English football equivalent of Rooney Rule causes debate
A week on from US lawyer Cyrus Mehri’s trip to the UK, the Rooney Rule, which has been instilled in America’s National Football League (NFL) to address the lack of ethnic minority presence in coaching and management positions, continues to cause much debate regarding the creation of an English football version.
One of the driving forces behind the Rooney Rule in the NFL, Mehri addressed the Football Association, Premier League, Football League and League Managers Association during his stay, emphasising the benefits which can be reaped from introducing such a policy.
Mehri said: “The Rooney Rule does not tell you who to hire. It just gets everybody to slow down, don’t put on blinkers, open their mind to a broad slate of candidates, including minority coaching candidates. Instead of taking two days to do the search, it might take two weeks. This Rooney Rule has also helped white coaching candidates who would have been overlooked. Rather than interview one candidate, teams interviewed 10.”
Named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Rooney Rule ensures that at least one ethnic minority candidate is considered for a vacant coaching position within the NFL. Out of 92 managers at Premier League and Football League clubs, only Chris Powell at Charlton Athletic and Birmingham City’s Chris Hughton are black, making up just 2%. In comparison, 25% of the English game’s 4,500 professional players are from ethnic minorities.
Daily Mirror journalist Oliver Holt said: “The system is broken. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be helped. There needs to be a structure in place that has a chance of easing the cycle of despair. The Rooney Rule has worked spectacularly well in the National Football League in the USA. It is not a quota system. Just give someone a chance to state their case and then pick the best person for the job.”
According to former Newcastle United and Manchester United striker Andrew Cole, there could be a ‘lost generation’ of potential managers hailing from ethnic minority backgrounds due to the lack of opportunities available. “Look at the managerial merry-go-round in English football. It’s the same names all the time. I started doing my UEFA B three years ago. But I told myself last year that it just wasn’t worth it,” Cole said.
Shortly after the Rooney Rule was established in 2003, two black head coaches became seven, and there are currently eight minority head coaches. Having had just one black general manager, there is now five, meaning 13 out of 32 clubs in the NFL are led by a minority head coach or manager.
Daily Mail reporter Martin Samuel believes the lack of ethnic minority coaches is due to candidates not having the full set of qualifications, saying: “Yes change is needed, but beyond the boardroom, too. Alternately, we can continue pretending that chairmen have little desire for success, and the reason Andrew Cole is not a coach is his black skin, not the blank space on his wall where his certificate should be.”
Supporting calls for an English football equivalent of the Rooney Rule, Blackpool manager Ian Holloway commented: “There isn’t a more multicultural nation than ours and we should be proud of that. I’m an advocate of anything that makes this world better and if this new idea can help bring an end to the ignorance of any shallow people in football, I am all for it.”