Arsenal: Women’s squad lacks ethnic diversity

Arsenal have acknowledged there is a lack of diversity in their women’s team after facing a backlash following the release of their team photo for the 2023-24 season which featured an all-white squad.

Arsenal published a group photo earlier this month in which none of the 27 players pictured came from a Black or minority ethnic (BAME) background, in contrast to the men’s team which features several BAME players including Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Jesus.

“We acknowledge our current women’s first-team squad does not reflect the diversity that exists across the club and the communities we represent,” Arsenal said in a statement.

“Increasing participation among young women and girls from diverse backgrounds is a key priority for us at academy level, with specific measures in place to improve pathways and accessibility.

“Across all our teams, including our men’s and women’s academies, we’re proud of our players from diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our history, success and culture.

“It’s a priority for the club to continue to drive greater diversity and inclusion and create a sense of belonging for everyone connected to the club.”

England under-17 international Michelle Agyemang is on Arsenal’s books but will spend this season on loan at Watford and was therefore not part of the team photo.

A source close to the club told ESPN that initiatives have been introduced by Arsenal in an attempt to help diversify representation at the club since the women’s training base moved from north London to Hertfordshire, including the club covering travel expenses for certain players to attend sessions.

Arsenal have previously had several prominent Black female players including Rachel Yankey, Alex Scott, Danielle Carter and Lianne Sanderson.

There has been a wider conversation about the lack of diversity in women’s football across England which led to the Football Association (FA) overhauling its player pathway in February following a three-year review.

Part of the plan included ensuring top-level girls academies were more accessible to those in inner cities amid criticism too many were set up in rural locations.

The FA outlined proposals to ensure “95% of players [can] access an Emerging Talent Centre within one hour of where they live by 2024.”

The England national team have also come under pressure for a lack of diversity among their squad, with no players from BAME backgrounds starting the team’s victory over Germany in the Women’s Euro 2022 final.

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