Comment: Chris Hughton sacking by Norwich leaves English football looking 'hideously white'

As of this week there is not a single black manager in the top five tiers of English football

On the eve of this year’s Super Bowl, John Wooten, a former NFL player, posed a question as to when he and his fellow advocates and supporters of the Rooney Rule would accept their work was done. It was posed so he could answer it himself. “When,” he said, “the front office and the coaching staff look just like the sideline.”

What Wooten meant is cast your eye over a team, acknowledge its racial mix and then see if that same mix applies elsewhere in NFL clubs. What then would Wooten make of professional football in England? As of this week there is not a single black manager in the top five tiers of English football, a sport in which around a quarter of its players are black.

A year ago there were five. A month ago it was one when Chris Powell was dismissed by Charlton. On Sunday evening it hit zero with Chris Hughton’s sacking by Norwich City. There was no racial element to Hughton’s exit but its outcome should cause overdue alarm around the offices of the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League. It is time to introduce the Rooney Rule to English football.

A quarter of the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs is 23. It is, of course, simplistic to suggest there should be an equivalent number of black and ethnic minority managers. Yet that the number of black and ethnic minority managers sits at zero is a pretty straightforward indication of a problem for the English game.

In the 80 years prior to the implementation of the Rooney Rule there were seven black or ethnic minority coaches in the NFL – for 60 years there were none. Since Rooney, which requires one minority candidate to be interviewed for each vacant head coach or general manager position in the NFL, there have been 13. This is not tokenism, it is due opportunity. For seven successive years before 2014 there was a black head coach or general manager at the Super Bowl.

The Professional Footballers’ Association is supportive of such a scheme but progress has been slow. There are many black people who reject the idea of any sort of positive discrimination. This, though, would be a levelling of the playing field; there is no requirement to appoint a Paul Ince ahead of a Ryan Giggs. It would also require a greater openness among clubs when looking for a new manager and that is no bad side-effect either.

 

Norwich’s search for a new manager will depend on what Neil Adams, their novice stand-in, achieves over the next month. The decision to sack Hughton smacks of bad management itself. Five points is a significant breathing space over the oxygen-starved occupants of the bottom three. It is a Corporal Jones moment. Compare it to West Ham’s decision to stick with Sam Allardyce in January, when they were actually in the drop zone, and Cardiff turning to another relative novice in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It can take relative courage to ignore supporters marshalled by angry phone-ins and the bandwagon of social media. It takes even greater courage and leadership from those running the people’s game to make a real difference.

Greg Dyke once described the BBC as “hideously white”. “You can have all the equal opportunities policies you like, but if the gateman doesn’t let blacks through the gates, you’ve got a problem, haven’t you?” he said while the corporation’s director general. As FA chairman he could now help push open those gates to football management by using the Rooney Rule.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star