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English FA introduces 'Rooney Rule'

England manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters
England manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters

Ed Malyon

It's official: 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 English FA announced yesterday 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 (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) 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 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.

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.

Non-white

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?

Given the tiresome carousel of has-beens that spins 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?

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.

© Independent News Service

Irish Independent

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