Premier League needs to implement Rooney Rule

As Brighton & Hove Albion sacked manager Chris Hughton this week, there are now currently just four black, Asian, and ethnic minority head coaches/managers among the 92 total Premier and Football League clubs in England & Wales.

Following a very successful four-and-a-half years on the south coast, Hughton, however, will not seemingly be out of a job for long. After just two days of unemployment, West Bromwich Albion and Celtic are both reportedly interested in his services. Nevertheless, there are concerns about the staggeringly low numbers of BAME coaches in these leagues.

Despite the fact that many pundits have called for a ‘Rooney Rule’ to be in place in the Premier League, the top division has ignored these suggestions. The Rooney Rule was adopted in American football to provide minorities with more opportunities. The rule requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for both head coaching and senior football operational jobs.

This rule does not guarantee jobs to minorities, nor does it automatically give a particular job to a person solely based on their ethnic background. It is in place to help the interviewing process become more inclusive to all people.

Named after the former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the rule helped boost the percentage of African-American head coaches in the NFL to 22% in 2006, up from 6% prior to the Rooney Rule implementation. However, this number has since dropped to 13% at current time.

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Former Professional Footballers’ Association union head Gordon Taylor previously claimed that “there is a hidden resistance” to hiring black managers in England. “We approached the Football League in the first place,” said Taylor in 2014. “Greg Clarke, the chairman, promised to bring the ‘Rooney Rule’ up at their [2013] annual general meeting and, for one reason or another, the issue was not even raised.”

“You see so many black players on the pitch and yet we have two black managers out of 92,” Taylor continued. “The whole recruitment process needs to be more professional, more diverse and, equality-wise, fairer. We’ve struggled to do that.”

While the Premier League has dropped the ball regarding their interviewing process, the FA has since adopted the Rooney Rule. As of January of 2018, the FA will make their job interviews more inclusive for their England national team head coaches, assistant coaches, and backroom staff positions.

Following the announcement a year ago, former FA chief executive Martin Glenn claimed that he was “optimistic that [the FA] are there to set an example” regarding this process. “We are also quite a big employer as well if you think about the number of 28 England teams now, if you include men’s, women’s, and disability,” said Glenn. “I think that will improve co-ordination across the game and I don’t see resistance to the general direction of travel from the leagues. I think they want to do it. I think it behoves us to try and make it easier.”

The EFL has also implemented a version of this rule as well. In a statement released in October of 2018, the EFL claimed that of the 122 jobs on EFL.com that supplied data, there were 184 BAME applicants. Of these applicants that were qualified for the particular jobs, 52% of them were interviewed. Ultimately, 13% of the positions filled were by BAME applicants. Previous to the rule change, BAME coaches filled just 8% of academy positions at clubs.

Some critics of the rule have suggested that the best coach should receive the job and it should not be about a person’s skin color. This is actually exactly what the Rooney Rule is all about. Being inclusive and broadening a club’s coaching search is beneficial to both the clubs and minority coaches. It ensures the clubs are getting the best coach possible. The best candidate should get the job and qualified candidates, regardless of their background, should be interviewed for positions.