Brentford: The women of power at the club aiming to be ‘most inclusive in UK’

Lorna Falconer outside Brentford ground
Lorna Falconer worked at the Football League before joining Brentford five years ago

Greg Clarke’s “unacceptable” comments on Tuesday led to the Football Association chairman quitting his job and yet more questions about diversity at the top of English football.

But could some of the answers come from Championship side Brentford, who want to become “the most inclusive club in the United Kingdom”?

The west London team are already considered outliers in the way they recruit players to out-perform their bigger-spending rivals.

Their data- and science-led recruitment, instigated by owner Matthew Benham, almost took them to the Premier League last season and they are set to make a profit in excess of £50m from the recent sales of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma to Aston Villa and West Ham respectively.

That approach is not limited to their playing staff, however, and could serve as a lesson for other clubs and organisations.

In an industry of executives who are often accused of being “pale, male and stale”, Monique Choudhuri – a leadership, recruitment and inclusion expert – sits on the Brentford board.

And in Lorna Falconer, head of football operations, the club has one of the few black women in a position of power across the men’s professional game.

“We come from the basis that human decision-making is flawed and that we all have bias,” says Choudhuri, who joined Brentford three years ago.

“Because we’re so big at using data to inform our decisions on how we pick players, we started to see if we could use data to challenge our own assumptions in the way we ran the club.

“If you have many people from many different backgrounds around the table you are going to get a better competitive advantage because you’re thinking about things from a different point of view.

“If you’re all the same person, all thinking the same, guess what? You’re going to wake up tomorrow and you’re going to all think the same again.”

‘I find I have to give extra credentials to be taken seriously’

Having a woman on the board is by no means unique. There are 11 female directors among the Premier League’s 20 teams, and five – including Choudhuri – among the Championship’s 24 sides.

At Brentford eight women are in senior positions and 22% of its staff are female.

Falconer, who grew up as a Tottenham supporter and worked at the Football League before she joined Brentford five years ago, is a rarity in men’s football, although she doesn’t like to draw attention to that fact. She would rather just get on with her job.

“I didn’t want to be that person, representing black women,” she says. “But I also felt that if people in the game hadn’t worked with black women before I would probably be representing them to others.

“What I wanted to do was show the industry that a black woman can add as much value as anyone else.”

The value that Choudhuri and Falconer now provide to

Read more