The Boys Club: Less than 10 percent of Premier League directors are women


Rebecca Caplehorn, Spurs’ Director of Football Operations, with Mauricio Pochettino

*Update: This article was written and published before Margaret Byrne left Sunderland… Timing

When Spurs appointed Rebecca Caplehorn as Director of Football Operations in March 2015, she became the second woman on the club’s board, alongside Executive Director Donna-Maria Cullen.

This got me wondering: with two women out of six people in total, how do Spurs stack up with other Premier League clubs in terms of gender balance in the boardroom?

As regular readers of this blog know, my mind goes to pretty random things, and I love nothing more than setting off on a tangent. So I spent a little time researching this, using club websites and Companies House as the sources of information.*

So here’s what I found:

  • Out of 115 people listed as directors at Premier League clubs, 11 are women. That is 9.57 percent.
  • Just three clubs — Leicester, Sunderland and Tottenham (all 2) — have more than one woman director. No club has three.
  • No club has a majority of women in its boardroom. Sunderland is closest with 2 out of 5. Spurs are next with 2 out of 6. Southampton’s three-person board includes owner Katharina Liebherr.
  • Of the 20 current Premier League clubs, 12 have no women in the boardroom.

Here is the basic table, and I’ll add the full spreadsheet with all directors below.

Screenshot 2016-03-08 at 8.23.55 AM

By way of contrast, 26 percent of directors at FTSE 100 companies are women — up from 12.5 percent in 2011. There are now zero all-male boards. But less than 10% of executive directors are women, per Board Watch.

To me, these numbers seemed low, but predictable — football has long been a boys club.

This is starting to change as women such as Karren Brady, Marina Granovskaia and Margaret Byrne have assumed top roles at Premier League clubs. But clearly, the numbers show that the boardrooms remain overwhelmingly male. (I daresay a study of the racial makeup of Premier League boardrooms would show them also to be overwhelming white.)

Football remains a challenging environment for women, as this survey published to mark International Women’s Day shows.

The circus surrounding the employment tribunal involving Eva Carneiro, the former Chelsea team doctor, has been excruciating to witness. Even the most desperate C-list celebrity wannabe would find the attention piled on this woman over the top.

The media (or the shoutier parts of it, at least) don’t help in the portrayal of women in football. This is from the Daily Mail on the appointment of Granovskaia as new Chelsea CEO:

Her glamorous good looks will inevitably draw comparisons with the outspoken, perfectly groomed ‘first lady of football’ and Apprentice star Karren Brady.

But anyone ready to dismiss Ms Granovskaia as merely a pretty face should be aware of a core of steel behind the megawatt smile.

I’m guessing, if it had been a Russian bloke, we’d not be talking about his “megawatt smile”. This article was written by a female journalist, by the way, so this really is more a case of the Daily Mail being moronic, not men in general (and I’ve justified it all by reading it).

In keeping with the low-key, drama-free Tottenham 2.0, both Donna-Maria Cullen and Rebecca Caplehorn have kept their heads below the parapet since assuming their positions at Spurs. What little I’ve read or heard about their work has been entirely positive.

Cullen received rave reviews for her representation of the club at the Haringey planning sub-committee meeting when the new stadium scheme was given approval. Caplehorn has received praise in various articles concerning an improvement in how Spurs are going about the business of player trading and football operations — although this could be as much a dig at Daniel Levy as anything else.

So does the number of women running football clubs in England matter? It depends on your view of things. My guess, if you’ve read this far, it is because you feel this issue is either interesting, or important. But for many it will seem like a fairly trivial matter in the broader scheme of things.

My research was more a case of journalistic curiosity than some Guardianista attempt at being “right on”. I didn’t know it was International Women’s Day until yesterday, such is my high level of awareness — although I’ll admit I subsequently brought this piece forward so that it would be timely.

But I’ll add, from a personal point of view, I believe balance in all things is good, and if we had more women running companies, government departments and, yes, football clubs, the standard of decision-making would be higher. I’m sure there are thousands of studies that show the benefit of gender balance in the workplace and in management teams.

Certainly, less than 10% of women in Premier League boardrooms seems very low, and personally I hope that number increases in the years to come.


Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat (and other random stuff).


*The primary source was Companies House. However, where club websites appeared more up-to-date, or provided more clarity, I used them to get the information. I counted all directors, but did not include club secretaries. Full data below.



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