Jermain Defoe says the number of black managers and coaches in football is “shocking”, but hopes he can inspire more players to move into the industry.
The former England striker retired from playing last year and is now coaching Tottenham Hotspur’s under-18 team.
A report released this week found black employees hold just 4.4% of management-related positions in English football.
“The numbers are there to see but that is one of the reasons why I want to make a change,” said Defoe, 40.
Defoe, who scored more than 300 goals in a career that included spells at West Ham, Tottenham and Sunderland, is documenting his journey into management on Outside the Box, a new BBC Sounds podcast.
This week’s report from the Black Footballers Partnership (BFP) – an organisation of current and former players – said there has been “no real change” in the number of black former players hired in managerial or executive roles in professional football, and the career ladder for black players is “missing rungs”.
“I knew that figure [of 4.4% of managerial-related positions] to be honest and sometimes it’s really frustrating talking about it because I feel like I’ve been talking about the same things for years,” Defoe told the Sports Desk Podcast.
“When I’ve spoken to players like Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright, John Barnes, Sol Campbell, Dwight Yorke over the years about finishing playing and going into coaching and management and not getting the opportunity, it seems like you get little improvement but not much.
“If this can happen for me, then the players for the next generation might consider going into coaching, but the numbers are shocking to be totally honest.”
A previous BFP report showed that although 43% of Premier League and 34% of Football League players were black, only 4.4% of managers were black.
“You know sometimes people get disheartened and they don’t want to waste their time,” said Defoe.
“I’ve spoken to the players about coaching badges and I’ve had players say to me: ‘What’s the point? I don’t want to waste my time getting my coaching badges and then not get an opportunity to coach. So it’s pointless. I’d rather go into media and hopefully get something there.’
“There have been many players over the years that have had their badges – big names, Premier League legends [that have] played in major tournaments that have not been given opportunities.
“I’m willing to start from the bottom, like I have in the academy, but once I’ve done my hard work and completed my badges then we’ll see if the opportunity comes.”
Defoe said his goal is to manage in the Premier League, and having Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira as the only black manager in the league is “difficult to see”.
Reacting to the report, the Football Association said: “We are deeply committed to ensuring that English football is truly reflective of our modern and diverse society. This is fundamental to our core beliefs and we are focused on delivering diverse and meaningful change in football.”
The FA said it has seen some signs of progress this year, with three governing bodies exceeding seven out of eight targets from their Football Leadership Diversity Code, which started in 2020.
But while some clubs exceeded diversity targets for senior coaches in the men’s game and coaches in the women’s game, there is “still a huge amount of work to be done”, the FA added.
Tony Burnett, chief executive of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, likened the voluntary Football Leadership Diversity Code to using “sticking plaster to seal a gaping wound” and called for government legislation in this area.
“Football has to be regulated as part of the fan-led review,” he told the Sports Desk. “It has to be forced to provide data across a whole series of issues when it comes to representation. The basic thing clubs should have to do is report on progress.”