Only 19 top coaches in English football are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and that needs to be changed by an NFL style Rooney Rule
A study by the Sport’s Person’s Think Tank has found that of the 552 ‘top’ coaching positions in English football, just 19 posts are held by black and ethnic minority (BME) coaches.
This figure means only 3.4% of the jobs are held by people from BME backgrounds, a stark contrast to the fact that BME players make up around 25% of the English leagues.
The study says that BME coaches face both institutional and unintentional racism, which actively sees them not offered jobs and dissuades them from even chasing their dream careers.
According to ex-Birmingham City FC player Michael Johnson, who has a full set of UEFA coaching badges which would allow him to manage teams in the Premiership, all he feels BME coaches need is the opportunity to be offered an interview.
“All we want is to get in that room,” the 41-year-old told the BBC.
“Nobody is saying you’re going to get the job. All we’re saying is have a look at these guys and see if they might change your perception of what you think they are,” he added.
It’s for that exact reason that English football needs to embrace the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
Named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the rule simply states that for each major coaching position which opens up, at least one of the applicants interviewed must be from a BME background. It is no guarantee of a job, however it provides BME coaches with the opportunity to interview for jobs from which they may otherwise be overlooked for no other reasons than their race, ethnicity, or background.
For Johnson, who says he has had only 3 job interviews in the last five years despite his excellent qualifications, this chance to interview could give him the break he needs.
“All I want is that opportunity, just like any other man from any other walk of life,” he said.
It’s been over 20 years since Paul Ince became England’s first black captain, while both Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand have followed in his footsteps. This weekend, West Bromwich Albion’s Burundi-born striker Saido Berahino could well earn his first England cap.
If English football can embrace players from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, there is no excuse for not embracing BME coaches on the training ground too. Their underrepresentation is an issue which direly needs to be addressed, and there is no better way than the Rooney Rule.
It doesn’t implement quotas, nor does it insult BME coaches by offering them token jobs. What the rule simply does is cut through some of the discrimination BME coaches face by getting them into interviews for jobs they’re qualified for and hungry to do.
Football League chairman Greg Clarke has already broken one promise to levy a vote on instituting a trial of the Rooney Rule in English football. With the news that black and minority coaches in the professional game can be counted on a full set of fingers and toes, for the good of the game he can no longer ignore the facts.