Friday, February 24, 2012

There'll be equality and no suppression of minorities...

I would apologise for heading down the football route again, but I think this one is worthwhile, in the wake of the news that Blackburn Rovers have appointed former coach Terry Connor as their new manager. He has served the club for the last thirteen years under four previous managers, and seems a logical choice, so why is this so high profile? Because Connor is black.

Terry Connor: The premier league's sole black manager
This has led to PFA (professional footballers’ association) chief Gordon Taylor (amongst others) lamenting the lack of black coaches and managers in football. Taylor in fact goes one step further by suggesting that the football league adopts the NFL’s “Rooney Rule”. This is a rule for American Football teams that states that when candidates are interviewed for the head coach position at least one of those shortlisted (and subsequently interviewed) must be of an ethnic minority and is cited as a great example of affirmative action to avoid discrimination. So should this rule be adopted?

One in three members of the PFA is black as apparently were 21% of those who took their UEFA coaching badges in the last three years which, assuming all other things are equal, should mean there are between four and seven black managers in the premier league. How many are there? One. Terry Connor.

At first it seems like an obvious step to redress this balance and I want to be the first to say that more black coaches and managers would be no bad thing; but is introducing a rule like this fair? And would it help?

Club managers are appointed by varying combinations of directors, owners and chairmen and as such those people reserve the right to appoint whoever they deem the right person to the role. Based on the average number of qualified professionals we might expect a higher number of black managers, but that doesn’t mean that there should be. But if we decide that for equalities sake there should, would football’s own Rooney rule help?

The rule in fact only states that a minority person has to be shortlisted and interviewed for the job and whilst that may be a step in the right direction (you are certainly more likely to be appointed if you are actually considered!) it need go no further than that. The Detroit Lions were the first NFL franchise to fall foul of the Rooney rule in 2003 when they sacked one coach and immediately replaced him with Steve Mariucci, the recently sacked coach of another team. Their arguments of firstly not interviewing anyone (they only had one candidate, he got the job by default) and secondly that anyone else who wanted to be shortlisted had not put themselves forward for interview as they thought the appointment of Mariucci was a foregone conclusion were rejected and they were fined $200,000 for not interviewing a minority candidate. They paid the fine, interviewed candidates, appointed Steve Mariucci and everything carried on as before.

Keith Alexander was a managerial legend at Lincoln City
It should also be considered that such “positive discrimination” to further the cause of minority coaches is on the other hand discriminatory against “non-minority” coaches. They are interviewed based on the whim of the chairman or the owner, why should other candidates be interviewed solely based on ethnicity (or any other minority category for that matter)?  

Whilst the basis for introducing a rule like this is right, the main change surely has to come from within the clubs when appointments are made. Black coaches and managers such as Leroy Rosenior, Chris Powell and the late Keith Alexander have proved that when given the chance they can do the job well, but then, isn’t that the belief of all managerial hopefuls? The bottom line is that all other things are not equal and so the jobs will continue to be given to the board’s preferred man, regardless of colour.


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