Where are all the black managers?

A quarter of professional players are non-white, so why are there only two black managers at the 92 League clubs? Reporter Richard Woodall puts some serious questions to the big names.

It’s a statistic that just won’t go away. The number of black managers in football simply isn't rising.

Four years ago, only two out of the 92 League managers were black – and the situation hasn’t changed. Charlton’s Chris Powell and newly-appointed Birmingham boss Chris Hughton are the only non-white gaffers in the Premier and Football Leagues – staggeringly inconsistent considering 25% of current players are black.

One idea is to follow American football's ‘Rooney Rule’. Introduced in 2003, this anti-discriminatory legislation – named not after Manchester United striker Wayne but Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who chaired the NFL's diversity committee – requires clubs to interview ethnic-minority candidates for senior jobs.

Under the Rooney Rule, unless assistant coaches have contract clauses guaranteeing them promotion to chief coach when the incumbent leaves, clubs must interview at least one Black or Hispanic candidate. And this is no paper tiger: when the Detroit Lions flouted it in 2003, the club was fined $200,000 by the authorities. As a result, the percentage of African-American NFL coaches jumped from 6% to 22%.

But would a similar thing work in the Premier and Football League? British football has made great efforts to kick racism out of the stands and the dressing rooms, but what of the dug-outs and boardrooms? Are directors around the country inherently racist, or is it that the small number of black managers who have been given jobs have not produced the results expected?

Staffordshire University academics recently polled 1,000 fans, players, referees and officials. More than 50% thought racism existed in club boardrooms, while 82% said managers were given jobs based on their reputation in the media.

Hughton and Powell: rarities

Earlier this year, Notts County parted company with Paul Ince. In his first managerial role, the former Manchester United and England midfielder successfully led Macclesfield Town – seven points adrift in 92nd place – to safety before further success with Milton Keynes Dons.

When he took over at Blackburn Rovers in June 2008, he broke new ground as the first black British manager in the Premier League. He only served six months in the job at Ewood Park before fans called for his head and he was dismissed.

Ince – who was also the first black player to captain England – believes he would have found his pathway into management easier were it not for the colour of his skin.

“I’ve got enough experience in the game, and worked under some of the greatest managers," says Ince, a stalwart for bosses including Sir Alex Ferguson and Terry Venables.

"No disrespect to Macclesfield, but I end up sometimes questioning why I had to go to the lowest team in the Football League to start my managerial career.” Strong words, but Ince's former team-mates Gareth Southgate and Roy Keane cut their teeth at a higher level, with Middlesbrough and Sunderland respectively.

Ince thinks it will take more than success for himself and others like Chris Powell and Chris Hughton for inherent racism to be kicked out of touch.

“Racism in football is never going to go away," he says. "I’d hate to think that in the 21st century we don’t want a manager in football because he is black.

“But we need to look at the number of black footballers who have left the game and not been managers but rather pursued a media career – Les Ferdinand and Andy Cole, for example. You wonder why this is.”

Paul Ince during his ill-fated Blackburn tenure

The numbers game is enlightening. Although Tony Collins became the first black manager, blazing a trail at Rochdale in the 1960s, he remained an anomaly until the 1990s when he was followed by Keith Alexander at Lincoln, and later Peterborough.

And although Hope Powell – currently managing England at the Women’s World Cup – is the first black head coach of any England football team, her appointment in 1998 has not been the start of a bigger trend.

Former England and Aston Villa defender Earl Barrett says he nearly left the game when he retired in 1999, precisely because of the lack of opportunity for black managers.

Barrett – who currently coaches the under-14s at Stoke and is project manager for football’s equality and inclusion campaign ‘Kick It Out’ – will complete his UEFA A coaching badges this summer and admits he would love to be in the managerial hot-seat one day.

“I wasn’t sure whether to go into coaching when I finished playing, so I did a sports science degree before deciding to give it another go," he explains. "At one time, though, I didn't even consider it for lack of opportunity. There was a pathway to management but it was full of obstacles for black ex-players.

"I definitely think we have a racist mentality when it comes to black managers. Even if I don’t become a manager, at least I’ve made the way for others by attempting to break the cycle.

Barrett notes, though, that he's not the first to try. “Keith Alexander was a trailblazer for black coaches. He was very successful – but didn’t get a shot at a top club. A quarter of players are from black and ethnic minorities and yet we don’t see that reflected in management.”

Earl Barrett in his playing days

What do the power-brokers of English football think of the situation? Brendon Batson MBE is currently an FA consultant on race equality.

“There are issues with regards to black coaches which need to be addressed," says Batson, a groundbreaking player as one of West Broms’s ground-breaking ‘Three Degrees’ alongside Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis in the 1970s.

“We’ve had more black managers in previous years than at present but at the moment there are not many. There’s no easy answer to the problem. We know the numbers do not lie.”

To help correct those numbers, the NFL introduced the Rooney Rule – and it's worth noting that even before its introduction 6% of NFL coaches were black, which would equate to five and a half Premier and Football League managers rather than the current two. (If we take the 22% figure, that would be 20 black managers.)

But do the FA have any plans to introduce a similar rule here? Spokesman Matt Phillips remains tight-lipped. “The FA is aiming to inspire more coaches from black and ethnic minority communities and we are committed to working with the relevant football authorities to take this forward.

