West Brom Women to play Derby at Hawthorns | Mahmood to take on Rai

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Mariam Mahmood and Kira Rai will go head-to-head at The Hawthorns when West Brom host Derby County Women on November 6.

Sky Sports News revealed back in February that West Brom were hosting Derby in the first-ever women’s game ever to be played at The Hawthorns, taking place two days before International Women’s Day.

West Brom ran out 2-0 winners on the day, with Leigh Dugmore writing her name into Baggies folklore by becoming the first female player to score at The Hawthorns in the stadium’s 122-year history. Evie Gallop came off the bench to round off the scoring for West Brom.

A crowd just shy of 1900 attended the match, which saw the demographic of the local West Bromwich area celebrated as traditional Indian drummers entertained the crowd and brought both sides onto the pitch.

West Brom have now decided that they will play this season’s game between the two sides at The Hawthorns in an attempt to build on the success of last term’s fixture.

Head coach Jenny Sugarman said: “Occasions like these are brilliant for the squad, but also important in showcasing women’s football to a wider audience.

“I’d encourage every Baggies fan to come down and support your team, it would be amazing if we could get big crowd in and enjoy another special day.”

Seventh-placed Derby are now just a point above West Brom following Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to table-topping Wolves.

West Brom will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to three matches after earning a 2-2 draw away at high-flying Burnley, who are yet to taste defeat in the league this season.

Baggies forward and West Brom academy graduate Mahmood is a prodigious talent, who opened up to Sky Sports News about her love for the club earlier this year in her first interview with a major platform.

That caught the attention of Pakistan Football Federation scouts who subsequently contacted West Brom directly to enquire about Mahmood’s international availability.

Rai: Elite game needs to be a level playing field

Rai’s first interview with a major platform was also with Sky Sports News where the Burton-born winger said it is “amazing” to be in a position to inspire other girls from South Asian backgrounds.

The 23 year-old has grown in stature over the last 18 months and earlier this month added her voice to those demanding action to address the lack of diversity in elite girls’ and women’s football.

Less than 10 per cent of footballers at the elite level of the game are from diverse ethnic backgrounds, with the number of British South Asian professionals in the top division of women’s football standing at 0.3 per cent.

Former England strikers Eni Aluko and Lianne Sanderson have both expressed their concerns to Sky Sports News in the last month, with QPR’s Manisha Tailor MBE adding: “I don’t think that the female pathway in the elite game is diverse. I don’t believe it is representative of the demographic of England.”

Rai has also called for action to address the widespread inequalities in the girls’ and women’s game facing people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

“It has to change – and hopefully that time is soon,” Rai told Sky Sports News.

“I think slowly we are breaking it down bit-by-bit, but I think a lot more work needs to be put in at the elite level to make it a level playing field for everyone involved.

“Until you see a representation of all backgrounds within the elite level of sport and football, the authorities are going to have to do more to get to that stage – and even then you have to keep pushing.

“Of course, the authorities need to do more, everybody needs to do more to make it more diverse at every level of the game.”

What the FA told Sky Sports News

The Football Association was unable to provide any ethnicity data on diverse representation within girls’ and women’s elite pathways when contacted by Sky Sports News but shared the following information…

“The Football Association recently confirmed the first 60 Girls’ Emerging Talent Centre [ETC] licences to be allocated, which will see the number of young female players engaged in FA programmes across the country rise from 1,722 to over 4,200 by the end of the 2023-24 season.

“Our key aims are to provide greater access for more players whilst diversifying the talent pool, and early signs show we are well on track to achieve those aims.

“Discover My Talent is a Talent ID initiative which aims to provide access and opportunity to the Women’s England Talent Pathway for any girl, from any community in England.

“Working with key stakeholders the programme encourages referrals from any organisation or individual for players who may possess the technical, physical or social characteristics of talent players across the 2006 – 2010 year born.

“We recognise that players’ journeys are uniquely different and due to the limited number of professional women’s clubs across the country, this provides a challenge for young girls to access.

“We also acknowledge the positive impact that mixed football has had on talented female players coming through the talent system, which we should embrace and accept the difference pathways that players may choose in which to develop.

“It is our intention to support clubs to increase their playing pool through youth their teams, providing more depth in talent and provide players who representative their communities.

“Discover My Talent is a nationwide Talent ID programme that reaches every part of England and it’s job is not only to find talent in areas that may have previously not been able to access the opportunities, but also to provide support to young players and their families enabling them to reach their full potential.”

British South Asians in Football

For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on skysports.com and South Asians in the Game blog and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital

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