'Rooney Rule' is not the answer for English football

'Rooney Rule' is not the answer for English football

Many see the lack of black and ethnic minority managers in English football as one of the biggest problems in our game. Currently, there are seven managers that are black, Asian or from minority ethnic groups, or BAME managers, in the 72 Football League clubs and, following QPR’s relegation under Chris Ramsey, none in the Premier League. With the issue of racism and institutional racism rife not just in football but in society as a whole, people are looking for answers and solutions.

One of the suggested solutions is the implementation of the ‘Rooney Rule’ or something to a similar effect. In fact, The Football League has agreed to implement regulations similar to the ‘Rooney Rule’ to increase the amount of BAME coaches and managers in English football. But what exactly is the ‘Rooney Rule’?

The ‘Rooney Rule’ was an initiative introduced by the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney, in 2003. It requires NFL teams to interview at least one candidate from a minority background for every head coach and senior football role. The Football League has set a target of between 10% and 20% of all youth coach roles being filled by BAME individuals by 2019. Rooney says that the rule has seriously benefited the NFL and is encouraged to see other sports in other countries take inspiration from the legislation that he introduced. So with “unanimous recommendation” from The Football League and the support of the clubs, is the ‘Rooney Rule’ the solution to our problems?

For me, no. There is definitely a shortage of BAME managers in our leagues and that is certainly something that needs addressing. But, with the ‘Rooney Rule’ requiring at least one BAME individual to be involved in the interview process is nothing short of putting a tick in a box. Any manager wants to be recognised for what they can do on the touchline and on the training ground, not because a club is obliged to approach them. Isn’t this process just excluding them even more?

I’d like to think managers were appointed based on merit and experience alone, not the colour of their skin or the country that they come from. However, this obviously is a very idealistic view when it is inevitable that some owners may hold racial prejudices. But the ‘Rooney Rule’ will not help this if a candidate is being interviewed because the owner ‘has to’ rather than the owner ‘wanting to’.

The English game doesn’t just need more BAME managers, it needs more young, hungry managers regardless of ethnicity, nationality, sexuality or anything else. Our game needs more Garry Monks and Eddie Howes. But shortlisting and interviewing BAME managers because it’s mandatory is not the right message to send.

The trust QPR have shown in Chris Ramsey to give him a three year contract despite relegation and the impressive season Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had with Burton Albion are all positive strides in the right direction. These success stories should not just encourage more BAME managers to have the confidence to work in football management but should deter any possible institutional racism in the boardrooms of our clubs.

Burton Albion manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took his side to the League Two title last season

Even BAME managers such as Hasselbaink believe that the ‘Rooney Rule’ isn’t the answer. “I think you should appoint someone because they are the right person, not because they are black or white. I wouldn’t want to be waiting for an interview thinking they only asked me because I was black. I want to know they asked me because they think I can do the job.” (Independent)

Hasselbaink’s view is echoed by Chris Ramsey who insists he just wants to be judged on his managerial merits. “I just want to be a manager or a coach. I don’t want my ethnic group to have any bearing on what happens to me in the future.” (Daily Mail).

Doesn’t that say a lot? Two of the country’s most high profile BAME managers and exciting young managers just want to be judged and appointed because of their capabilities as a manager or a coach, ­­­­­­­­not just tokens in the ‘Rooney Rule’ process.

The box ticking ‘Rooney Rule’ is definitely not the solution. Nothing that football’s governing bodies do will provide the solution. The solution is out of the hands of football. The solution is down to society. Society needs to do a better job to educate about racism and stamp it out completely. Legislation in football isn’t the solution, education in society is.

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