released today has found that half of UK football fans believe more must be done to increase the amount of players from a British Asian background playing professionally.

The report, commissioned by the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and Beyond Entertainment (BE), highlights how despite British Asians making up 7% of the whole population, just 0.25% of professional footballers are from a British Asian background. 

Anwar Uddin is Campaign Manager for Fans For Diversity - a joint initiative delivered by Kick It Out and the FSA. He made history as the first British Asian to captain a side in the top four divisions when he took on the armband at Dagenham & Redbridge in 2007.

Now assistant manager at Aldershot, he shared his experiences in the game, saying: “When I was a younger player, I felt uncomfortable at times in social settings which was a key part of team bonding as I always drank soft drinks.”

“I thought it would make the situation worse and so at times I just wouldn’t go and make excuses. This can sometimes have players labelled as a loner or not good socially.

If a coach has to make a decision on a player, apart from a trial what other information do they have to make a decision on that player? If you’re Asian that’s a factor, because you’re different.

A coach may wonder, will they have to fast, will they be antisocial, or lean on many old-fashioned stereotypes. All these things may play into a decision.

I hope people are open-minded and look at it positively or fairly moving forward as there is so much talent within the Asian community.”

Kick It Out’s Executive Chair, Sanjay Bhandari, adds to this: “There are twice as many people of Asian heritage as people of Black heritage in the UK yet there are 100 times more Black pro players than Asian pro players. That’s a massive statistical anomaly. It is clear that football has a long-standing problem getting British Asian players into the game and it is getting worse. Football needs to address this.

My experience as a South Asian is that we do not have different career aspirations, but we have different outcomes. There’s lots of battles we are still fighting, including discrimination of South Asian people, as well as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Football bodies need to remain focused on spreading opportunities evenly and removing systemic bias. The FA are making efforts to create a more inclusive game, particularly with the recent launch of their Diversity in Football Leadership Code, which we hope will have a positive impact. We've made progress, but we know there is still more to be done to challenge attitudes across football."

86% of fans surveyed for the report agreed that more role models within the professional game would increase the number of British Asian professional footballers, and it is hoped that schemes such as the FA’s new Diversity in Football Leadership Code will help here. 

Kick It Out continues to work closely with the FA and all stakeholders in the game to increase diversity and tackle discrimination. Through our Take A Stand campaign we are encouraging clubs, fans, and authorities to take an action or make a public pledge in the fight against discrimination.