Ian Wright says Beth Mead comments on diversity in England team ‘disappointing’

Ian Wright chatting with Beth Mead after a WSL game
Ian Wright often attends Arsenal’s WSL matches and speaks with their players regularly

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright says he has spoken with England’s Beth Mead regarding her “disappointing” comments about diversity in the Lionesses squad.

Mead drew criticism on social media this week after saying the make-up of England’s squad was “coincidental”.

There were only three mixed-heritage players in the England squad which won Euro 2022 – Jess Carter, Nikita Parris and Demi Stokes.

“I called Beth and spoke to her. We had a great chat,” Wright told ITV.

“I’m very fond of Beth and yes, it was a bit disappointing seeing that. What was said will obviously stay between us but I think it was a massive moment of reflection and learning for her.

“It’s a systemic problem and we are just dealing with it in incidents. That’s what we really need to start dealing with – the systemic problem.”

It is estimated that the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic players in the Women’s Super League is between 10-15% – compared with about 33% in the Premier League.

On Thursday, England manager Sarina Wiegman said “we need to do more” to improve diversity in English women’s football.

Arsenal forward Mead, 27, received criticism on social media earlier in the week for her answer to a question on the diversity of the England team in an interview with the Guardian.external-link

When asked why there are so few black players in England’s squad, the Ballon d’Or runner-up and BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year said: “I think it’s completely coincidental.”

She added: “We put out our best 11 and you don’t think of anyone’s race or anything like that. I think that’s more an outsider’s perspective.”

Mead’s comments ‘clumsy’

Wright said these were “not new conversations” and it “feels like we’re always starting from scratch” as he called for more resources to tackle a lack of diversity in women’s football.

“There’s a lot of resources and energy that goes into the men’s game and what you want to see is the same energy and resources in the women’s game,” the 59-year-old added.

Former England international Eniola Aluko said the comments from Mead were “clumsy” and believes changes can be made in recruitment.

“It’s about making sure we’re widening the pool of players for Sarina Wiegman to choose from and for the academies to choose from,” Aluko told ITV.

“The talent is there. The FA needs to sit down and look at whether they can build centres in certain areas.

“Just change our practises a little bit. With the professionalism of the game it’s maybe excluded people a little bit.”

The Football Association recently launched its Discover My Talent programmeexternal-link aimed at improving accessibility to football, which the governing body hopes will improve diversity.