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    Meaningful change or ‘more of the same’: the voluntary recruitment code in men’s professional football coaching in England

    Bradbury, Steven and Conricode, Dominic (2021) Meaningful change or ‘more of the same’: the voluntary recruitment code in men’s professional football coaching in England. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 13 (4). pp. 661-678. ISSN 1940-6940

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    This article offers an original empirical and theoretically grounded examination of the English Football League’s (EFL) Voluntary Recruitment Code (VRC): a positive action intervention designed to establish inclusive practices of coach recruitment and increase the representation of minoritised coaches in first team coaching operations at men’s professional football clubs in England. In doing so, it draws on semi-structured interviews with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) at clubs (n = 5), football stakeholder representatives (n = 14) and minoritised coaches (n = 26) to ascertain their perceptions, experiences, and reflections in relation to three inter-connected areas of focus. Firstly, the operational and attitudinal implementation of the VRC at clubs. Secondly, the effectiveness of the VRC in engendering its intended operational and representational impacts at clubs. Thirdly, critical reflections as to the ways in which the VRC might be reformulated and reimplemented to stimulate the conditions through which equality of opportunities, experiences, and outcomes for minoritised coaches might be realised. Finally, the article will conclude from a Critical Race Theory (CRT) perspective that racial equality measures of this kind should be strongly interventionist and transformational in their policy intentions and ideological scope, and seek to challenge and disrupt dominant liberal discourses of meritocracy, race-neutrality, colour-blindness, and the normativity of Whiteness in professional football coaching contexts. In doing so, the article calls on the EFL to work consultatively with member clubs, football stakeholders, and minoritised coaches to develop a holistic legislative and pedagogical approach to tackling racialised inequities in football coaching, which incorporate strongly regulated and reformatory positive actions.

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