Why the Rooney Rule isn’t a good idea for English football

The ‘Rooney Rule’ is a major topic for discussion of late; with English football set to implement the law to spur Football League clubs into contemplating hiring more ethnic minority coaches when they undertake their search. But what is the ‘Rooney Rule’?

Well, it’s a common law adopted by the National Football League (NFL) that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching or senior football operations jobs.

The question is; will it work in English football to the same extent, in the same way that is has in the NFL? In my opinion, absolutely not.

The NFL commissioned the ruling in 2003 when namesake and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney chaired the league’s committee for diversity. A $300,000 fine was handed to the Detroit Lions later that year for failing to comply with the regulation.

More needs to be done to get black managers into our game and much more definitely needs to be done to tackle racism, not only in the UK but also, around the world.

In recent years we’ve seen various debacles shed light on the prejudicial crisis in this country. In 2011, Luis Suarez was accused of, and subsequently banned for, racially abusing Patrice Evra. John Terry, the following year, was fined £220,000 for racial abuse aimed at Anton Ferdinand. 2012 also saw referee Mark Clattenburg supposedly utter derogatory remarks towards Jon Obi Mikel, too.

In even more recent times, Dartford keeper Jason Brown claimed to have been subjected to bigotry remarks from a fan of my club, Bristol Rovers, in a Conference league match.

Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card, among other anti-discriminatory organisations, do ever so much to prevent actions like the aforementioned creeping into our game on a regular basis, and to stop racism still being prominent in the 21st century. However, can the Rooney Rule really be expected to follow a similar suit?

The employment structure in the NFL is totally different to that of clubs in the Premier League and beyond. For example, Football League clubs tend to have a clear inkling of who they want to appoint before even sacking the current manager in charge (well, maybe not so much at Watford).

Clubs in England, particularly the higher echelons of the football pyramid, don’t seem to adopt the “apply and interview” way of things anymore. Crystal Palace owner Steve Parish, for instance, didn’t exactly sit around waiting for applications when Tony Pulis departed, no; he was busy contacting the likes of Malky Mackay, Tim Sherwood and then finally, Neil Warnock, directly.

In the NFL, applications are sent to the franchises and from there, shortlists and interviews are created before an appointment is made, usually either from within or another team.

Would the Rooney Rule really work over this side of the pond, principally in the Premier League?

“Are they just going to be there to tick a box? I don’t see the point if you’re only going to be there for someone’s checklist,” Keith Curle, Carlisle boss and one of the two current black managers across 92 Football League clubs, said of the proposed introduction of the Rooney Rule in English football.

And he’s right. His view on the topic is the same as mine; more needs to be done to increase the amount of ethnic coaches in English football but there’s nothing to suggest the Rooney Rule will work.

Should Manchester United have been expected to interview, say, Chris Hughton, when David Moyes was dismissed, simply to appease to the ruling? Curle is bang on the money, it would have merely been a case of ticking off a box.

FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, president of CONCACAF, believes the ruling should be instigated in England, a notion strongly backed by PFA chief-executive Gordon Taylor.

“The lack of black coaches underlines the ‘hidden’ racism in our game” said Taylor. Predictably, Dan Rooney himself agreed with Taylor and Webb.

To look at the managerial records of some of the black coaches recently involved in English football;

  • Chris Kiwomya only won nine of his 34 games in charge of Notts County
  • Chris Hughton was unlucky to lose his Newcastle job at the time but has since only managed to win 50 games from 142 in charge of both Birmingham and Norwich
  • Keith Curle has faced the sack on four separate occasions before taking over at Carlisle this season
  • Paul Ince, despite a promising start to his managerial career with Macclesfield and MK Dons, failed to reach expectations at Blackburn, Notts County and subsequently Blackpool

With the exception of debatably Chris Powell, now at Huddersfield, who did a rather unappreciated job at Charlton, black coaches have largely flattered to deceive when given a role at a Football League club.

Now, by all means, this isn’t to say that they effectively failed in the dugout hot-seat due to being black! Far from it and neither does it mean that black coaches aren’t qualified for the roles. But are they qualified enough to be rightfully considered for top jobs at top clubs in this country, as the Rooney Rule would suggest they be afforded?

“I don’t think we have enough black coaches with the right qualification to challenge at the very top. So the first step is, can we help and support them to increase their qualifications for jobs?” said FA consultant Brendon Batson.

Minorities should be encompassed in the game at every level and position but is the English game really equipped for the Rooney Rule?

Jose Mourinho summed my stance up perfectly when he said: “If you are good, you prove that you deserve the job. Football is not stupid to close the doors to top people. If you are top, you are top.”

A rarity, but I can’t help but agree with the contentious Chelsea manager. For me, it doesn’t matter if the next Bristol Rovers manager is black, white, Asian, ginger, Muslim, Jewish, gay, straight, bisexual, in a wheelchair, an amputee or mentally-ill. Male, female, whatever – it doesn’t bother me. As long as they are not a Bristol City fan, I don’t mind!

More still needs to be done, but I think this precise concern lies, like the development of young English footballers, at grass-roots level. The FA and anti-discriminatory campaigners are doing their utmost to afford ethnic coaches more opportunities in our game and many decrees are being considered feasible, sustainable and worthwhile.

Sadly, I don’t think the Rooney Rule should be one of them.

By Neil Vincent – Manchester United/Bristol Rovers fan – @NeilVincent93

Posted by Natter Football

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