'It could see Chris Hughton interviewed for the Manchester City job'

Chris Hughton

Callum Farrell discusses the pro's and con's of implementing the Rooney Rule in English football.

In 2003 Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and at the time ahead of the NFL's diversity committee, implemented what became known as the Rooney rule.

It stated that for all top-level management position within a club there would need to be a candidate from a minority group in society, who would then be interviewed for the job.

Since the application of the rule the number of black coaches has risen from 6% to 22%, a statistic widely held up a proof that this particular quota in sport works.

Currently English football is in the same position as the NFL in 2003 when it brought in the Rooney Rule. Of the 92 clubs in the football pyramid only two have black managers, a share which is much more severe than that which prompted the NFL to take action.

Only Chris Powell and Chris Hughton, at Charlton and Norwich respectively, have managed to secure a top-level management job and both have enjoyed success with promotion through the divisions.

So say if the FA brought in the Rooney rule, would it work?

If, as numerous critics and ex-players have suggested, racism needs to be tackled in the boardroom first, then this rule will enable black managers to tackle the first obstacle which is to gain an interview and have an opportunity to supply a CV and lay out their plans for the club.

For example Luther Blissett, who as a player was one of the first black players to play in Italy, said that between the age of thirty and his fifties he never got an interview for any position he applied for until he became a coach at Hemel Hempstead Town FC (who play in the Southern League Premier Division).

The rule wouldn't force the hand of the owners to hire the black manager but would mean that after a few years you would begin to see a pattern of which clubs were holding prejudice against perfectly qualified managers.

Also if a club does have a prejudiced owner then by making them conduct interviews with black managers, and hearing their expertise in the field, it would show them that the views they held about black people were completely wrong and bigoted, thus organically eradicating the racism.

However, once the rule is played out in the reality of football it quite quickly unravels. For example, if Manchester City began looking for a new manager then they would be required to interview at least one black manager along with other candidates.

Presumably the name at the top of their list would most likely be Pep Guardiola who is available after leaving Barcelona at the end of last season. Along with his name on the list there would have to be either Chris Powell or Chris Hughton, the only two professional black coaches that could reasonable be considered for the job as currently working managers in the professional leagues.

Both of them would know through their interview that they wouldn't be the chairman's choice and may feel that their time was being wasted and that it was damaging their relationships with their current employers.

A similar situation would surely play out every time that a new position would open up throughout the leagues; it would become farcical and neither of the men would entertain the charade.

The small number of black managers available means that you couldn't possibly implement the Rooney rule here. You completely patronize managers like Powell and Hughton who had no concessions when they got their positions and got their through their own hard work and on the merit they had garnered.

Another point that needs to be raised is that racism isn't just suffered by black people. Asian people also suffer disgusting hate crimes and have to deal with prejudice every day of their lives, and they are also a minority in this country.

So if the Rooney rule were adapted then they would also need to be included and offered manager roles when black candidates aren’t available. You also need to take into consideration other prejudices such as ageism and sexism (the closest that a woman has ever come to a management role in the football league was in 2009 when England Ladies manager Hope Powell was linked with Grimsby Town, which ultimately came to nothing).

Surely if their is a shortage of minority managers then the boardrooms aren't the place to implement change, a landscape which is constantly being dominated by owners from all corners of the globe which surely is slowly breaking down any prejudices once held by clubs.

More recently Paul Elliot, the first black captain for Chelsea in the 1990’s, has been linked heavily with the chairman’s position at Charlton.

The sphere which is linked more closely to the problem of black coaches are the FA coaching centres which provide the relevant qualifications which enable people to become coaches and managers.

Between 2002 and 2008 only 10 black male coaches had obtained a UEFA Pro Licence (when Paul Ince became Blackburn manager back in 2008 he needed special permission from the FA to take the job because he didn't have the qualification).

Former black players such as Andy Cole and Ian Wright have said that they didn't bother getting their qualifications because they thought it would be a waste of time as there wouldn't be a job at the end, a argument which is completely useless if you’re trying to encourage black people to take up management roles.

The job of the FA is to publicise and incentivise players and fans from all creeds, colours and backgrounds to get their qualifications and get involved in the schooling of football.

In this country in many different spheres of industry the brilliant melting pot of cultures that we enjoy has shown how successful this kind of inclusion can be.

image: © blenky64

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