So, the Rooney Rule is making the news again.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Rooney Rule, it originated in the NFL and compels member teams to interview minority candidates as part of their recruitment process for both coaching and senior US football coaching roles. The long term objective is for a greater percentage of individuals from minority backgrounds to be holding high profile roles within the game.
This will, in theory, begat more and more applications from those candidates, encouraged and motivated to do so because others, from similar backgrounds to themselves, will then be prominent in the high profile roles.
Viola! More equal representation of all members of society in the game. A win-win situation.
The theory and cultural goals of the Rooney Rule have not gone unnoticed in English football. Renewed support and demands for its introduction here became especially notable in the aftermath of Chris Hughton’s sacking at the end of last season; his removal from the post meaning that, following the dismissal of Chris Powell from Charlton a month previously, there were at that time no black managers in work at any of England’s 92 senior clubs.
Some more off the wall observers at the time of Hughton’s dismissal even dared to make the outrageous suggestion that his sacking was racially motivated in some way; that, had he been white, it might not have happened.
Thankfully, no-one took that accusation seriously. But it was mooted, nonetheless.
We all know that discrimination on the basis of skin colour, gender, race, religion and sexuality is wrong. No-one needs to be socially ‘right on’ to appreciate and realise that and its implications. It is wrong – end of.
And because we are all intelligent and reasonable people on MyFootballWriter, there is no need for me to use this column to further rail against those who actively seek and favour discriminations of that nature. So I won’t.
But I will dare to suggest that there is one kind of discrimination in the game that is seen as acceptable, the one which drives and defines managerial and coaching appointments more than anything else.
And that is with regard to ability. Someone’s ability to do a job and to do it well, either as a potential recruit applying for a position in the game or as someone currently in a role who, for whatever reason, is struggling in it and starting to raise both eyebrows of his board and club’s supporters.
If you apply for a job and aren’t deemed good enough to carry it out in the manner that is expected of you by your future employers, then you won’t get offered an interview. Likewise, if you are in a job but struggling and things remain to go against you, you won’t be easily invited to continue in that position.
In other words, you’ll be out.
More than one football manager has said that the only certainty there is in the game is that you’ll be sacked one day. And very, very few haven’t been. Take Joachim Löw for example, Germany’s World Cup winning coach. Plus a third place in the same competition four years earlier and a runners up and third place in the European Championships of 2008 and 2012.
That makes him one of the most successful international managers ever. Yet he’s been sacked twice; his time at German club Karlsruher SC being brought to an end because he couldn’t prevent them from being relegated to Germany’s equivalent of League One.
On that basis, Graham Westley could yet be leading England to World Cup success in Qatar in 2022.
Low’s story should be an inspiration for any football coach. To go from such a low to being dismissed and perhaps thinking that your route back into the game is closed forever to winning a World Cup, what an achievement. Fantastic.
I’d like to think someone like Paul Ince could do something of that magnitude in his managerial career.
Ince cut his coaching teeth at Macclesfield, taking over a team that was not only dead and buried but stiff with rigor mortis. Seven points adrift at the bottom of League Two, rudderless and hopeless. Yet, by his sheer force of will, his personality and his knowledge of the game, he guided them to safety.
That achievement got him a bigger managerial gig, at MK Dons. Three divisional Manager of the Month awards followed, as did success at Wembley in the Football League trophy and, ultimately, the League Two Championship.
His stock was high and, unsurprisingly, he took advantage of that in order to accept the managerial position at Blackburn Rovers, then in the Premier League. Quite a leap up, League Two to Premier League. But he had the faith and conviction that he was good enough. Sadly for Ince and for Blackburn, it turned out that, as far as they were concerned he wasn’t.
But he was given the chance.
Indeed, Blackburn took one hell of a risk appointing him, given that he had only managed in League Two up until his appointment there. And, be in no doubt here, Blackburn would have had all the old familiar faces, the tried, tested, been there and done that applying for that post at the time. But they took a chance on Ince. They didn’t see his colour or take that into consideration. They just saw a good football coach, one who deserved a chance. What he did with it was up to him.
Now it would seem Paul Ince sees the introduction of the Rooney Rule into English football as being the best way forward for him to get a job back in the game here.
