With the Premier League being centre of various race-rows over the past years, solutions are becoming popular talking points in the football community – one in particular is the Rooney Rule, used in America’s NFL.
What is the Rooney Rule?
The Rooney Rule was established in 2003 and named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee.
It requires NFL teams to interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operation opportunities that become available, as part of a transparent and open recruitment process.
What’s this going to achieve?
Well, the logic is: More black managers = increased tolerance by the racist few towards a black influence on the sport = less incidents of racism.
So, is the Premier League ready to adopt such a radical strategy? What will the implications be? Moreover, is it even needed?
The PFA’s chief Gordon Taylor, who has incorporated it into their 6-point-plan to eradicate racism is hopeful that the Rooney Rule will play a part in avoiding a breakaway black players union that has been publicly suggested by Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.
The F.A., like many of the black community, are disappointed at the lack of black managers in football. Of the 92 clubs in England, this number has rarely risen above three, varying season to season in the modern hire-fire culture.
In my opinion, the difference between the NFL and the Premier League is chronological, it’s all about the timeframes between a black sports-star’s big arrival, and the knock-on effect that had to role-model budding black stars into the respective sport, and then onwards into coaching.
Ernie Davis was drafted into the NFL in 1962, this was at a time of important civil rights movements and the country needed a marquee name in sport to set an example.
The Washington Redskins were the franchise to which he signed, before being traded to Cleveland Browns. 41 years before the Rooney Rule was put in place.
In football, in England, Viv Anderson was the first black man to play for England (full international) in ’93/94 season, since then we’ve only had 18-19 years, where 3 managers have made the switch permanently and many others Ince, Connor etc to less success. On top of this we’re slowly seeing the transitions being made into other areas, backroom ambassadorial roles like Vieira, or into the media eye like Chris Kamara, Earle, Wright, Barnes and many others.
There have been certain problems with the Rooney Rule that have been to the detriment of the NFL. One of these is that clubs have had readymade white replacements in mind for a vacancy, but had to waste time and money on interviewing a black candidate.
This is not just a waste of time and money for the organisation, but also the black candidate who held no realistic expectation of attaining the post. I can’t help but agree with this argument. If we put this argument in a footballing context, the events at Queens Park Rangers would be the perfect example of the rule being counterproductive. The club part with Mark Hughes and 3 days later replace him with Harry Redknapp. With risk of sounding cynical, Bhatia & Fernandes would have it in mind to have replaced Sparky with ‘Arry before they actually sacked the former.
The Rooney rule, if it were in existence currently, would mean that QPR would have had to delay their recruitment of a new manager in order to interview a black manager when they will inevitably appoint Redknapp anyway.
A final key point to note, is that the Premier League is in-fact a very open-minded league. Osvaldo Ardiles was the first ever foreign manager back in the 92/93 season, and 20 years on there’s now only 6 English Managers in the division – clubs are not afraid to make changes if it means success, regardless of ethnicity.
To wrap up this piece, I feel we’re too early in pushing a race-solution – it’s not needed yet. In another 10 years and I’d expect to see 5+ black Premier League managers. The cynic in me is saying that various journalists are using the on-field racism issues of recent times to make themselves be seen as flag-bearers for equality.
What do YOU think?
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Over and out.