Being the first: Manisha's trailblazing role at QPR

By Moyo Abiona 18 Oct 2022

Find out how Manisha Tailor broke new ground in football with the help of the Premier League's Elite Coach Accreditation Scheme

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In becoming the assistant head of academy coaching at Queens Park Rangers, Manisha Tailor didn't set out to become the first woman of South Asian heritage to hold such a position in the game.

While she is honoured to be the first to do so, she wishes that there had been others to have gone before her.

"There were very few pathways in the women's game," she says. "From the generation of my parents and the culture in which I'm from, football was always perceived as something that was for boys - for girls it was always education first."

Football had always been a passion for Tailor, having had trials with girls' academy teams from as young as eight.

Overcoming challenges

However, without a clear pathway of where this passion could take her, as well as other obstacles such as getting into training, her dream receded into something that was just that, an unattainable goal.

Tailor highlighted not just geographical and gender barriers but also explained questions brought up at home when she first got accepted after her trial.

"I found it extremely challenging culturally because I had to demonstrate success to my family as that was what was important to them,” she says.

"How will you doing football be perceived by the community?" was the question asked by Tailor's mum and was a valid question at the time, given that there were no South Asian girls seen playing at the top level.

"If you are going to be the first, you need to be the one to pave the way."

Manisha Tailor

This drove a question of feasibility to the family and wouldn't be seen as an uncommon opinion within the South Asian community itself.

"There are very few pathways, particularly elite pathways for girls - and if you're of Black and Asian backgrounds, they're even fewer," Tailor says.

But Tailor has shown not only her own community, but also many others from minority backgrounds, that it is possible.

What started as a journey into coaching motivated by her brother has become something even more personal.

Personal motivation

"My reintroduction to football later in life was as a result of my brother's mental health so it was personally driven," she says. "That has stayed with me and has motivated me to continue.

"While I set out wanting to do this in the beginning for my brother, it soon came to be about me and being a changemaker.

"If you are going to be the first, you need to be the one to pave the way. With paving away comes pain but if the focus remains around what is more core purpose and why am I doing it, you can get through it.

"If you have a driver that wakes you up every morning and reminds you of your 'why' in terms of purpose, it gives you a boost and motivation."

Finding a home

Tailor sees finding a home in QPR as having an important role to play in her success. QPR are club she says are "truly representative of the demographic in which it serves - both off and on the pitch".

This was evident at the QPR Academy session I attended, both in terms of gender but also in terms of ethnicity.

Not only is she being a beacon of inspiration for so many that come from communities like herself, but she’s also importantly bringing diversity of thought and thinking - something crucial to successful spaces and teams.

“Diversity brings about differences in thinking," Tailor says. "If we have no diversity around the table, it means the ideas being brought to the table aren’t diverse.”

It's evident that strides have been taken to improve diversity within the game and this is something that teams around the country are striving to continue working on.

Allyship and mentorship

What shouldn't be downplayed is the importance of allyship and mentorship when considering what diversity means.

Chris Ramsey, former manager and current technical director at QPR, is highlighted by Tailor as someone who mentored her as well as gave her the opportunity.

"Allyship is really important, because when embarking on a journey like this you're alone," she adds. "This is because you visibly don't have role models within the particular space.

"So mentorship and allyship is so important for supporting your development. People that genuinely have empathy and understanding for cultural difference.

"We need people in positions of leadership and power to be there and support that change. Luckily I’ve had that with Chris."

Important roles

Both Tailor and Ramsey spoke about the hard work put in by the former in order to get her foot in the door at QPR. Despite the obstacles that both have faced from their minority ethnic backgrounds, they both now hold important roles at the club.

These positions weren't just handed to them and therefore marked a clear indication of seeking out character traits and personal qualities by the club first and foremost.

QPR sought after the best for the roles, and although the result was diversity, the process to get to there was more important. 

Tailor's development has been helped by the Premier League's Elite Coach Accreditation Scheme (ECAS), from which she graduated this summer.

With ECAS, equality, diversity and inclusion is ensured at every stage, from the identification of coaches to their development on the scheme. This is something Tailor says should be commonplace in the game. 

"I think all footballing governing bodies need to ask and make sure that those within the workforce and particularly those in leadership positions are reflective of our England," she continues. "If that isn’t the case then we need to ask why.”

I can see that the positions held by Tailor and Ramsey mean a lot, not only for them but for the communities they represent. That is why Tailor was named as QPR's Community Captain as part of the Premier League's Trophy Tour in celebration of the 30 years of the competition. 

"Winning an award like this is so important, QPR is a club that are truly representative of the demographic in which is serves both on and off the pitch," Tailor says.

Despite not setting out to be the first, by QPR diversifying the pool of talent it has given people hope, which means it's a win for the future of the game.

It allows people to be encouraged and see a way in which they can turn passions into professions, irrespective of societal and cultural norms, as well as creating a diverse platform, both visibly and in thought.

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