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Initiatives like the ‘Rooney Rule’ crucial to ensuring opportunities for minority managers in England

Only one in 25 bosses and assistants in the country are from the BAME community

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 3:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 11:04pm

A British newspaper website offered the obligatory poll, inviting readers to vote on a burning issue of the day.

“Should a Rooney Rule be introduced in English Football?” it asked after reporting a new report revealing football coaches from black, Asian and minority ethnic – BAME – backgrounds are still “at a disadvantage” when it comes to getting top coaching or managerial jobs in England.

The paper found that despite promises aplenty of new schemes to encourage and recruit managers from BAME backgrounds over the past two years, there has been negligible progress.

Only one in 25 managers, assistant managers or senior coaches was from the BAME community, the report recorded – and it was finished just before the recent sacking of QPR manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

His departure cut further the BAME professional leagues’ representation, leaving only Chris Hughton at Brighton, Keith Curle at Carlisle and Grimsby’s Marcus Bignot.

With at least a quarter of all professional footballers in England of black heritage, the imbalance is an indictment of the failures in the game to make it representative.

There were three main reasons for the skewed statistics. The report unearthed limited access to and negative experiences of high-level coach education courses for ambitious BAME potentials, and it found an over-reliance among professional clubs on networks-based methods of coach recruitment.

It also discovered “conscious and unconscious racial bias and stereotypes in the coaching workplace”.

There remains a severe lack of BAME role models at all levels of the coaching workforce, the report concluded.

Hence renewed calls for the FA and the Premier league to bring in a version of the Rooney Rule, the US initiative that requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.

The Premier League agreed to affirmative action lite in the summer, telling clubs to interview at least one suitably qualified BAME candidate for academy jobs if they received an application.

And the English FA said it would commit £1.4 million (HK$13.5m) over the next five years to get more BAME coaches with bursaries for courses.

Some question why this issue is relevant when ethnic minorities – and the black community in particular – are so successful as players; surely it is only a matter of time and natural progression for more BAME’s talents to make a breakthrough, shake up the managerial statistics and paint a brighter picture of equality.

“Our findings simply do not back this up. If effective action is not taken we face the same situation in the decades to come,” said the report lead author, Dr Steven Bradbury from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University.

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That the report found so few BAME coaches in a senior role at professional clubs can only be put down to the great difficulty in breaking down longstanding and deeply embedded institutional barriers to career progression for BAME coaches.

Despite many gains in eradicating racism, bigotry and ignorance since the awful days of the 1970s and early 1980s, prejudices still hold sway.

So, on reading the story about calls for a UK-style Rooney Rule a vote was cast. “Yes” was clicked and up popped a ‘thank you’ note.

“35 per cent agree with you” went the message. 65 per cent disagreed, however – adding much validity to the report’s findings.

You could hear the 65 per cent muttering under its breath amid the vigorous anti-establishment clicking. “We’ve had of the bleeding hearts libertarians. The Rooney Rule is just one of those lefty metropolitan-elitist-namby-pampy-fads that have turned England into a dysfunctional softy . . .” CLICK!

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Such internet polls are of course meaningless gimmicks – mere subjective and suggestive webpage fodder touted on platforms pampering to select, reactionary audiences, designed to exploit the prevailing us v them nationalism. Many more are not so deeply thought out.

Yet the poll in question was featured in a news media long supportive of left wing politics and traditionally read by left-wing voting readers.

Given the shock plebiscites of late and the planet’s lunge to the right, assertive and attitude-shifting initiatives like the Rooney Rule are not only productive and progressive, they are vital like never before.