Rooney Rule: an insult to black managers
What do you think about meritocracy in English football? Most people would say that one of the great things about football is that those who are the fastest, fittest and most committed get ahead, regardless of their skin colour, religion or class. Football is, in many ways, a sport in which racism, ‘old boys’ clubs’ and daddy’s mates play no part. This is one of the reasons why English football, from the Premier League down to the Conference, is respected and cherished.
However, the inspiring meritocracy of football now looks to be undermined by plans from the Football League to introduce a scheme aimed at bringing more ethnic-minority managers into top positions. The Football League plans to introduce a version of the Rooney Rule – which is operated by the National Football League (NFL) in the US – in the 2016-17 season. The Rooney Rule stipulates that every managerial interview should include at least one ethnic-minority candidate. The Football League’s plan to introduce the scheme was brought to wider attention when outspoken talkSPORT presenter Alan Brazil criticised it, in (barely) un-PC language – bringing on the fury of tweeters.
Proponents of the Rooney Rule argue that the lack of ethnic-minority managers in the Football League – it currently stands at six out of 72 – must be due to a widespread, unconscious racial bias in the sport. But while, on the surface, this scheme seems like an attempt on the part of the Football League to pre-empt accusations of racism, it does send a very patronising message. As England is no longer a structurally racist country, this scheme suggests that ethnic-minority managers are simply unable to progress to top managerial positions without a helping hand. It is, in short, deeply insulting.
Instead of taking race out of football, the Football League is placing it firmly at the forefront of the game – and to nobody’s benefit but its own. If the Football League truly believes that ethnic-minority managers are equal, then it should let them prove it, as all players currently do.
Guy Pierce is a writer and researcher based in London.
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