After securing QPR’s first away win of the season on Tuesday Chris Ramsey was given his chance to manage the west London club. Incidentally it was Ramsey’s first job higher than developmental level in more than fifteen years in the game. Is it because of his colour or is it because the opportunity has never presented itself?
In November the Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke said he expects to see some form of the Rooney Rule introduced into English football. The rule, which was established in the United States in 2003 and requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching positions, the model has been hailed as successful.
Speaking at a lecture addressing the issue of discrimination in football and the media at the University of Manchester back in November, Dyke said: ““Everybody’s got to agree. I think there will probably be the equivalent of the Rooney rule, then we’ve got to say, ‘Are we seeing change?’ The people running football all recognise there’s a problem and that was probably not where they were two years ago.”
There have been many calls to introduce the rule in England to try and address the persistent lack of black and ethnic minority managers in the Football League. Currently just 6 of the 92 league clubs in England have black managers. Chris Powell at Huddersfield Town, Keith Curle at Carlisle United, Chris Hughton at Brighton and Hove Albion, Fabio Liverani at Leyton Orient, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Burton Albion and Chris Ramsey at QPR.
Yet an interview we have exclusively for you with black former footballer David Howell, who has been in the minority and has managed at non-league level with Harrow Borough and St Albans City suggests otherwise to Dyke’s claims. Howell said: “People at the top believe that there is nothing that needs to be done, when there is much that needs to be”.
Howell, 56, has been in football for the last 37 years and has been involved with addressing the problem of the lack of black managers with the PFA Forum for the last fifteen years.
Howell pointed out the example of Ian Holloway who resigned from jobs at Crystal Palace and QPR, but has not damaged his reputation and has walked into another job at Millwall; Howell added “black managers have a struggle to get another opportunity after dismissal”.
Howell said: “They (people at the top) have the view if your good enough your get the chance, but football in this country operates in an archaic way”.
“When I was at Birmingham Karen Brady wouldn’t be allowed into the opposition’s boardroom despite Karen being the Chief Executive at the time”.
Further evidence of the archaic nature of football at the elite level can be seen through the views of Wigan Athletic’s chairman Dave Whelan who Howell described as “archaic” too.
Twenty five per cent of the players playing across the top four English divisions are black however a return of just six managers is dismal. Is it that black players have a preconceived idea of football management? When asked about the preconceived idea Howell talks about the importance of his role with the PFA and the work they do when talking to potential black managers, trying to convince them there is a chance at the top level. Howell said “from talking to players, a lot of the black players do not feel inspired into coming into football management”. But the inspiration will only truly come if there is a level playing field according to Howell who said that “all black managers want is a level playing field”.
But what will level the uneven playing field; will it be the Rooney Rule? It may be however it is still up in the air whether it will be introduced. Howell prefers to look at the positives of the Rooney Rule and not the negative view of former players such as Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble who described the rule as “disgraceful”. Howell describes the rule as “a chance for a foot in the door, which is a start”. Adding it is important to “break the preconceptions of black managers, but they (the people at the top) don’t understand they have to break the preconceptions”. And breaking the preconception will make it easier for black managers to get the opportunity to manage at the top level of the game, Howell who is experienced at non-league level says “it is still difficult at non-league level but it’s easier than it is at the top for black managers”.
Recently black former footballer and Sheffield United favourite Brian Deane went abroad to manage after finding no opportunities back in the UK. Deane went to Norway and was a success managing Sarpsbourg 08 which he left after he had a falling out with the board and it remains to be seen whether he will get a job back in England. Howell believes there is no reason why Deane can’t get a job back in English football with Cardiff City stating that Ole Gunner Solskjær got a job from his work in Norway in the Tippeligaen.
But Howell says the lure of the Premier League means aspiring black managers avoid going abroad. “The Premier League is the league the managers want to work in, the league attracts the best managers… Making it harder for black managers to break in”. This is a problem in itself with “foreign managers being seen as a better option”. A problem that affects all young British managers white or black. Howell stresses the importance of it being “about the ability of the managers, and it shouldn’t be a matter of colour; it should be a level playing field”.