As Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the Scottish FA, Hala Ousta strives to make Scottish football representative of the nation’s evolving demographics.

In this interview Hala explains why it is so important to make Scottish football open to everyone as the Scottish FA celebrate UEFA Grassroots Week.

What does your job involve?

It’s my role to ensure that the Scottish FA’s approach to equality is consistently applied, both internally and externally within the wider membership.

We want to make sure that everybody in Scotland is able to play, watch and be involved in Scottish football, and create a safe environment where everybody is treated fairly with equal opportunities.

My role can range between holding awareness sessions for staff, to supporting our departments to embed equality across all levels of our work. We have launched a number of initiatives to achieve this, such as the Women into Leadership programme, which aims to increase gender equality within senior leadership and management positions.

We also have a number of Football Development programmes focusing on providing opportunities for all at a grassroots levels and empowering clubs to understand and be inclusive of their communities whilst delivering support and capacity building such as our ‘Game for All’ : Religious & Cultural Awareness workshops.

Our Refereeing department have been active in increasing female opportunities and supported the Equal Playing Field Initiative whereby we supported two referees to take part in climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to play a world record breaking game at the highest altitude in the spirit of progressing towards enhanced gender equality in sport. Furthermore, we have recruited 20 Youth Ambassadors to inform our work from a young person’s perspective to ensure that they are involved and can influence decisions which affect them.

Why was it important to create a position like yours?

We now live in an increasingly diverse society. Scotland has a population of nearly five and a half million people and within that you have four percent from an ethnic minority background with a gender split of 51 percent female and 49 percent male. 20 percent of the population have a disability and 1.3 percent identify themselves as LGB within Scotland.

We want to be representative of what Scotland looks like. We recognise our duty to be diverse and we want those numbers to mirror what we have across our membership.

Tell us about some of the equality and diversity initiatives that are ongoing?

We’ve developed partnerships and relationships with a number of relevant equality organisations –Women in Football, Scottish Women in Sport, LEAP Sports, Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network, ICON Awards, BEMIS Scotland, Scottish Disability Sport, the Scottish Government and sportscotland, to name a few – who will support us in our journey towards a more inclusive game.

We were one of the first governing bodies to sign up to the LGBT charter established by the Equality Network which aims to tackle homophobia and increasing LGBT inclusion within Scottish Sport, and we work in partnership with many of the different LGBT groups as part of a national coordinating group. An example of this is through our Stonewall Scotland ‘Rainbow Laces’ partnership with our Scottish FA Schools of Football programme which supports and empowers coaches and teaching staff to tackle homophobia within their local schools and teams.

Just recently we formed the Equality and Diversity Advisory Board (EDAB), which provides guidance and ensures that our commitment to inclusion, equality and diversity is embedded throughout the Scottish FA´s structures, plans and activities.

We have different projects at a grassroots level around equalities and inclusion, one of which is the Diversity and Inclusion Project focusing on ethnic minority, para-football and LGBT participation, which engages more than 60 diverse, under-represented community groups. We do this through a number of ways, including our annual multicultural festival, which features 16 diverse men’s teams and four diverse women’s teams. This event has featured more than 20 nationalities and seen an increase in ethnic minority female participation as players and coaches.

Our Girls and Women’s Development Officers have been working with grassroots clubs and communities to help enable them to increase girls participation at all levels. They have been working hard to develop Soccer Centres in each region to target participation of girls aged 5-12, whilst running recreational sessions for adults, and maintaining momentum following the SWNT involvement in the Euros this summer.

We also have a Disability Development Officer who builds capacity within clubs so they can be more inclusive of those with disabilities. This includes the development and support of para-football squads within the association, which have been successful in recent national tournaments.

How did you enjoy speaking at the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion earlier this year in Zurich?

The invitation was a great recognition and an opportunity for the Scottish FA to share our best practice and positive work around diversity in and through sport.

It’s crucial that we, as a collective society, continue to empower diverse and under-represented communities and inspire a cultural shift towards advancing equality, participation and leadership in all aspects of life. Through football and sport we can foster their voice and present a unique platform to work towards making football a welcoming game for all in Scotland.