Lack of diversity undermines Lionesses’ success as England go without BAME stars

It will be all white on the night next week when the Lionesses face a defining game for women's football in England.

Unless Sarina Wiegman breaks with tradition, the host nation will start their Euro 2022 semi final at Bramall Lane without a single black star in the team. To some people, it appears to come across as churlish to even raise this fact, let alone have the temerity to question it.

But just imagine if Gareth Southgate led England to the semi finals of a major tournament and hadn't started a single game with a BAME player in his side? All hell would break loose. Southgate would stand accused of being racist and the outpouring of criticism would probably lead to him losing his job.

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So why is it acceptable for this to happen in the Lionesses camp? The women's game is desperate to grow its brand and generate the same levels of commercial and public interest that the men's game benefits from.

And the current achievements of Wiegman's side in front of packed stadiums on home soil will no doubt taken women's football into a new era of opportunities.

But if those who run and participate in women's football want some sort of parity with the men's game, they should also be prepared to face the same levels of scrutiny and introspection when it comes to being challenged on issues such as the blatant lack of diversity at the highest level of it.

It might be a simple case of Wiegman, who has just three black or mixed heritage stars in her squad, believing her best starting XI just happens to be those players with white skin and blonde hair. Just like all those coaches in the NFL and NBA believe their best chance of winning games and trophies rests on the shoulders of black players.

Sport is about winning. It's about picking skill and ability over skin colour – and doing the opposite of this would be some sort of twisted and reverse prejudice. But sport is also about providing role models to future generations.

A peak television audience of 7.6m tuned in to see England beat Spain in extra time to reach the last four, but for the percentage of those watching who happened to be young, black females, where was the role model they could relate to?

Where was the heroine these young footballers of the future can look to go on and try to emulate? A quick glance at the current Lionesses' side might make these kids think that perhaps the professional game isn't for them. That it belongs to those from a certain demographic.

Some of England's greatest women footballers have been black, but it feels like the legacies belonging to the likes of Rachel Yankey and Alex Scott have counted for nothing. The current issues surrounding diversity cannot be solved overnight, but women's football now has the attention it has craved – and with it the perfect chance to have a more inclusive future.

Nobody should be denied the opportunity to become a professional footballer, and various organisations within the sport have projects in place to provide them. But the question remains – do future generations from certain backgrounds and heritages still want such chances?

Golf's 'Good versus Evil' battle

Those Saudis ripping the heart out of golf have landed the biggest snake so far in the shape of Henrik Stenson. Ok, so those who run LIV Golf might not even know where Stenson comes from, having compared the Swede to "fellow Englishman" Lee Westwood in a boastful statement released this week.

But who cares about minor details like these when the European Ryder Cup captain has been snared, having decided that a reported £30m is worth far more than one of the greatest honours and privileges his sport can bestow on him?

This is one heck of a statement from LIV Golf. That's because this lot don't give too hoots about having Stenson's golfing prowess on board. He hasn't come close to winning a tournament in 12 months.

What counts to them is having someone of his current status in the European game now on their books. It leaves Ryder Cup Europe needing a new captain and one of the greatest team competitions in sport in danger of being a shadow of its former self when the next edition comes round in just over 12 months time.

At this rate, perhaps Europe and the USA could join forces to take on a rival dirty dozen from LIV instead. If you think the Ryder Cup is tasty when it comes to bitterness and feuding on the course, just imagine what a scrap between golf's good and evil would be like?


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