The FA are taking the right steps with 'Rooney Rule' but until the Premier League follow suit, they are baby steps

'At least one BAME candidate will be interviewed for every role as long as such a candidate has applied and meets the recruitment criteria,' the FA confirmed

Ed Malyon
Sports Editor
Tuesday 09 January 2018 21:58
Hughton is in line for an interview to be the next England manager
Hughton is in line for an interview to be the next England manager

2018 will not be the year in which football solves racism - Fifa, after all, claimed to have done that in 2016 - and it won’t be the year in which we even get close to racial equality in the sport.

But we will take a tiny step. The first, most minuscule stride towards beginning to think we are headed in the right direction.

The Football Association announced on Tuesday that they will be introducing their version of ‘the Rooney Rule’, named after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ legendary owner Dan Rooney, who died last year but only after successfully implementing the rule as a way to promote diversity in American football.

It means that the FA will now ensure that “at least one BAME candidate will be interviewed for every role as long as such a candidate has applied and meets the recruitment criteria.”

A straightforward stipulation that is long overdue.

“The under-representation of black managers in our leagues is a national embarrassment,” wrote columnist Oliver Holt, then of the Daily Mirror, as he called for the Rooney Rule in football. That was 2013.

And since then there have been five years of silence, hundreds of opportunities lost and only token gestures.

Gareth Southgate's successor have a BAME candidate interviewed 

The reality in 2018 is this: of the 482 leading coaching roles across clubs in England’s top four divisions, just 22 belong to coaches of BAME backgrounds, a recent report revealed. There are only four BAME managers in the EFL, and one in the Premier League.

The EFL, to their credit, have now brought in a Rooney Rule of their own having found great success with its trial in academy posts. Baby steps, but forward steps.

At the top of the game, though, there appears little appetite for its introduction.

The Premier League is understood to feel that this is a pyramid issue, one that must be solved through building up from the bottom, by improving BAME coaches so they are in a position to apply from top-flight jobs, and they are playing their part in that by funding apprenticeships for up-and-coming BAME coaches. Recent graduates include Darius Vassell, Darren Powell, Ryan Garry and Darren Kenton.

The Premier League is a global beast these days. At times it feels like a supra-national league that just happens to take place in England. Their player pool is the world, their coaching pool is anyone.

But should we give them a free pass when all that is being asked for is the opportunity for a non-white coach to state their case, to showcase their ideas, in front of a majority (if not entirely) white board tasked with recruiting a manager?

Chris Hughton is the only BAME manager in the Premier League 

Given the tiresome carousel of has-beens that spin through the English top flight and the apparent lack of direction in many mid-table managerial searches, the fear for some of these Premier League sides might be that they have to hire someone new, someone exciting. Fortunately for them, with the status quo there is little chance of that.

To diagnose the health of English football, the greatest focus will almost inevitably fall on the manager of the England men’s team and that causes great concern.

BAME coaches wishing to succeed Gareth Southgate will need to have a Uefa Pro Licence and relevant experience. The leading candidate currently, then, would be Chris Hughton. That Hughton is an uninspiring choice is not his fault, it is the fault of a system where white hierarchies have chosen white coaches for roles without peering outside the box. Had this rule been implemented years ago – and there was no reason not to – then who is to say that promising young BAME coaches wouldn’t have worked their way into contention?

It is worth mentioning that this isn’t just an English problem. A list of the 50 best managers in the world published by FourFourTwo magazine last year contains just two BAME managers. Numbers that tell a story.

Those quibbling over something as small as the offer of interviews to minority coaches surely must realise those complaints are quite futile when compared to the statistics that BAME coaches are expected to overcome?

“Don’t start in the Premier League. Start with the Football League. Introduce the rule for the Championship and Leagues One and Two,” said Holt back in 2013.

We’ve done that now. The FA are on board too. The process has started, the movement is going in the right direction, but the sad reality is that this is a tiny first step on a depressingly long journey to something approaching equality.

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