Lord Ouseley urges PL boss to show more 'leadership' on BAME manager issue

29 March 2017 03:38

Anti-racism campaigner Lord Ouseley has called on Premier League boss Richard Scudamore to show more leadership in the effort to increase the number of football managers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Only three of England's top 92 clubs have a black manager, a number that has barely changed in more than a decade, despite more than a quarter of all players in the professional game coming from a BAME background.

Ouseley, the former chief executive of the Commission for Racial Equality and current chairman of the diversity charity Kick It Out, was speaking to Press Association Sport at the Football Black List awards ceremony in London on Tuesday.

The awards, which were established in 2008 to recognise African and Caribbean success in all aspects of the national game, were sponsored by the Premier League this year, with its director of policy Bill Bush in attendance.

When asked how disappointed he would be if we were still talking about the under-representation of BAME managers in 10 years' time, Ouseley said: "Very. It would be disappointing for all the black players and coaches who have got themselves qualified.

"But the problem we've got is societal: look at all our institutions, our boardrooms, the people at the top.

"We've got a real problem with how we end inequality for minorities, for women, for the disabled (but) p eople with power can make this happen.

"Bill Bush's boss (Scudamore) can make this happen tomorrow. It's about decision-making and leadership. Right now, when people are appointing people to their board, or as manager, they are not looking at all the talent."

Scudamore was double-booked on Tuesday with a cancer charity event elsewhere in London but did visit the Black List venue before the event started to congratulate its founders, journalists Rodney Hinds and Leon Mann.

One of the solutions often proposed for tackling the dearth of black managers in British football is the 'Rooney Rule', the policy introduced to America's National Football League in 2003 that states a minority ethnic candidate must be interviewed for every senior coaching position.

This season, the English Football League introduced a version of this rule - named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney - which means all of its clubs must interview a BAME candidate for an academy coaching position, providing a suitably qualified candidate comes forward.

Ten clubs also signed up to a voluntary code to extend this to first-team positions.

Speaking to PA Sport, Bush said: "If you look at the numbers, proportionately many more white players go on to become managers and senior coaches than black players. That's simply not acceptable, we all know that.

"The Rooney Rule is frequently suggested as the solution and the English Football League has trialled it this season. But, as they have discovered, there are legal issues with it, which is why they have had to make it voluntary.

"And then you have the issue of creating expectation and increasing pressure on BAME candidates. So the campaigners we speak to haven't been pushing hard for us to go down that avenue.

"We have been trying to make sure the cohort of potential black managers grows and becomes more skilled. That is happening. We are in a cycle of change now and the arrows are pointing in the right direction.

"I also think there is an international aspect to this and our overseas owners really get this. They see that this isn't right and they know this isn't just an ethical thing to do, it's sound business. Why wouldn't you want your talent pool to be as wide as possible?"

Ouseley agreed with Bush there is little point in a 'Rooney Rule' without a strong commitment to its principles from people in power.

Former Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and England defender Ugo Ehiogu, who has coached Tottenham's U21 team since 2014, is another who believes it will take more than just affirmative action in the interview process for BAME talent to make the same impact off the pitch as it has on it.

Ehiogu said: "It's going to take the owners to change their approach. It's a calculated risk, a gamble if you like, but what have they got to lose?

"If somebody is good enough for the job, give them your full backing and that's all anybody can ask. We're not asking for favours. I think that's what the vast majority of players and coaches would want."

When asked if some of his BAME peers had been deterred from pursuing careers in management because they thought they had little chance of success, the 44-year-old said: "There are definitely high-profile players who have been dissuaded from considering management because of the lack of opportunity. So, yes, we have lost talent.

"But there is a simple way to change that: interview everyone and then be prepared to go out on a limb for somebody. There are a lot of qualified people."

Source: PA


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