Claims of institutional discrimination within football are exaggerated!
There’s something embarrassingly and disconcertingly patronising about these incessant cries to introduce a “Rooney Rule” equivalent in English football.
Do black and ethnic minority coaches need our charity? No, I don’t believe they do regardless of the current statistics. Eventually everything will evolve naturally.
Football is as meritocratic as any other industry, and in time those minorities will prevail. Creed and colour is an irrelevancy - any man of any race with a fitting reputation, the relevant badges, the character, the personality, the experience or any previous successes, would be in contention for any managerial vacancy. And there’s a parallel with black players - if they’re good enough they’ll play.
It’s a frustrating scenario and frankly bewildering that even in the 21st century former players, media conglomerates and pundits appear all too eager to play the ‘race’ card in a bid to sensationalise the situation. It’s unnecessary.
Yes there’s been evidence on the pitch with the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra and John Terry/Anton Ferdinand sagas brought to light, but on the whole I believe the FA’s campaigns to raise awareness about racism have impacted enough to help ‘Kick It Out’.
A Coaching Fair Play plan has been proposed by the PFA, but black and ethnic minority coaches deserve an opportunity to earn representation through merit, not via tokenism or conscripting methods.
For those arguing how institutionally discriminatory the Premier League and Football League is, just take a second glance at the cultural diversity among its inhabitants. England’s top tier alone harbours managers from France, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay as well as the representatives from the British Isles.
Tabloid journalism has a lot to answer for, with reporters trivialising sensitive, topical issues to spark controversy and hysteria. And those ulterior motives - with readership and circulation in mind - are damaging.
Across the Atlantic in the NFL the much-heralded Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, which stipulates every team with a vacancy for head coach or general manager should interview a minority (African-American or Latino) candidate, has worked to the extent that 14 minority coaches have been hired in its 10 years’ existence compared to six in the previous 36 years since the Super Bowl began. However, all of the coaches hired in the last two years have been white.
Black managers have made their mark in the past, and I have no doubt that they’ll do the same in the future. Ruud Gullit became the first non-British manager to win a major trophy in England - winning the FA Cup with Chelsea in 1997.
Frenchman Jean Tigana took Fulham to the Premier League and the UEFA Cup, via the Intertoto Cup. Keith Alexander, the first permanently appointed black manager in the Football League in 1993, overcame the financial turmoil at Lincoln City to lead the club to four successive play-off campaigns - though he didn’t win one - while he unearthed non-league gems such as George Boyd, Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean when boss at Peterborough United before his untimely death.
Terry Connor, Carlton Palmer, Keith Curle and Leroy Rosenior have also held various posts, on top of the five that began the current campaign in Chris Kiwomya, Paul Ince, Edgar Davids, Chris Powell - who oversaw 161 games as Charlton Athletic manager - and Chris Hughton was recently relieved of his duties at Norwich City.
Now it’s up to those plying their trades in the lower leagues to set the trend, provide a platform to build upon, and prove this aberrant behaviour is just a temporary blip.
Phil Babb, Marcus Gayle and Frank Sinclair, as well as Brian Deane who has started out overseas, are now tasked with doing what Viv Anderson, Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham did in a playing capacity in the ‘70s.
There has been movement, with evidence that others could be set to join. Last year the PFA quoted that 18 per cent of of players on their coaching courses were black or from other ethnic minorities, with 14 holding Uefa Pro Licences. And the likes of Earl Barrett, Iffy Onuora, Ugo Ehiogu, Richard Shaw, Eddie Newton, Chris Ramsey, Noel Blake, Alex Dyer, Michael Johnson, Craig Fairclough and former Claret Damien Matthew have been added to a ‘ready list’.
There’s no hidden racist element what-so-ever - more than 25 per cent of players in the professional game are non-white - and the tide will turn on the coaching front.