Human Resources

Human Resources

Does the best candidate always get the job?

Mr Samandeep Chouhan

Posted: April 2, 2015

It has been said 2014 played a significant role for the development of English football. Parliamentary debates, numerous official reports and opinions/statements from some of football’s most recognisable figures governed the concern involving the representation, or underrepresentation of BME (black and minority ethnic) individuals plying their trade within the world’s number one sport. Although the issue of underrepresentation of ethnic minority groups is aired frequently, action is yet to match the level of debate.

By definition, sport has developed into more than an activity involving physical exertion and skill; none more so then in the present day where it has now evolved into a representation of society.

Historically, the on-field racial barrier seemed to have been broken down in the late-70’s when Laurie Cunningham, reportedly the first black professional to wear and England shirt would produce moments of brilliance for Leyton Orient FC and West Bromwich Albion FC which earned him a transfer to Real Madrid FC (for those who are unaware of this milestone, a documentary [First Among Equals] of Mr Cunningham was uploaded to YouTube). Some of his fellow professionals believe he was the catalyst for change, with one newspaper in Madrid comparing him to a Dutch superstar we all know; “It was like seeing [Johan] Cruyff but with black skin”. However, a similar dispute has now reappeared, but this time concentrating on senior coaches and individuals in football’s ‘positions of power’.

Surprisingly, figures published in November 2014 from a study carried out by the ‘Sports Person’s Think Tank’ and ‘Fare’ illustrated a lack of BME candidates employed at the top level in football (Farenet, 2014). Before I carry on; next time you have the opportunity to view board members at football clubs, keep this particular perception in mind. Thus, the issue has been discussed inside, I’m sure a lavish number 10 Downing Street with a solid solution yet to be discovered. With approximately 25% of ethnic representation stepping onto the pitch weekly (BBC, 2015), the question asks itself; why is there so few black managers in football?

Yes, some of you will probably be reading this thinking; so what? There’s been black management appointments with the likes of Chris Ramsey at QPR and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Burton Albion. Some will even back Jose Mourinho’s claims related to management and the ideology surrounding institutional racism in football. As the self-proclaimed Special One reiterates there is no racism in football when asked his opinion on the “Rooney Rule” being introduced in England (we will discuss this later), can we really erase this suspicion? The simple answer is no.

The act of simply claiming it’s due to racism maybe the easy way out. But surely this issue has stemmed from somewhere with so many ex-professionals subjecting a strong case. One only has to look at the latter stages of 2014 to witness a truly discouraging statement by ex-Wigan chairman Dave Whelan.

Let’s take a step back and review the situation from a different angle. Onto our overseas counterparts; America’s NFL. Prior to 2003, management roles where dominated by the white individual, even though the playing field was recognisably shared. Dan Rooney, an advocate for change identified where the problem originated; the lack of ethic candidates given interviews. As a solution, Mr Rooney proposed a rule (later named “The Rooney Rule”), to the NFL board, which requires every NFL team to interview at least one ethnic minority candidate for the head coaching position once there is a vacancy. It has to be said the clubs are not under any obligation to give them the job. A shrewd but pivotal move.

The big question – Has it worked?

A resounding YES. Since the rule was implemented in 2003, 17 teams have had either an African-American or Latino head coach or general manager. Three teams – The Chiefs, Colts and Raiders have had more than one head coach of colour (BleacherReport, 2013). Maybe without the forceful nudge of the rule, NFL representatives would be echoing the discussions held at number 10.

Having witnessed a somewhat positive change, English football is looking to adopt a similar stance on proceedings. It seems as though the idea of implementing a ‘rule’ has gained divided opinions. And yet it should. Opinions and debates will always be at the heart of football. The gentleman at your local pub who constantly brings up the story of his trial and Manchester United to the board members at UEFA and FIFA – every individual who has an interest in football, has an opinion.

Back to implementing a ‘Rooney-like Rule’ and its notable concern in England. Having reviewed the rule, it seems like there are alarm bells ringing; some of the concerns have been aired below;

Tokenism – only hiring an ethic manager to solely prevent criticism. Surely the appointment needs to be made on whether or not they have the capability and attributes to move the club forward.

Disheartening for the individuals who have made it – just ask Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble. Two former professionals who took on coaching roles at Ipswich Town FC.

Easy way in for managers – Not having to compete with other managers for jobs. Gaining an unfair advantage.

Positive discrimination – Simply favouring a minority group is illegal in the United Kingdom. Some believe there is no such thing as positive discrimination.

Ultimately, the football culture needs to adapt, and to many the Rooney Rule is not the sole facilitator. To decipher the problems associated with English football, a plan of action needs to be installed; not a rule. With Martin Luther King’s iconic “I have a dream speech” running through my mind, one has to be given a job by the content of their character and not by the colour of their skin.

IBBC (2015) Rooney Rule: Would it help black and ethnic minority managers? [online]. Available from <[Link] [7th March 2015]

IIBleacherReport (2013) The Rooney Rule 10 Years Later: It’s Worked…. Usually, and We Still Need It [online]. Available from <[Link] [7th March 2015]

IIIFareNet (2014) Ethnic minorities and coaching in elite level football in England: A call to action [online]. Available from <[Link] [7th March 2015]