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No BAME coaches in England’s World Cup squad, but is Rooney Rule the answer?


With no black or ethnic minority coaches in England’s World Cup squad, a Leeds Beckett academic has examined if the Rooney Rule is the best way to combat the lack of diversity in football’s backroom staff. 

Dr Dan Kilvington

Dr Dan Kilvington, who has been researching BAME representation in football for over 10 years, asked BAME football coaches across the country if they thought the Rooney Rule – as adopted by America’s NFL in 2003 – was the best way to increase diversity.

The Rooney Rule states that at least one black or minority ethnic job candidate should be shortlisted for coaching jobs (where a BAME application has been submitted).

Dr Kilvington, Senior Lecturer in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities, said: “11 out of 23 of the England players in the Russia World Cup squad are from a BAME background.

"British Asian players are hugely underrepresented"

“Black British players are in fact over represented while British Asian players are hugely under represented. For some groups, there has been on-field progress. Off the field, however, progress has been minimal as BAME coaches and managers are largely excluded.

“For example, there are currently only six BAME managers in the top four divisions in English football out of 92 clubs – the most on record at any one time in the history of professional English football.

“The FA has already confirmed they will adopt the Rooney Rule when choosing Gareth Southgate’s successor and recruiting for the England coaching set up, but is this the solution to increasing BAME representation?

“Ahead of going to Russia, a country whose football union was recently rapped over racist chanting, it is important to consider why the makeup of the England backroom staff doesn’t represent the makeup of our country.”

Rooney Rule: increasing opportunities or giving an unfair advantage?

As part of his research, Dan spoke to BAME coaches about the Rooney Rule and found a clear split in opinion: while some said it was incredibly important to create opportunities for BAME coaches, others said it appears unfair as race is being used to claim some form of advantage.

Dr Kilvington said: “The Rooney Rule isn’t going to revolutionise the ethnic makeup of British football overnight, but it, alongside other existing programmes, is likely to increase the number of BAME coaches in time.

“However, football clubs must fully embrace, adhere to and support this policy if we are going to see any sort of change.

“And, hopefully, by the time Qatar comes around, some of the England team’s backroom staff will be from a BAME background.”

As part of his ongoing attempt to increase diversity in the game, Dan has been holding inclusion workshops alongside the FA to encourage dialogue, networking and the opportunity for coaches and official to share best practice in increasing diversity.

He has also set out a series of recommendations to increase the participation of British Asians in football, which can be read here. 

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