Former England international slams Lionesses for having too many white players

England's squad at the 2023 Women's World Cup | Imago

Former England international slams Lionesses for having too many white players

Ayoola Kelechi 08:16 - 08.03.2024

England's all-time top appearance maker was highly critical of the make up of the current Lionesses squad

Fara Williams, England's most-capped footballer of either gender, has raised concerns about the lack of diversity within the England women's setup, particularly regarding the composition of the current Lionesses squad.

Williams' Critique

Williams, who made her debut for the Lionesses at the age of 17 in 2001 and retired two decades later, has expressed her disappointment with the lack of representation within the team. She noted that during her playing days, the England team had greater diversity, with a mix of black and white players. However, she observed that the current squad is predominantly white.

Speaking at Wembley ahead of the Adobe Women's FA Cup quarter-finals, Williams highlighted the importance of relatability and representation within the national team. She emphasized, "When I look back on the England teams I played in we had a black manager (Hope Powell), certainly when I started in England at least five players were black and the rest were made up of white females, but now when you look at the England (women's) team it's pretty much made up of white players."

The Changing Landscape of Women's Football

While acknowledging the significant progress women's football has made, Williams also pointed out the potential drawbacks of an increasingly elite game. She raised concerns about accessibility and affordability, particularly for underprivileged girls who may face barriers to participation in the sport.

Jess Carter and Lauren James, the only two players of colour on England's 2023 World Cup squad | Imago
Jess Carter and Lauren James, the only two players of colour on England's 2023 World Cup squad | Imago

Williams commented on the rising costs associated with the game, such as personal trainers and training facilities, which may pose challenges for those from less privileged backgrounds. She added, "And so when you are from an underprivileged area, in terms of accessibility for that, I think you're putting barriers in a way for underprivileged people to participate."

Concerns About Lack of Diversity

The lack of diversity within women's football has been a topic of discussion, with reports indicating that black, Asian, and minority ethnic players make up a small percentage of those signed to Women's Super League (WSL) clubs. Similarly, the composition of the Lionesses squad has drawn criticism for its lack of representation.

Recognizing the need for greater representation, the Football Association (FA) has acknowledged challenges within the women's game and has implemented measures aimed at promoting diversity. These include overhauling the performance pathway to address barriers such as travel distance and access to elite coaching.

England Women's National Team | Imago
England Women's National Team | Imago

The FA Cup has seen increased investment and sponsorship, with significant prize money being offered to winning clubs. Additionally, tech giant Adobe has signed on as the competition's title sponsor, indicating growing support for women's sports.

Reflecting on Progress

Despite the challenges, Williams reflects on the progress made in women's football, particularly the increasing popularity of the sport and the opportunity for players to compete at iconic venues like Wembley. She recalls her own childhood dreams of playing at such venues, highlighting how far the sport has come.

Reflecting on the progress made in women’s football, Williams said, "That was the ultimate dream. Even more so than winning the league. Walking the Wembley steps was something that, certainly in my era, I never thought would be achievable.

"And now it's becoming a regular thing at Wembley. We played I think in front of 40,000. Now to do a sell-out, it's amazing."

Williams remains committed to advocating for diversity and inclusion within women's football, emphasizing the importance of continued progress to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to participate and succeed in the sport.

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