Nikita Parris has called on the Football Association to do more to help players from inner-city environments break into professional football by making it easier for them to access high-level coaching.
Parris is one of only two players from a BAME background in England’s latest squad and argued there would be more if girls living in urban areas had more centres of excellence closer to them.
“I do think they [BAME girls] have role models in me and Demi [Stokes],” said Parris, who began her career at her local club Everton. “But also, my role models were Rachel Yankey and Anita Asanti. So there are, and there have been, players that play for England who people can look up to.
“I do think that it is imperative that we do go inside these communities and really try hard to make sure it’s accessible for young people to be able to play the sport.
“I have been a great advocate of saying that. You know, the Centre of Excellences in the WSL, or in the Championship, they’re not actually situated in areas that are accessible for inner-city communities.
“And the vast majority of BAME athletes, or BAME participants, are going to come from these areas. So I do think that the FA does have to look at the displacement of the centres of excellence and opportunities for girls to get into elite sport, not just taking part in sessions.
“I know the FA does support a lot of activities that help players get into the sport on a participant level. But I’m talking about actually, if you believe that you’re good enough to really kick on and be an England future Lioness, having that elite [coaching and facilities] support.”
Parris is undoubtedly at the elite level, starting her second season at European Champions Lyon, and feels far more comfortable in France as her command of the language improves.
“Well, my French is going really well,” she added. “And I feel much more settled than I did last year, to be honest. And you know, I feel like having Alex [Greenwood] and Lucy [Bronze] last year in Lyon really helped me settle much faster than I probably would have if I didn’t have them in the first place.
“And so when they were ready to leave I think I was more settled [in France] and more settled in my position in the squad. I’d love them to still be there but I feel happy and settled in France. I do miss them though.”
And at the age of 26, Parris did not shy away from the ambitious targets being set by the FA for the national team heading into the Olympics, a home European Championships and the World Cup in 2023.
“I believe England needs to have that pressure of having to win a major tournament. In the past we’ve said that we’ll go to win but, always a but. It’s about winning a major tournament for England now and nothing less will be good enough.”