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27th October 2015

30 years before equality in football

A recent study by the Sports People’s Think Tank found that there are just six black football/BME managers in England, reports Will Kelly

It could be 30 years before black and minority ethnic (BME) managers are properly represented in English Football, according to a new study by Sports People’s Think Tank. The report found that only 23 out of 552 elite coaching roles are held by BME people. That is just 4 per cent of the available positions, despite 25 per cent of players being from BME backgrounds.

Last week, the Mancunion Sport section brought to you an interview with Viv Anderson—the first ever black player to represent England—as part of the celebrations for Black History Month. The focal point of the evening was Anderson’s thoughts on the lack of black managers within the English game. 15 years ago when Anderson took on the manager’s job at Barnsley, he was only the second black manager in England. Today, there are only six black managers at the 72 Football League clubs.

The report concluded, in the same way it did last year when the study started, that “a form of institutional discrimination” continues to limit opportunities for BME coaches. Speaking on the night, Anderson put this down to the perception that notable black candidates are seen to be good players, but people doubt their ability to go into management.

The recent report has brought repeated calls for the FA to stand up, take notice and, ultimately, deliver action. Anderson spoke of how many players, when they go into retirement, have that desire to enter football management but this is proving to be a struggle for BME players. Such sentiments have been echoed by Jason Roberts, who believes that many black players are coming to the end of their career and thinking, “well there’s no opportunity for me as a manager, and the statistics only prove that.”

Graham Taylor, the Professional Footballers’ Association Chief Executive, spoke during the interview with Anderson of his recounted conversations with the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Chris Hughton, who had serious doubts that they could make it into football management because of the lack of representation. For Roberts, the English game is losing potentially top managers and top coaches due to the fact there appears to be a “structured exclusion of a minority in football.”

Former Birmingham defender Michael Johnson agrees with such sentiments, having waited for four years before being successfully interviewed for a role with Cardiff City’s academy this year. For Johnson, “the networks are closed off” due to the fact that “predominately, football is run by white, older men.” He added: “I couldn’t get any more qualified. But I was out of work from August 2011 to August 2015. My main challenge was getting to the table to show people what I’m about…”

Such opportunities to show one’s capabilities as a manager have become increasingly difficult for BME coaches and Anderson believes that this is down to the very fact the game has orientated into a “results business”.

Anderson remarked on the evening that something significant had to be done, and hether this came in the form of American Football’s Rooney Rule, something had to be done to help people from minority backgrounds to enter football management.

The Football League is set to vote on bringing in a version of the Rooney Rule at its 2016 annual general meeting.

It would see clubs interviewing one BME candidate for each head coach or manager role from next season.

Such a move would be welcomed by Johnson: “Hopefully this will start to make things easier for talented black managers, who are qualified to get in front of chief execs and chairmen, just to show they are capable of doing a fantastic job.”

The FA is currently spending £1.4m over five seasons on BME coaching bursaries, including working with England development teams. The Premier League has made additional space available to BME applicants on its elite coach apprenticeship scheme to help develop world-leading coaches.

The Football Association said it has endorsed “the principles of the Rooney Rule in its own hiring processes,” but talk is nothing without action. Their track record of protecting minorities in football is particularly suspect when you take into account Eva Carneiro’s recent departure from Chelsea as First Team Doctor, in which the FA failed to punish José Mourinho after he had effectively dropped her for doing her job. Women in the medical profession involved with football are also a minority.

Obviously things do not change overnight but clearly, with these appalling statistics, not enough is being done to challenge the decision makers at football clubs and structured exclusion of a minority in football will long continue if nothing is done.

The report that will be presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group at Westminster on Wednesday,classes senior coaching positions as anything from a manager through to an under-18s coach.

Key findings from the report

· 18 of 92 clubs (20 per cent) employ a BME coach in a senior position
· Barriers to BME coach progression remain and include “conscious and unconscious racial bias and stereotypes”
· There is a “consequent lack of BME role models at all levels”
· It will monitor the “upward career mobility” of a number of other BME coaches in less senior roles such as Richard Shaw at Crystal Palace, Eddie Newton at Chelsea, Ledley King at Tottenham, Darren Moore at West Brom and Michael Johnson at Cardiff.

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