CAMPAIGNERS FOR greater diversity in football have welcomed new measures aimed at increasing the number of black managers in the national game.
The English Football League (EFL) has made it policy that clubs must interview at least one black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candi- date when searching for a new first- team manager.
The regulation is informally known as the ‘Rooney rule’, named after the NFL diversity committee chairman Dan Rooney, who spearheaded a policy that clubs in American football should interview at least one BAME candidate for each head coach or senior football operation vacancy.
The regulation, extending to all first-team vacancies, was introduced at the EFL’s annual general meeting last week (June 7) and follows an 18-month pilot.
The EFL said the aim of the rule was to provide more opportunities for aspiring black managers.
There are currently just three BAME first-team managers in the EFL. Former television journalist Leon Mann, one of the co-founders of the Football Black List, which celebrates and highlights the contributions of black people across football and aims to ensure diversity in sports journalism, told The Voice: “I feel lots more senior leaders understand that under-representation in management, coaching and many other areas of leadership in football is problematic and preventing better business in the game.
“For this measure to be voted in shows a serious change in attitudes and a commitment to make this policy. The EFL deserve great credit for leading on this issue. This is a significant development in pushing for greater diversity in the management and coaching at the elite level of professional football.
“The step will ensure opportunities for BAME people in coaching and management. This is much needed, as we know the problem is not one of a lack of talent, but instead a lack of opportunity.”
He added: “The Sports People’s Think Tank (SPTT), of which I’m a founding member, has been calling for a mandatory positive action measure like this for a long time. It was something we called for as part of our first report five years ago.”
In a statement, the EFL said it hoped the new rule would “help address the under-representation” of BAME coaches in the game and that it is a “further commitment to im- proving equality in first-team football”.
It added: “That commitment has now been formalised with the introduction of a new regulation ensuring that the principle of providing more opportunities to BAME candidates is mandatory when clubs consider multiple applicants for a role.”
Responding to concerns of some campaigners who claimed that the opposition to the move would see the initial enthusiasm and momentum for it die out, Mann said: “It’s now vital that everything is done to make this a success. Policy is nothing if it is not enforced.
“It should be noted that the EFL have run their pilot for 18 months, so the decision is one based on monitoring its effectiveness over a period of time.
“When the SPTT called for the measure, we were told there was no point, as people felt the game would never put it in place,” Mann said.
“It’s that attitude that often prevents us from pushing for real change and having to accept the suggestion that things will get better over time. But frankly, we don’t have time. People are being excluded every day, every week, every month, every year – we have to act with purpose now.
This is one part of what is needed. For the measure to work we have to give it a chance.
“That means people applying for jobs, going for interviews and knowing they are there on merit. The system didn’t recognise their talents until it was forced to. This is where we are now and I hope in years to come, we will look back on this time as pivotal in changing the demographics of management and coaching.”
The widely criticised sacking of Chris Hughton by Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion last month and Darren Moore from Championship team West Bromwich Albion in March means there are now just four BAME managers working in the top four divisions of the English game.
Among those who have been vocal about the issue is former England captain Sol Campbell, who guided Maccles eld to League Two safety after taking over when the club was five points adrift at the bottom.
He is one of just three coaches working in the EFL. Northampton’s Keith Curle and Stevenage’s Dino Maamria are the other two, while Nuno Espirito Santo manages Wolves in the Premier League.