Calls for the Rooney Rue to be implemented in the Premier League are growing more and more and once you see the numbers its not hard to see why. A recent report revealed that of the 482 leading coaching roles across clubs in England’s top four divisions, just 22 belong to coaches of BAME backgrounds.
In American football the Rooney Rule, named after NFL diversity committee chairman Dan Rooney, requires clubs to interview at least one BAME candidate for each head coach or senior football operation vacancy.
This year, the Football Association have announced that they will adopt a version of the Rooney Rule ensuring that at least one BAME candidate is interviewed for every role within the organisation. This is an integral step to ensure there is accurate representation across Football’s governing body, particularly since the Eni Aluko/ Mark Sampson case.
But I can’t help but feel that this won’t work in the fast paced Premier League. Action is taken swiftly and they don’t govern to standard hiring practises. When Watford fired Marco Silva in 2018 he left the club having spent just one week outside the top ten. He was doing a decent job, but as we know, the Premier League is a ruthless, unforgiving place. The news broke over social media the morning after their 2-0 loss to Leicester, with Watford tweeting the news that Marco Silva was fired. The club then reposted at 6.45pm that same day that Javi Gracia was hired as his replacement. Clearly quick decisions need to be made in such a fast paced industry.
The Rooney Rule, on the other hand, requires weeks of recruitment; to identify the right candidates, to interview and then ultimately chose. Did Watford spent weeks deciding on who should replace Silva? Of course not. That amount of time could relegate them. They faced 6 games in 4 weeks, all six-pointers. Soon they came up against fellow strugglers West Ham, Everton and West Brom and needed a manager in place to lead the team. They didn’t have time to time to identify and interview 4 -5 different candidates. In Gracia’s first two games, he drew away at Stoke, keeping the clubs first clean sheet in eleven games and then masterminded a home win over Chelsea. Hiring Gracia any later than they did, could cost them dearly at the end of the season.
Football is a unique industry in that way and cannot govern to standard HR practices. In a senior position within the FA, they would have more than enough time post a vacancy, allow time for applications, whittle them down to 5 candidates, interview them 2-3 times, offer one of them the position and then do sufficient reference and background checks. I don’t see a Premier League club taking so long to appoint a new manager. This could work during the summer but even then, weeks spent without a manager can be damaging to transfer activity and preparation for the new season.
The Rooney Rule is integral to improving the diversity within the game and hopefully this will see better representation in the top jobs in football. High profile jobs within football clubs should be held to the Rooney Rule so that there is accurate representation from both the applicants and the interviewers. Once you get BAME candidates at board room level as directors and executives who are doing the hiring, then that will no doubt filter down to managerial and coaching level, resulting in a fairer recruitment process.
The Rooney Rule will change football for the better but just not at managerial level. Not yet anyway.