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Upward climb for Hill

GLORY DAYS: Hill in his playing days with Luton

FORMER ENGLAND international footballer Ricky Hill has expressed his frustrations over the lack of recognition he has received for his influential role in the possible application of the Rooney Rule in English football.

Recently, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) announced a new scheme dedicated to increasing the number of black and ethnic minority managers in English football.

Expected to be trialled initially in League Two, in a bottom up approach, Coaching Fair Play is a programme aimed at ensuring BME candidates for managing roles are interviewed for vacant positions.

Hill revealed to the Voice of Sport that he had brought the Rooney Rule to the attention of the League Managers Association and the PFA in 2005, just two years after the regulations were enforced in America’s NFL.

Lawyer Cyrus Mehri was one of the essential driving forces behind its implementation in American Football, where the proportion of black managers and coaches has surged from one per cent to around 20 per cent.

SUCCESS: The former England man has found glory as head coach of Tampa Bay Rowdies

Having taken on his own personal research of the mechanics of how the process works, and how it could be applied to English football, the former Luton Town midfielder’s plans were initially dismissed by the authorities as being a form of affirmative action or positive discrimination.

Hill is currently working as head coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL Championship, the second tier of US professional football, and won both the title and coach of the year award last year.

However, the 53-year-old only has to look at his own experiences of applying for coaching and managing positions in the UK, as evidence of a problem in his birthplace.

Hill said: “I’ve probably applied for more than 20 jobs in England, yet barring a four month spell at Luton Town, I haven’t received a chance.

“Yet, I’ve applied for seven jobs outside of England and have been accepted for six of them. So, I am good enough to get jobs but still won’t get a chance in the Football League.

“The Rooney rule would be important in making sure up and coming black British managers don’t face the same problems as I and others have had to – where the gun is loaded against you.”

Currently there are five black managers in the 92-club English professional game; Chris Hughton, Chris Powell, Paul Ince, Edgar Davids and Chris Kiwomya.

This month the plan will be pitched to the 24-League Two chairmen, with the hope a ‘bottom-up’ approach will one day lead to the scheme’s introduction to the Premier League.

Despite voices of caution by some former black footballers, Hill believes the scheme could be a major innovation to improve the game.

“There is clearly a problem in English football, where managers from the black community are not getting the chances for jobs.

“Having more black coaches and managers can only be good for the game, just as it has been in regards to the influx of black footballers in the 60s and 70s.

“I’ve always felt the Rooney Rule was important as it was direct action trying to provide opportunities as something needs to be done.”

SUPPORTER: Gordon Taylor

PFA chief Gordon Taylor has been an avid supporter of addressing the lack of black representation in management.

“People are always more comfortable with other people who are the same as them; language, colour. It is almost defensive,” explained Taylor.

“Owners have been more than happy to have black players on the pitch, and black managers from abroad such as Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana, but the overall figures are not in line with numbers on the pitch,” he added.

“It is not going to happen overnight but we need more representation in senior positions,” Taylor insisted.

Hill dismissed speculation that the rule would bring about “tokenism” in British management.

“We’re first generation all over again; there is no track record of success from black managers.

“It was not that long ago that the idea of black management was unthinkable in the game.

“It’s an important way of dispelling a perception and giving a helping hand to potential top class managers.”

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