On The Spot with Spurs fan and diversity trailblazer Leon Mann
Leon Mann MBE is an award-winning sports consultant and trailblazer who has spent the best part of two decades battling for greater diversity and inclusion within professional football.
In a chat with LiveScore, Leon opens up on his unique career, how football clubs can improve their inclusivity commitments and his beloved Tottenham.
Leon, thanks for speaking to us. Before we chat about your own career, I know you are a huge Tottenham fan. You must be loving life right now?
Yeah, it is a good time to be a Tottenham fan!
We've had a few years of football that's not been the greatest served up from big names in the dugout, who promised lots but delivered little.
So to have a manager of a relatively low stature in comparison come in and change the culture around the place, plus getting us playing such front-footed football, has been a real joy.
We're not going to win the title. But finishing top four is way ahead of the projection I had for this season and I'd be disappointed if we fell out now.
You have undertaken some impressive work in inclusivity and diversity within sport. How did it all come about?
My first job out of uni was with anti-racism campaign Kick It Out — the best job ever because I was really passionate about it.
I then joined the BBC and saw the lack of diversity across the wider sports media, which inspired me to set up BCOMS — the Black Collective of Media in Sport.
That works to bring newcomers from diverse backgrounds into the industry and training them up, boosting their skills and helping them gain contacts.
I also set up the Football Black List together with Rodney Hines, which is the most recognised annual celebration of African and Caribbean achievement in the British game.
Are football clubs in the UK doing enough to ensure they are ethnically diverse enough at backroom and boardroom level?
Undoubtedly, more needs to be done in that area.
As a black community, we are hugely underrepresented in the boardroom, media, coaching — all areas outside of playing. So why is that?
For clarity, I'm not saying roles should be filled by black men just to tick a box.
I'm saying that processes need to be refined to ensure a more diverse range of applicants apply, to help find the best candidates from a range of backgrounds.
How can football clubs who want to diversify more improve their recruitment processes?
There are a couple of simple things any club can do. Firstly, they need to look at where positions are being advertised and consider whether they are hitting a range of communities.
Another thing I think is really important is having a diverse panel, as well as a diverse applicant range — so a mixture of men and women from various backgrounds conducting the interviews.
In my opinion, having interviewees and interviewers from various backgrounds is the only way to ensure you're truly getting the best candidate for a role.
You have interviewed some of the biggest names in sport. Who do you consider your most enjoyable interviewee?
It's not always the biggest names who are the most enjoyable.
For example, I spoke to David Beckham but it was in a room of about 50 people, so it's hard to have any kind of deep conversation.
For me, I loved when I got to sit down with Christian Atsu, God rest his soul. A softly-spoken man from Ghana who was doing loads of charity work.
The last interview I did with him was extremely emotional, talking about poverty and the situations some kids were suffering in his homeland.
We became close friends. It's so sad he's no longer with us but that interview will always stay with me.