Lorna Falconer says she has faced racism and sexism in English football


Before Alan Sugar hit television, he was president and co-owner of Tottenham Hotspur. Falconer, who was then working in insurance in the 1990s, wrote a long and passionate letter to Sugar explaining his desire to change careers.

Feeling unsatisfied with her insurance job, she says she wrote to Sugar after thinking about what she wanted to do with her life. His motivation came from watching football games with his father. Falconer could see how much joy the sport brought him.

“He [my dad] is such a hardworking man. But he absolutely lived for the sport on Saturday and Tottenham, he just loved to play, he loved to watch football, “Falconer, head of football operations at Brentford FC, told CNN contributor Darren Lewis.

“It just made me think that if I’m going to work for the rest of my life I’m going to do something that I’m passionate about. And I was passionate about seeing my dad happy so that it becomes I’m going to do something. thing in Tottenham, ”added Falconer, who is one of the few black women in a managerial position at an English men’s professional football club.

Falconer was thrilled to be invited for an interview and started working in Tottenham’s commercial department in 1995. And so began her football career, although as a woman she says it wasn’t. easy and has been the only black person too often. in the room.

Falconer has worked in football for over 25 years.
According to an October 2020 survey, two-thirds of Women in Football’s 4,200 members have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace.
Last year, the English Football Association launched the Code of Leadership Diversity in Football, in which clubs agreed that 15% of new leadership positions would come from a black or under-represented ethnicity, including 30% of women.

No such code was in place as Falconer took his first steps to move up the corporate football ranks.

“I knew I had to be in power to be able to make a decision or make a change,” says Falconer, who was shocked by the daily clashes she says she endured.

“There were so many little things happening day to day,” adds Falconer, who worked at Spurs between 1995 and 1998.

“Even when I started, and I remember going up the security gates and not being greeted at the gate. It was almost, ‘Where are you going? You have to go to the wrong place. “

“I thought, why is this happening to me?”

She recalls a meeting where she suggested expanding the food menu to meet different tastes and the need to be aware of people’s religious beliefs.

“When I was in the sales department I was trying to figure out how we could include more people from different backgrounds who were more specific with what they ate and how to include them in the club.

“And I asked if we could adjust the menu slightly to include Halal meat and those I worked with, it wasn’t so much that they didn’t agree, it was that they almost were disgusted.

“That was what was most upsetting… how upset others were about including others.

In a recent interview with the Brentford website, Falconer said Sugar’s son Daniel and former Spurs president saw his take on the possibility of making more food choices and that “it ‘ was a good idea “.

It should be clarified that Falconer is talking here about his experiences 25 years ago under a different regime at Spurs. When contacted by CNN, a spokesperson for the club did not comment on Falconer’s specific claims, but said the club prided itself on being an inclusive club and such behavior would only be accepted in no circumstances now.

“They are counting on me and I can count on them,” Falconer said of working at Brentford FC.

Falconer is very confident, but sometimes says she cried privately.

“I thought my career was falling apart… we were all sales associates and we all had to work together. So I thought to myself if they were against the things I think and I do, how can i go ahead with this ???

“And at that point, I thought, okay, they don’t agree with me and they’re not going to support me.” I will have to leave. And I am in the job of my dreams.

Falconer left Spurs in 1998 to work part-time for the Premier League. Nine years later she started working for what is now known as the English Football League, eventually joining Brentford FC as Logistics Manager in 2015 and progressing to her current role of Operations Manager there. two years.

The club claim to have the ambition to be “the most inclusive in the UK” and businesswoman Monique Choudhuri sits on the Brentford board of directors.

Falconer’s move has been largely positive, although there are still challenges and times she has felt uncomfortable.

She said she decided to consciously make changes, including changing her appearance.

Falconer started wearing the Brentford tracksuit to games instead of a more traditional work outfit to avoid being questioned about whether she was supposed to be there with the team – although she says it doesn’t. did not stop being questioned to find out why she was there. at an away cup match.

“The security guard approached me – now I was in the field. I was standing next to Thomas [Frank], the manager … and all my coworkers were around … and security approached me and asked me aggressively what I was doing there. ”

“I replied: ‘My job’.”

Despite having her thong, Falconer says she continued to be questioned as to why she was on the field side.

“Unfortunately, stewards just aren’t used to seeing black women, blacks in that role with the first team, at a championship club.

A general view of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Watford at the Brentford Community Stadium on May 01, 2021 in Brentford, England.)

Falconer was talking about other clubs. The English Football League did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Falconer says she and Brentford have worked hard to change the culture of the club, trying to make it a more open and diverse club.

Football historically has a problem with profanity or “industrial language,” but Falconer tells Brentford: “They look at the language they use, because they see me there and they just behave differently because , you know, they see a woman and they see a colored person.

“They don’t say certain words anymore, they maybe said in the past. And that’s what happened in Brentford. And it happened organically by bringing in good people who recognize it. those things – it’s just become a more open place. to be and welcoming. “

In his current role, Falconer works closely with the club secretary and general manager and directors of football at Brentford. She is also working as the Covid-19 Officer of the First Team, taking care of their safety and protocols during the pandemic.

She would like to stress that she feels supported in her role and in the work she does.

“They [Brentford] don’t think i’m different because i’m a black woman, i’m their equal and they respect the work i do and what i have to do. They are counting on me and I can count on them. ”

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