Football needs to evolve to combat discrimination – Paul Elliott

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June 19, 2020
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    Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo

    Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is the only BAME manager in the Premier League, which has not adopted the Rooney Rule

    Football needs and is trying to “evolve” to combat discrimination, says the chair of the Football Association’s inclusion advisory board.

    Paul Elliott spoke after asking clubs at any level to join a voluntary code for equality in football leadership.

    “The FA is leading the way and wants to take the rest of the football clubs with us,” he told BBC Sport.

    Meanwhile, to ensure diversity, the Professional Footballers’ Association wants an EFL “loophole” closed.

    In 2019, the English Football League adopted a mandatory recruitment code aligned with the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

    It means clubs must interview at least one BAME candidate for a managerial vacancy.

    But EFL clubs are only obliged to follow this when there is a short-listing process and more than one candidate is interviewed, not when clubs target specific managers.

    There are six black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) managers across the 91 clubs in the Premier League and EFL. The Premier League has not adopted the Rooney Rule.

    With 70% of the current EFL managers appointed during the season, when a full recruitment process is less likely, the PFA’s equalities coach Iffy Onuora said this potentially means clubs “miss the opportunity to use the rule as it is intended”.

    In an interview with BBC Sport’s Laura Scott, the former Swindon manager said: “That for me has got to be looked at. Is it mutually exclusive that you want a quick appointment but you don’t run a recruitment process?

    “Can you not do both? Is there a way to marry both those things? I understand and I’ve been there myself as an ex-manager and probably benefited at one point from needing to make an appointment quite quickly that someone might step into those shoes on a caretaker basis, if that club has the foresight to do that.

    “But then behind-the-scenes there can be a recruitment process going ahead.”

    When the EFL introduced the policy last summer, it said at the time it hoped it would “help address the under-representation” and would be “mandatory when clubs consider multiple applicants for a role”.

    The EFL will not gather data for the full season until it is completed but the early indications are that since the recruitment code came in, 60% of appointments have followed an open recruitment process.

    Earlier this week, Kick It Out’s Troy Townsend told BBC Sport: “I’m not saying clubs are not following a process but they aren’t nailed on to a process because there is a little bit of a loophole there. You aren’t going to be held accountable. It’s like dipping your toes in without going to swim.”

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    Football ‘still very slow’ to combat racism – Townsend

    The players’ union told BBC Sport that they consider “necessary first steps” to be BAME representation on the EFL Recruitment Code steering group by January 2021 and “substantive” BAME representation on the boards of the Football Association, EFL, League Managers Association and Premier League for the 2020-21 season.

    Onuora said: “We’ve kind of moved away from targets but we do think there is some low-hanging fruit here and you could actually do some of these things relatively quickly.”

    Several high-profile players, including Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling, have called for greater diversity in the hierarchy of sports organisations.

    In terms of the voluntary code for equality in football leadership, England manager Gareth Southgate is one of a number of names to give it his support in Elliott’s open letter.

    “When you think about what’s been said and the current modern day players – your Marcus Rashfords, Raheem Sterlings, Jordan Hendersons – they’ve spoken with so much eloquence and maturity, and they have got a great social responsibility,” said Elliott.

    “I think what they’ve said fundamentally is that they want one thing – equality of opportunity. That’s why this recruitment code is so significant and important.”

    He added: “Individually and collectively, given the reach of football, we can impact society in a way that no other sport can.”


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