'I was kept out of the boardroom. They didn't believe I was the boss'

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The Independent Online

You can count the black managers in the Premiership and the Football League on the fingers of one hand, a remarkable statistic considering that about one-fifth of the players are black.

The best-known names are the managers of Torquay United, Leroy Rosenior, and Lincoln City, Keith Alexander, but there is no black manager above third division level.

"The chairmen and the people in charge of football clubs, when they are doing interviews, usually they are looking for someone like themselves," Rosenior told the BBC yesterday. "The first thing they need to do is be able to relate to you, and they find that more difficult with the ethnic minorities than they would with white people."

It is a view he also expressed last year when he recalled that, while serving his apprenticeship as a manager with non-league clubs such as Gloucester City and Merthyr Tydfil, he was often refused admission to the boardrooms of opposition clubs because "people simply did not believe that I was the manager".

Rosenior, a former Fulham and West Ham striker, said:"Becoming a manager when you are black is another small barrier to learn to get over. You have to work a lot harder, impress more at interviews."

Alexander, who took the third division's lowest-paid team into a play-off final last year, has saidthe colour of his skin has hampered his career. He says chairmen, in the past, have been unwilling to risk hiring him.

Yesterday, the FA's project director, Brendon Batson, spoke of a desperation from black players to stay involved in the game when they retired. "There is a frustration from black players who feel there isn't that opportunity in managing or administration for them," he said. But Rosenior's boss, Mike Bateson, the Torquay chairman, said he did not believe the small number of black managers was to do with discrimination.

"If we advertise a manager's position we will get around 200 applications and I would say we generally get fewer than 10 applications from people from ethnic minorities," he said. "Leroy Rosenior was just a persistent sod who kept coming forward for the job and got it."

Uriah Rennie became the first black referee in the Premiership in 1997. He said at the time: "I am a referee that is black, not a black referee, but I'm always aware of my culture and responsibility."

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