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The Roker Ramble: Do We Really Need The Rooney Rule?

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It's time for another new feature on Roker Report. Every Tuesday, or indeed most Tuesdays anyway, we'll be having this - The Roker Ramble. The Roker Ramble will be where we speak up on other things in the world of football. There's a big bad world outside of SAFC apparently, so it's probably best we started paying attention to it.

One thing we'd like to be avoiding however is the same old tripe peddled by many of the nationals. No disrespect to them, but there's only so much outcry for a holding midfielder at Arsenal and so forth you can read about before you bore yourself silly.

To kick things off, I'm taking the reigns, although all the Roker Reportee's will get their moment whenever they want it, and I'm bringing up "The Rooney Rule"... no, it's nothing to do with a balding Scouser...

It's been brought to into the public arena recently by the likes of Oliver Holt, Ian Holloway and Gordon Taylor of the PFA, that the 'Rooney Rule' used in the NFL should be adopted into our leagues.

For those out of the loop, The Rookey Rule was created by Pittsburgh Steelers owner, and chairman of the NFL's Diversity Committee, Dan Rooney. The rule was created to ensure that ethic minority coaches get equal opportunities to get high level jobs. This is ensured as teams have to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach roles. Until 1979, there had been only one coach of colour in the NFL, despite players from minority groups dominating the sport on the field.

Nowadays in the NFL we see many minority coaches, and many of them very successful such as Mike Tomlin of the aforementioned Steelers, Tony Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both of whom have won SuperBowls, and many more.

However it's not a situation we see very often on these shores is it? Around the 92 league clubs there's only really Chris Hughton in a senior coaching capacity, whilst precious few others are even involved lower down the ranks. Perhaps the most notable being Noel Blake at England U19 level, and whilst he may not be a household name, Michael Emenalo, who is the Technical director at Chelsea.

Paul Ince also had cracks with Macclesfield Town, Blackburn Rovers, Notts County and Milton Keynes Dons before finding himself out of work, whilst John Barnes seems to have given up on management after several unsucesful stints.

Only these five standouts from a league where 25% of the players playing the game are of colour. That's quite a poor return really when you think about it? So does it need introducing to football as those outlined at the start of the article suggest? And are we even ready for it?

I had a similar discussion on The Elastico Podcast (which you can download here) and many interesting points were raised, but overall I feel that both it doesn't need introducing, nor are we particularly ready for it. Now before you all label me some sort of racist, hear me out.

First of all, I don't for one second believe that there is a race problem when it comes to that sort of discussion at a boardroom level. Football clubs do some pretty stupid stuff from time to time, but not for one second do I believe that a manager wouldn't be hired because of race.

Take for example Paul Ince, who is currently I believe out of work. An undeniably great player, but when it comes to a team looking to hire a new manager, it's likely Ince is overlooked because he wasn't particularly good when given a managerial opportunity, just as there has been many Caucasian managers not up to scratch, and also find themselves currently sat in the managerial dole office alongside Ince.

Chris Hughton learned the ropes at Spurs for many years, and later Newcastle before being handed the job full-time at St James' Park. He was of course bombed out later, but that falls more on the head of Mike Ashley's madness than anything race-related. He is now in charge of Birmingham City.

Noel Blake won the job as England U19 head coach after a successful stint as an academy manager at Stoke City, much like Emenalo rose to Technical Director at Chelsea having proved himself at a lower level.

So what we're seeing here, despite the small pool to work with, is the best person for the job will get the job. Not particularly shocking eh, but it kind of leads me to my next point, which is that we're not particularly ready for it.

I don't have stats to hand, nor do I have the time to look them up, but it's clear to see that around the English leagues say 10 years ago, there were considerably less players of colour than the 25% currently quoted. These are the players in the age group, approaching their latter years now, or have recently retired who could make the step up. As said, there was far fewer players in that era, so it's no particular surprise to see that so few have stepped up as managers. It's not an inherit race issue, it's that the right candidates aren't available. For every black manager shunned, there's just as many white. For every black player that doesn't fancy moving into coaching, again there's just as many white who don't want to either. It's not a race issue for me.

Perhaps in a further 5-10 years from now we will start to see a greater number of black or other minority coaches in the league, what with the greater amount of players currently playing the game who might to further their footballing lives, we don't know. Even then however, the same points I've already made may stand, and we're in the same situation.

Lastly to add some further light on The Rooney Rule, it requires that a person of colour or from a minority group is interviewed. Under no circumstances does a team have to employ anyone they don't want, it just adds more to the short list.

It's obviously better to have more options to choose from, but the interview process can be drawn out, so why drag it out further by having to interview a candidate who isn't suitable? By which I'm not saying race makes them unsuitable, but harking back to my original point - if someone was good enough, from any race, they'd be under consideration. Why drag someone out, wasting the club's and the candidate's time by hosting an ultimately pointless interview?

If anything, that creates more of an issue than the situation we currently find ourselves in, and could incur all the wrong headlines. You can almost smell the newspaper print on stories where black and minority candidates claim to have had their time wasted, or were "insulted" with a poor interview neither side wanted to do.

So without labouring much further, I don't think we need the rule change, and to be honest I don't see us needing it in the future. Football clubs make stupid decisions, baffling decisions to use the current buzz-phrase around Sunderland, but to suggest that The Rooney Rule is needed right now is premature, and pointless.

Black, White, Asian, Martian. Whatever, the best person for the job will always, always get it.

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