PFA calls for English version of “Rooney Rule”
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) used a debate at De Montfort University (DMU) to call for a new code of practice to be introduced ensuring more black managers are recruited into the game.
The call was made during a debate organised by DMU’s Black and Minority Ethnic Staff Group as part of its programme celebrating Black History Month.
Former West Ham United winger Bobby Barnes, deputy chief executive of the PFA, was joined by ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Terry Connor, Wolves legend Matt Murray and Huddersfield Town and Gillingham hero Iffy Onuora, who has previously managed the Ethiopian national team.
They were joined on the floor by Matthew Taylor, Professor of History at DMU’s world-renowned International Centre for Sports History and Culture.
Barnes said a new code of practice should be introduced in England, based on the Rooney Rule which exists in American’s National Football League (NFL).
The Rooney Rule was introduced to address the massive underrepresentation of African American coaches in the NFL. It called on all teams to ensure at least one black or ethnic minority person was interviewed for any coaching vacancies, or face disciplinary action.
In England, despite around 25 per cent of the PFA’s members and 20 per cent of those undertaking their coaching qualifications being from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, there are only four black managers across the Premier League and Football League.
“We are trying to bring something of that spirit [of the Rooney Rule] into our game,” Barnes commented. “If you were to describe interview procedures in professional football at the moment they do not exist.
“A chairman and board will have virtually decided who they want to manage their team. The old manager will have left and taken their staff with them and the new manager will come in and bring their staff with them.
“Something like 25 per cent of our membership are black and ethnic minorities. Having embarked on a long and expensive process of achieving their coaching badges we want to make sure there is an opportunity for them at the end of it.
“People like Luther Blissett and John Barnes have told us in the past “we applied and applied for jobs and clubs did not even have the courtesy to come back to us.
“We have to give our members the opportunity to be heard so that at the very least there is a prospect of an interview.”
Connor, who spent time with Leeds United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Portsmouth during his playing days, said: “I agree with a Rooney Rule but if I have an interview I want it to be done fairly. What I do not want is to be invited to an interview purely to make up the numbers. I want to be judged on my CV.
“I do not want to spend half an hour going through the motions so that a club can say they ticked a box. The interviews must take place on an equal footing. I believe under a Rooney Rule you will not only have more black managers but the same will happen with chief executives and boardrooms. ”
Onuora added: “A rule like a Rooney Rule is not positive discrimination. It is ensuring there is an open recruitment process.
“When a job comes up in professional football the same few names are mentioned. If you open that process up clubs may surprise themselves. Someone could come through the door who they had never considered before and completely blow them away.”
Murray, currently completing his coaching badges, said: “We are underrepresented but, as a black player, I still have to put in the hard work. But if I do get the qualifications and apply for jobs I want to know that I will have the chance to be heard.
“Even if I don’t get that job the chairman might phone another club and recommend me.”