Thursday, June 8, 2023

Do black players get a fair deal when they try to become managers?

Graham Fisher in Editorial, General Soccer News 1 Apr 2011


A worryingly rare sight

Nobody wants to believe that racism still exists in Britain in 2011 and certainly nobody wants to believe that it exists in football. Unfortunately, whether overtly or covertly, the facts suggest that it does.


The fight against racism isn’t helped by the likes of Brazil star Neymar claiming he was racially abused by Scotland fans on Sunday. The fans were jeering him because of his theatrical falls to the ground and his feigning of injury. They would have done that whatever colour his skin may have been.

The real proof that racism still exists is when you come to look at the number of black managers in England. There are ninety-two professional clubs in the English leagues and just two of them have black managers. Chris Powell at Charlton and Paul Ince at Notts County, both down in the third tier, are the only ones.


Research by Leicester university back in 2002 showed that 300 of 2000 professional footballers in England were black. I would guess that number has increased significantly since then. That means that at least 15% of people playing the game are black yet only 2% of the managers are.

Those figures could be explained by way of coincidence, but are much more likely to be evidence of a form of racism. It is for this reason that the professional football association are looking to champion a form of positive discrimination known as the ‘Rooney Rule’ that has been successful in American Football.


Under the ‘Rooney Rule’ clubs would be legally bound to interview anyone from an ethnic minority if they applied for the job.

Apparently, in the USA, there had only ever been seven black coaches hired to work in the thirty-two NFL clubs. After the rule was introduced, the NFL now has eight black head coaches amongst it’s thirty-two teams. Those figures are pretty compelling evidence.

PFA boss Gordon Taylor said,


“I find it astonishing that we can import the likes of Jean Tigana and Ruud Gullit and there’s no problem, but our own lads who have grown up in this country have not been given a chance to be fairly represented. We have got to learn from other sports and other countries, and we saw how many top quality Black gridiron players there were and how few Black coaches. But they came in with that rule and it’s made a difference, and now it’s become assimilated into the culture of the NFL.”

Taylor did go on to say that he would only support the introduction of the ‘Rooney Rule’ if the black players he represents who are qualified coaches, feel they are being disadvantaged.


“If we get more players like Chris Powell who are prepared to go for it and not expect a top job, that’s what we need to try and encourage.”

Paul Ince believes that racism does exist, but that it is very difficult to prove.

“It is really hard to comprehend that would-be managers could lose out on jobs because of their colour, but it would also be hard for me, as an experienced manager, to raise this as an issue if I was unsuccessful. Are people going to listen to that or just think that’s sour grapes because I didn’t get the job.”

I would fully support the introduction of the rule because it is only a small thing, but it is another important step to totally eradicating racism from the game. That can only be a good thing.


Graham Fisher



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