Richard Conway, BBC, October 3, 2014
A key architect of the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’ believes British football “has nothing to lose” by adopting a similar regulation.
The rule requires teams to interview at least one black or minority ethnic candidate for a head coach vacancy.
There are only two black managers in the Premier League and Football League.
Dan Rooney, 82, told BBC Radio 5 live: “I would tell British clubs that if they would look at this openly they will find this is a positive thing.”
Rooney, owner of Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee, which proposed the regulation in 2002, says it would open doors for clubs when looking at additional candidates for a job.
“The plus side of this is you’re increasing your list of people to look at and it would really work. I couldn’t recommend it enough for the teams in Britain,” he said.
“It may take a little bit of work. But it would be a plus to the teams, to the league itself. When you think about it they have nothing to lose.”
His comments come after the head of the players’ union, Gordon Taylor, told BBC Sport last week there was a “hidden resistance” from English clubs to hiring black managers.
Keith Curle, at Carlisle, and Huddersfield’s Chris Powell are the only two black managers within the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs.
Those who support English clubs adopting the ‘Rooney Rule’ say the fact that 25% of players are black or minority ethnic means there should be greater representation at management and senior coaching level.
Rooney believes clubs and leagues now need to show leadership over the issue.
“It’s not going to force teams to hire anybody. That’s their decision and they have to do a good job,” he added.
In a statement, the Premier League said: “The situation that brought about the introduction of the ‘Rooney Rule’ in the NFL is markedly different to football. But our ultimate goal is the same.
“What we want to achieve, by working with the FA, Football League, managers and coaches, is more and better coaches coming through the English system who can progress to the highest levels of the game on merit and regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or background.”
Following a threat of legal action from an organisation of activists, the NFL created the Workplace Diversity Committee.
That committee proposed the rule, with Rooney saying that at the time just 6% of head coaches in the NFL were black–by 2006 that number had increased to 22%.
Cyrus Mehri–one of the lawyers who helped devise and introduce the Rooney Rule in the NFL–has called on UK Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a conference with club owners.
“I don’t think we need legislation as much as we need leadership. There’s been a failure of leadership throughout the game in the UK,” said Mehri.
“I’m calling right now for people of good will to call on the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to hold a conference where he brings in the top stakeholders.”
Former Birmingham and Derby defender Michael Johnson made more than 550 Premier League and Football League appearances in an 18-year playing career.
But he told BBC Radio 5 live that since retiring in 2009, and despite having all the necessary qualifications, he had found it impossible to get a job in management.
“I’m a pro license qualified coach,” he said. “I’ve gone through a governance course. I’m on the LMA diploma in football management. I can’t get any more qualified.
“But I’ve been out of football work in a full-time capacity for three years.
“I’ve sent over 30 CV’s of and got two interviews. For me, there’s something wrong there.”