Is it the way forward?
How would we feel if, for example, we needed a new manager in the summer of 2016 and, because of the Rooney Rule, the club had to, by law, include someone from a minority on it and they had to be interviewed and given exactly the same opportunity to impress and stake their claim for the role as everyone else?
That’s a shortlist where five, for example, have been selected on the grounds of their past experience and ability and one because, although his managerial record was dubious at best – let’s say Carlton Palmer – is on it because he has been allocated from a list?
I wouldn’t want Carlton Palmer as Norwich City manager. But that’s got nothing to do with his colour and everything to do with his past experience as a manager.
He isn’t good enough.
Frank Rijkaard on the other hand. If he was on the list, I’d be pushing his name forward very forcibly. And, again, not because of his colour but because of what he has achieved in the game, his reputation and status within it. And the period he had as coach of Barcelona which included two La Liga titles as well as the promotions to the senior team of such promising talents as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
Football fans tend to see the game in a very simplistic manner. Clubs, games, players are all the same – they’re either good or bad. There is rarely, if any, middle ground. Look at how that’s reflected with our club at the moment. Take Wes Hoolahan for example – there are as many Norwich fans prepared to praise him as there are to bury him.
The same applies to Nathan Redmond. It’s a game of extremes, of emotions, of, most importantly of all, opinions. And the most common and well argued is whether or not someone is any good.
Which is why few Norwich supporters would have welcomed – for example – the appointment of Terry Connor as manager during the summer.
Or the aforementioned Carlton Palmer.
But neither would we have been very pleased with a Paul Hart or a Dave Hockaday.
I do wonder if the Rooney Rule, if introduced to the game in this country, won’t cause more problem than start to alleviate the issues that merited it in the first place.
Will it mean clubs having to make their interview shortlist public?
And how will any persons on that list who have been put upon it and selected for interview under the workings of the Rooney Rule feel about their inclusion and chances. Is there a possibility that they might see themselves as ‘token’ candidates – and, worse than that, those people interviewing them will regard them in the same way and treat them accordingly?
Then there will be the pressure for a club to appoint the Rooney Rule candidate. Let’s assume it is introduced from July 1, 2015 and, from that date until December 31, 2015, fifteen English league clubs have to actively recruit new first team managers.
Club one appoints someone other than the Rooney Rule applicant. As does club two. Plus clubs three, four, five, six and seven. By the time, therefore, club eight is looking for their new manager questions will start to be asked.
Will people within the game and supporters of the Rooney Rule suggest that their ‘applicant’ hasn’t been appointed because of ‘inherent racism’ in the game? The theory, debate and controversy grows when club eight and nine appoint white managers.
What if club ten was us? And the eyes of the footballing world are very much on the boardroom of Norwich City?
Will there, eventually, at our club – or any club – be a feeling within that there might be a need to appoint the candidate who would be most favourably received politically rather than the one who was, if that is the case, regarded as the best one for the job?
And what if the Rooney Rule applicant was deemed to be the best applicant for the job and duly appointed, yet a little over a year later after just six wins in forty league games they are dismissed? Will there then be controversy and accusations flying that they were only sacked because of who they are? And what if their successor was white?
It’s all conjecture of course. But I can’t help thinking that the Rooney Rule if introduced to our game will, in its arrival, cause as many new potential conflicts and controversies with regard to race and opportunities for all in the game, as it will soothe and put right those injustices which are already in place.
I’m also left wondering why it seems to have been made footballs problem when it is one that needs to be addressed in sport as a whole. But also in society.
How many minorities hold positions in the coaching or top administrative echelons of tennis, golf or rugby union for example? An argument might be offered here that not so many minorities play these sports so their active engagement in such roles is not as important to address? I’d argue that if there are few participants in these games from minorities then that is certainly something looking into-why is that the case for a start.
Then there is Parliament. Out of 650 MPs elected in 2010, 148 are women – a little under 23 per cent. Furthermore, out of that number of 650 MPs, just 27 (just under 4 per cent) are from a minority background*.
4 per cent!
It isn’t only football that needs to look at itself with regard to minority representation it would seem, but football does seem, at the moment, to be the populist whipping boy for a problem that lies a lot deeper in society than just within the running of our national game.