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The FA is introducing the ‘Rooney Rule’ – here’s what that means

No, it's nothing to do with Wayne

The FA is introducing the ‘Rooney Rule’ – here’s what that means
Tom Victor
09 January 2018

The English Football Association has announced plans to introduce a Rooney Rule for roles within the national team set-up.

This means at least one candidate from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background (BAME) will be interviewed for future roles within the association pertaining to the national team.

“The FA wants to become a more inclusive organisation where the workforce more represents the people who play football today,” FA chief executive Martin Glenn told the BBC.

But what does this all mean in practice? Here’s the lowdown on a rule that’s well-known in the United States but less familiar to fans on these shores.

Chris Hughton is the only black manager in the Premier League

Why is it called the Rooney Rule?

It is named after Dan Rooney, former owner of American Football team the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rooney was the force behind making it a rule that NFL teams with head coach and general manager vacancies must interview at least one minority candidate. The rule came into force in the NFL in 2003, and has worked wonders. According to Wikipedia: “At the start of the 2006 season, the overall percentage of African-American coaches had jumped to 22%, up from 6% prior to the Rooney Rule.” That percentage is now slightly higher in 2018.

What does it mean in practice?

As we just mentioned, in its simplest terms, it means that – when drawing up shortlists for a vacant coaching role – at least one candidate must come from an ethnic minority background.

Wait, isn’t that discriminatory?

No, there is no requirement to hire that individual – there simply needs to be one individual of such a background at the interview stage, and the job will always go to the candidate who those hiring for the role deem the most qualified. Furthermore, the minority candidate is not taking the place of a white candidate, as there are no rules on a maximum shortlist size.

Will this mean unqualified candidates end up on shortlists?

No. All candidates will still need qualifications and experience required to be considered for the role for which they apply. 

Every England men’s senior manager has been white, but Hope Powell managed the England and Team GB women’s sides between 1998 and 2013

Why do people feel this is necessary?

Only five of the 91* managers in Premier League or EFL jobs at the time of writing come from minority backgrounds. Of those five, Chris Hughton is the only one managing in the Premier League, though Nuno Espirito Santo could join him there next season if Championship leaders Wolves are promoted.

According to research carried out late last year by the Sports People’s Think Tank (SPTT), 22 of 482 senior coaching roles across the top four divisions were held by BAME coaches on 1 September.

*Stoke City are yet to appoint a permanent manager following the dismissal of Mark Hughes

Which jobs will be impacted by the new rule?

According to the latest communication from the FA, the rule will be rolled out for jobs across England international football teams. No word yet on whether the Premier League will officially adopt similar proposals at club level, but the EFL has launched a pilot scheme for all first-team coaching vacancies at clubs in the Championship, League 1 and League 2.

Following the launch of the pilot scheme, the number of BAME hires (14%) was slightly above the number of BAME candidates (11%) across 1,497 recorded applications. In comparison, the 22 of 482 senior roles recorded by the SPTT research equates to less than 5%. 52% of the qualified BAME candidates who applied for jobs in the trial period made it to interview, though it is unclear if any of those individuals found themselves shortlisted for the same job.

When will it come into force?

Glenn told reporters the FA intends to adopt the new rule for all future vacancies around England teams, which includes Gareth Southgate’s eventual successor as the senior men’s coach.

Nuno’s Wolves team are 12 points clear at the top of the Championship

What’s next for the FA?

Elsewhere in their statement, the FA announced the following:

“We will set realistic goals in BAME and gender balance for our overall workforce and, as part of our new inclusion and diversity plan, publish specific targets for our council, board, executive workforce and national coaching groups. These targets will be set based on the guidance of independent experts.”

(Images: Rex)