By Lyall Thomas & Emma Paton
Last Updated: 08/07/20 6:23am
Gifton Noel Williams believes there are increasing numbers of BAME coaches ready to step into professional clubs, if only they could be given the chance.
Noel Williams, who played in the Premier League for Watford and finished his playing career in the USA, is a coach educator for the PFA but believes he has been overlooked for coaching roles in the UK because of his race.
The 40-year-old from London does see things beginning to open up, but insists there needs to be more BAME representation during recruitment so that people are not rejected based on how they look.
“I think people just want to be seen,” he told Sky Sports News. “If I go for an interview, and do well, but they don’t want to give me the job right now, that’s okay because I have a relationship with them now.
“So next time a job becomes available they might phone me and say, ‘you interviewed well last time but I didn’t think you were ready or experienced enough’, now you have the experience, I want to give you a job. If you’re not getting an interview in the first place, how are you going to get that interview experience?
“I just think we need more BAME decision-makers; people that look like myself in decision-making positions. Then when a person comes to interview, a judgement will be based strictly on who is best for the job, and colour, race, my hair, whatever I look like, will never be a topic, because the boards will be a little bit more diverse.
“In 2014-15, 25 per cent of our [coaching] courses were filled with BAME coaches. When I was playing there wasn’t many BAME coaches to choose from, now there are so many. There’s not a shortage.
“There’s a shortage of awareness and opportunity, and when they open up I think we will start to notice more coming through. When you look at the quality of these players that played the game, when you talk to them they have good knowledge. They just haven’t had the chance yet to give people their knowledge.
“There are little things [happening] right now behind the scenes, that the PFA are doing, such as a bursary scheme, which will give BAME coaches a chance to go into a professional environment and gain experience. That will give six people a chance. It’s only six coaches but it’s a start. I like the recruitment code that’s coming in too. That’s a good thing as well.”
Noel Williams also played for Stoke, Burnley and Brighton in the Championship before spells in Spain and then across the Atlantic, where he was first given access to learn how to coach.
But he has only worked at non-league level in the UK and says he has seen younger people with less experience given roles ahead of him.
“If I’m honest, I do [think my experiences have been affected by my race],” he said. “When you’re a player, it’s different. The generation before us fought that battle, and as a player it’s quite even. If you look in the academies there is a big number of BAME players.
“But I think it’s still there – the blatant and unconscious bias. There is not a lot of transparency in how they’re recruiting. I’m not asking anyone to give me a job. I’m just asking to be given a chance and, if you think I’m good enough, give me the job.
“That’s been my biggest problem. You go for interviews and you find out a young 23-year-old that just came out of university has got the job. Fair play to that person. I’m not bitter about it. But I’m much older, I’ve got experience of life, I’ve played football and I’ve got my coaching badges.
“I’m not just an ex-footballer saying I deserve a job because I played football. I’ve coached all the way up to men’s football and done my hard work behind the scenes. So I just feel there are jobs out there I could get, but I’m not getting the opportunity.”