NFL rule considered by European football clubs

An NFL rule is being considered by European football clubs as a way to combat the low level of minority representation in coaching and managerial positions.

The Rooney rule was introduced by the National Football League in America in 2002. In its current form, it specifies that whenever a head coaching job or general management position becomes available one person of ethnicity must have a fair interview otherwise clubs would face penalties.

Jeremi Duru, from American University Washington explains: “This is not a hiring mandate. It’s not positive discrimination, not a hiring quota, none of that. All it is, is letting somebody have the chance to compete.”

Duru says, before this rule: “For a long time the coaching ranks and the general managing ranks in the NFL where a white male space.”

Between 1921 and 2001 there had only been 6 black coaches in the NFL, where black players make up about 70% of of the teams. Things started progressing after the introduction of the Rooney Rule.

Now, out of 32 teams in the league, 8 are currently trained by a black coach.

Duru says the rule is now being considered in clubs across Europe.

The Rooney Rule in Europe

In 2014, 95.8% of all presidents, vice-presidents and executive committee members at elite level clubs, national leagues, national federations and UEFA were White men.

Steven Bradbury, of Loughborough University, England concluded this in a study on behalf of FARE (Football against Racism in Europe), he says:

“The principles of the Rooney rule could be applied in a range of contexts and beyond ethnicity, in terms of gender, disability, sexuality maybe and would have significant impact both in terms of improving the way people are recruited.”

Two forms of the rule have now been adopted by the English football league.

Just over 12 months ago, the youth academy implemented a ‘mandatory code of recruitment’. Any time a coaching position becomes available it must be publicly advertised and at least one qualified person of ethnicity should be interviewed.

In the first division, there is a voluntary code which has just been rolled out to all 72 clubs. Steven Bradbury is critical of this, saying: “It’s very cleverly written, as if to be meaningless”.

He suggests that the mandatory code is much closer to the rooney rule, but where the two differ most is that the rooney rule has much stronger means of implementation.

Meaningless without penalisation

Steven Bradbury believes the reason the rule has made progress in America is because of there is penalisation when the rule is not sufficiently enforced.

In 2008, NFL team, the Lions, were fined $200,000, (€170,850), for failing to interview a single minority candidate for their head coaching position.

This is not the case with either of the current versions of the rule in the English football league.

Jeremi Duru says: “If you get league buy-in and you associate a penalty with the rule, then there’s a much stronger chance of it being effective in Europe.” 

Duru says: “Clubs should have an incentive to think as broadly as possible about the talent that they can bring in. You don’t know if you have the best candidate if you are only looking at a small pool.”

Feature photo: (2017 UEFA final/ HonorTheKing on Wikipedia commons)

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