“Both Noel Blake [England U19s coach] and Hope Powell have carved out excellent careers as national coaches in the England set-up and the next step is to generate a new wave of coaches that can follow in their footsteps by gaining qualifications and experience across all levels of the game.”

Hope Powell CBE – a shining but rare example

However, Charlton’s Chris Powell – who broke into management this year at Charlton, for whom he played nearly 300 times in three separate spells – is philosophical about the influence he has as a black manager.

“Obviously I have to do well because the be-all and end all is about good results. I need to produce. It's tough to be one of the only black managers – you feel a bit like a martyr. Clearly the percentage of black players is not reflected in management.”

Even so, Powell disagrees with Ince over whether a playing career should influence how far up the scale you start as a manager: “I don’t think your playing career should really have any bearing on it. If you’re good enough, you get an opportunity to manage and coach.”

Peter Coates, owner of Stoke City – where Chris Kamara had a brief managerial spell in 1998 – acknowledges the dearth of minority coaches but doesn't think it's down to prejudice: “There are so few black managers but at Stoke there is no racism – we hold black and white coaches in the highest regard.

“I don’t know a huge amount about the Rooney Rule but I think clubs would need to think long and hard before introducing something like that. I don't believe that there exists prejudice towards black managers in the game. Football management is very pressurised – whatever the colour of your skin.”

Ince disagrees. “We’ve managed to stamp out racist abuse dished out to players but the next step is to get more black managers into the game. It’s not the FA that can change it – it’s the people running our clubs.”

As such, Ince is in favour of the FA introducing its own Rooney Rule: “Without a doubt I would be in support of that – look what it has done for the NFL.”

Ince is backed up by Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor. “The issue of black managers is the next glass ceiling to address,” says Taylor. “We admit we need to look at the situation. Guys like Cyrille Regis, Les Ferdinand and Luther Blissett were hoping for positions in the game and they haven’t yet got them.

“We are giving serious considering to the Rooney Rule at the moment. It’s proven very successful in the USA and we are looking to bring Dan Rooney over to the UK to speak about his experiences of it.

"Something like this in English football would need the support of all the clubs. There's always going to be an issue with positive discrimination but with the number of black managers so low, something needs to change. The current situation is not fair.”

Regis, Blissett and Ferdinand – capped but not appointed

Former Watford, AC Milan and England striker Blissett retired from the game in 1994 and is still waiting for his first taste of professional management. He managed non-league Chesham United for a year in 2006 and his most recent job was coaching the under-16s at Stevenage last season.

Blissett is damning of thre prevailing attitudes in football boardrooms.

“Football club owners are always looking for reasons to talk about experience but you can’t get experience without the opportunity. I’ve applied for many jobs over the years and been told I don’t have enough experience.

“I just think I’m wasting my time now. Sometimes when I’ve applied, I’ve not even had the courtesy of a reply. The reason for the lack of managers is simple – there is racism.

“But I don't think this is just related to football – if you look about in society you can see this. People in charge of football clubs just turn to the same people again and again.”

Former West Brom striker Cyrille Regis MBE thinks change will come, albeit gradually. Regis notched 82 goals in 237 appearances for the Baggies and won the FA Cup with Coventry in 1987. He hasn't gone into management and is now a football agent.

“It’s a gradual process,” he says. “Black football players weren’t suddenly accepted. Getting more black managers will be a gradual sea-change. It takes time for race to cross both blue and white collar boundaries.”

Darren Moore, who won promotion to the Premier League four times with West Brom (twice), Bradford and Derby before becoming an international for Jamaica, also backed a Rooney Rule.

Moore – now club captain at League Two side Burton Albion – is currently taking his UEFA coaching badges with a view to management, and he hopes more black players will follow him.

“You can look at this issue in a number of ways," he says. "I think introducing the Rooney Rule would work. There are such a lot of black coaches in the game and more and more of them are taking coaching badges.

“It was good when Paul Ince highlighted the lack of black managers – it means more black players are starting to be switched on about the low number of managers.”

Moore gets a gong from PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle

Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, said any move to enforce new regulations would need substantial support.

“If we felt black coaches were supportive of the Rooney Rule, the LMA would back it," he pledges. “It’s disappointing we don’t have more black managers. Alongside the PFA, the LMA supports the black coaches' forum to help bring more managers into the game.

“Things haven't progressed as they should have done because there is no career pathway for black coaches at the moment. But we are pushing for more black players to get their qualifications.

"At the moment we have 23% of black players enrolled on coaching courses. As a result, black coaches will be getting more interviews.”

It's an interesting figure: if 23% of coaching-course candidates are black, that much more closely reflects the ethnic make-up of current players. If those proportions are reflected in the interviewees shortlisted for jobs, whether by a Rooney Rule or simple mathematical averages, it should result in a larger number of black managers.

There's still a long way to go, on both sides of the Atlantic. It's worth noting that at the time the Rooney Rule was introduced, 70% of NFL players were black. In that context, while having 23% non-white coaches is much better than 6%, it's still barely reflective of the sport's ethnic make-up. 

Interviews – whether or not achieved via a Rooney Rule – are one thing; appointments are an entirely different matter. For British football to be in such a position in 2011 is staggering. The sport awaits a new generation of aspiring black managers and coaches. The jury is out and is in no hurry to return yet.