Sunday 26 April 2015

Black Managers in Football - there is a deeper underlying issue

Recent media interviews by Les Ferdinand & Chris Ramsey (Director & Manager of QPR respectively), John Barnes (Ex England & Liverpool Legend, Former Manager of Tranmere & Celtic) have resurrected the issue of the limited numbers of black and ethnic minority managers in English football.

Some have proffered the so called Rooney Rule (an initiative in American NFL) as a fix to address this issue. Gordon Taylor Chief Executive of the PFA came out in support of this initiative in 2011. Since then, the FA Chairman, Greg Dyke and many others have had their say, adding different and relevant slant to this issue. Some think there is no point in introducing the Rooney Rule whilst others believe a different solution should be adopted.

However, three weeks ago, John Barnes made a very pertinent comment in my opinion and added a his own dimension. His take was that "Black Managers struggle to find jobs after been sacked". I have classified the reaction (mostly from social media and the comments section on the BBC website) to John Barnes' comments as follows:

1) "He was a 'shit' manager anyway that is why he was fired and has never been re - hired"

2) "Why are they pulling the race card again"

3) "Surely if a Black Manager is good, a club owner / or board will hire him as their manager irrespective of his prior record"

I marvel at these responses as I am generally of the opinion that John Barnes is right and there is something wrong with the extremely low number of Black and Ethnic Minority managers in English Football. It might be that a lot of club owners don't feel comfortable with this demography.  I must acknowledge and praise the owner of Brighton Football Club and Tony Fernandes of QPR for appointing Chris Hughton and Chris Ramsey as managers. However,  we are all aware that both roles are similar to  'hospital passes' in a game of football. Something of a poisoned chalice. Jobs that had been offered to other non ethnic managers who made a hash of those jobs and then passed to both Messrs Hughton & Ramsey to turn around. Mustn't complain though.

As at three weeks ago, there were six managers from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds employed by English football's 92 league clubs: Ramsey and Hughton. Chris Powell at Huddersfield, Fabio Liverani, the Leyton Orient boss, Keith Curle of Carlisle and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink doing a fantastic job at Burton. 

Jimmy has gained promotion to League One at the first time of asking with Burton. I am intrigued that he had to start his managerial career as a League Two manager and wonder if the colour of his skin has anything to do with it. This was a player who played at the top of the EPL for many seasons and had a distinguished career across three of Europe's top leagues. We have seen other people without the same CV as Jimmy start at a higher level of the game. Was that about ability or is there is a 'below the surface' issue that no one dares speak about? Take a look at the list of managers in the Championship and League One and tell me why Jimmy shouldn't have been appointed ahead of at least 50% of the people on that list. 

It appears Fabio was recruited as a result of the Italian connection and this might actually be the way forward. Are Black and Ethnic Managers building the right network that will help them access these managerial jobs they desire? 

Chris Powell has a reputation as a top manager of a League One side but he was only offered the Huddersfield job on a rolling contract basis. Despite his reputation, he was out of a job for a while after been sacked as Charlton manager. You only need to read Keith Curle's career history to appreciate some of the indignities he has had to suffer. Put through what a Court of law labelled "a sham of a disciplinary process" by a club he once managed. Keith was out of the game for over a year prior to his appointment at Carlisle United. 

So when the UK population is 14% Black and ethnic minorities and 25% of players are from the same demography, how come there are only 6.5% of them as managers. I did some number crunching for a group of friends recently and the number of black and ethnic minority people with the UEFA pro licence and UEFA B licence is higher than 14%. This is just in case you are tempted to think that Black and Ethnic Managers are not qualified for managerial roles or are too brain lazy to take or pass their coaching badges as some might be tempted to think. 

Clearly there is an issue to address but whether it will be addressed is another issue. It is interesting to note that Large Corporations in the UK following a nudge from the government and politicians have addressed a similar issue - that of the imbalanced representation of females on the Board FTSE100 companies. The numbers have improved significantly. The focus is now on the under - representation of black and ethnic minority people on the same board. Hopefully this too should be addressed during the next parliament. If FTSE100 companies are willing to address these issues, what is the excuse of football clubs and their owners? Is there excuse something that dare not say its name? 

For me though, a sure-fire solution is for rich black and ethnic minority people to invest in football clubs. If you are on the board, people like you will get the opportunity to interview for these roles and that is the essence of the Rooney Rule and what managerial candidates want. The opportunity to be interviewed. The opportunity to set their stall out and be judged accordingly. 

Before I finish, I will go back to John Barnes comments - "Black Managers struggle to find jobs after been sacked". I will now list the names of a few managers still in work and invite you to make your own conclusions:

1) Sam Alladyce's last two jobs before West Ham were disasters. He still got the West Ham gig. He is a Premier League Manager today. The Davids and Lady Brady at West Ham gave him a chance based (in my opinion) on the work he did with Bolton. Yes he has justified that faith as West Ham are now part of the Premier League furniture and are looking to progress to greater things. But still he failed at Newcastle & Blackburn. He was fired at both clubs but he is still a Premier League Manager today.  

2) Brendan Rodgers has failed at a few clubs. He has won nothing in his career and by passing on the opportunity to win the league last year on the alter of some silly yet to be established principle, he might never win anything again. Yet Brendan is the manager of Liverpool. The one time biggest club in the world. Let that sink in. 

3) Steve Bruce. Great player. But please look at the history of Steve's managerial career. Steve has managed 7 clubs in 16 years. He has won nowt in any of these clubs and has led a few clubs into relegation. He is currently struggling at Hull with his club in danger of relegation.  But guess what Steve is one of the favourites for the Newcastle job and any other job going in the North of England. Is it Steve's results that makes him this attractive to club owners? Waiting for someone to defend this. 

You want more examples, look at the records of most managers in the Championship and the lower leagues. They are allowed to fail, they are allowed to be shite, cool their heels a bit and stroll back into a job big or small. But similar managers like John Barnes, Paul Ince are not allowed to be shite. They are not allowed to fail. No its not racism some will say. Call it whatever you like, I know what I would call it.


1 comment:

  1. Great piece, but I am fundamentally at odds with the take-aways from it. For starters, I am quite happy to start from a base of "this is how it is, so deal with it." I have a serious problem with the subsidy that is any form of affirmative action, be it gender based or race based. It may well be unfair because there is an underhand situation at play, but this underhand situation requires instruments to actualise it. From agents to media to conferences to insider information etc etc. I do not have the data for what I am about to suggest, so I am happy to be called out on it with proof. I do not think the black and minority managers are doing enough in this area i.e. mastering the instruments that perpetuate this supposed deliberate plot to keep the black coach out of a job. Who are their agents? Brother, cousin, mate from down the road? Sorry. You made quite a bit from the game. Go and spend it on a higher class agent and let me know if this does not change your interview prospects. Same with publicists etc. If we think that minorities anywhere in the world (black, Hispanic, Asian, male, female) won't ever have to work 26 times as hard to prove themselves, I think our frustrations will be locked in a ferrets wheel.