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What To Make Of The Rooney Rule
Footytubeblog (Blog) 4 years ago
In light of the recent decision by several Premier League players to not wear the anti-racism Kick It Out t-shirts in the warm-up to top flight games in recent weeks, the PFA has launched its own six-point proposal to make the rules on racism more stringent.

As part of the six-point plan, the PFA are looking to implement the Rooney rule. The rule, coined by the Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman, Dan Rooney, was implemented in the NFL in 2003 to ensure that at least one qualified black coach or manager is on the interview list for current vacancies within the game. The PFA’s chief Gordon Taylor is hopeful that the Rooney rule will play a part in avoiding a breakaway black players union that has been publicly suggested by Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.

As with all issues that are keenly debated, they carry pros and cons. There have been a number of arguments put forward since discussions have taken place to consider implementing the Rooney rule. The first and perhaps most obvious reason as to why the Rooney rule would be a good idea is in order to increase the number of black managers in England.

Of the 92 clubs in England, this number currently stands at a disappointing three – Chris Hughton at Norwich, Chris Powell at Charlton and Keith Curle at Nott’s County. The second point to make in favour of the Rooney rule is that if a managerial vacancy opens, then even if a black coach or manager isn’t chosen for that vacancy, at least the recruitment process will be fair. The problem with the Rooney rule is that it carries more limitations than strengths. One of the arguments against the rule is that if it were to be implemented, it would be too fair towards black managers. Arsene Wenger, who has been one of the many Premier League managers who has been in opposition to the rule since the PFA introduced their six-point plan, without saying the term as such, ultimately warned against the rule creating positive discrimination.

There have been certain problems with the Rooney Rule that have been to the detriment of the NFL. One of these is that clubs have had readymade white replacements in mind for a vacancy, but had to waste time and money on interviewing a black candidate. This is not just a waste of time and money for the organisation, but also the black candidate who held no realistic expectation of attaining the post. I can’t help but agree with this argument. If we put this argument in a footballing context, this week’s events at Scunthorpe United would be the perfect example of the rule being counterproductive. The club sack Alan Knill and on the same day replace him with Brian Laws. With the risk of sounding cynical, Scunthorpe would have it in mind to have replaced Knill with Laws before they actually sacked the former.  The Rooney rule, if it were in existence currently, would mean that Scunthorpe would have had to delay their recruitment of a new manager in order to interview a black manager when they will inevitably appoint Laws anyway.

The second implication for the Rooney rule in the NFL is that the punishment and fines handed towards teams for not enforcing the rule has been inconsistent. Therefore, if this were to happen in this country, we’d have an affair which has been very much alike the sentences handed out to Luis Suarez and John Terry where there have been inconsistencies. The sagas regarding the injustice of club’s punishments would just be constant and in a sense would cause resentment amongst clubs for having to consider a black manager which is exactly the opposite of what the Rooney rule hopes to achieve.

The third and final argument against the Rooney rule is perhaps the simplest one is that interviews should be offered for vacancies based on credentials and not race. Whilst steps should be taken to eradicate racism in the game, the Rooney rule, for English football at least, is not the solution. This is firstly because although racism is still alive in Britain, the August riots of 2011 being testament to this, it is not as culturally as prominent issue in Britain as it is in the US. Like the civil rights movements of the 1960’s were a much needed step in the right direction to improve the culture of America, so too has the Rooney rule proved a watershed movement in the history of their favourite sport. As much as we can argue that racism still exists in Britain, and it does, it isn’t as burning issue in our society as it is in the States, thus the implementation of the Rooney rule in England wouldn’t instil the same reaction of black managers and coaches to aspire to be at the very top as it did in America. There wouldn’t be as much as a reaction as well because ultimately, black managers are not segregated in our game like they were in the NFL. Ultimately, if a black manager is good enough, race will not prevent them from attaining the very best jobs in England.

The last point leads me to conclude as to whether the Rooney rule would actually make a difference. The obsession with the Premier League in comparison to the Football League would mean that people would only take notice of a rapid improvement in the equality of race if Premier League clubs were to employ more black managers. One or two managers here and there in League One and Two won’t make people stand up and notice. However, three or four managers in the Premier League and suddenly the Rooney rule would be a huge success.

Written by Matt Read

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