Are we surprised about the issue of the lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) managers in the Football League – just 2 out of 92 teams – has been hitting the headlines this week, culminating in an announcement this week that there will be a review of BAME population in football coaching. This has included suggestions that the Rooney Rule – which has been used in the National Football League to ensure that at least one BAME candidate is interviewed for coaching roles – could be brought in to improve diversity amongst managers and other coaching staff.
While we welcome the proposed review. By acknowledging the problem and starting the conversation about how to address it, the Football League has taken a baby step forward. The FA were aware long time ago about racism in Football which highlighted by many players and recently by Yaya Toure and failed to do any substantial change. The clubs and especially the London ones having not been able to attract ethnic spectators due to the level of racist attitudes and they will suffer even further when the number of ethnic population goes beyond 60% in the near future.
There has also been some talk about the use of quotas to increase the number of BAME managers as part of the proposed review. Let me be clear: I do not believe that quotas are the answer to increase diversity at the top of football clubs, or indeed any organisation. Even if they were legal, they represent a step back and will merely lead to accusations of tokenism. After all, no-one wants to think they got their job because they ticked a particular diversity box; instead, they want to be promoted on their capabilities, skills and talent.
So how can clubs get the right people into the manager’s seat? BAME people are far more likely to be hired by organisations with mandatory unconscious bias training for all staff involved in recruitment, yet only 54% of organisations provide this training to staff. Similarly, organisations which set objectives for BAME recruitment and make their external recruiters aware of this are likely to hire more BAME staff, with 68% of employers having diversity as a key criteria for selecting recruiting organisations. I would encourage football clubs and other organisations who want to increase their workforce diversity to look at how they can apply these approaches to their own recruitment practices.
However, clubs must also have the right processes in place to help players transition to coaching roles, such as supporting them to gain coaching qualifications and apply for assistant manager posts. They may also want to look at how many of their BAME players take up these opportunities and set targets to increase this. Our Benchmarking Analysis shows that ‘what gets measured, gets done’, and transferring this approach to football could have a similar effect to boost the BAME talent pipeline.
The review into BAME representation in football coaching and management is a great move for a sport watched by millions around the world every week. As well as reflecting the make-up of the players and supporters More than 30% of players are BAME) and 11% of premier league supporter are from BAME heritage, so an increase in BAME managers could offer role models to inspire the next generation. But we must not assume there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution; instead, clubs must apply a range of strategies to create more diverse dug-outs.