EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (Reuters) – The NFL’s Rooney Rule could be a way of bringing greater racial and ethnic diversity to European soccer coaching, campaigners said, as a new survey confirmed that it remains a white, male preserve.
The Rooney Rule was introduced in the NFL in 2003 and obliged clubs to interview at least one candidate for every senior head coach role at its members clubs.
A study published by Britain’s Loughborough University and the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) group on Thursday found that only 4.6 percent of coaches from black and ethnic minorities (BAME) occupied senior coaching roles at England’s 92 professional soccer clubs.
It described the numbers as “disappointingly low” and added that “institutionally embedded barriers which have restricted opportunities for BAME coaches in the past” remained firmly in place.
The results were an update of a survey in 2014 which found that 96.6 percent of senior coaches at clubs in England, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands were white men.
FARE executive director Piara Powar said that, given that around 30 percent of players in England and 40 percent in France and the Netherlands were from a BAME background, “the numbers don’t add up”.
“(BAME) coaches are investing time and money, they are expressing their willingness to take on responsible roles at the top level,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a sports conference.
“But it seems that at club level, owners are not prepared to give them the opportunity.” Powar said it was not only an issue of discrimination but also performance.
“No football team can afford to miss out on coaching talent,” he said. “If you look at the professional structures in Western Europe… marginal gains are being talked about, the importance of one, two or three points at the end of the season, so why would owners and associations not look at recruiting the best talent regardless of the ethnic background?”
Powar said that the Rooney rule could improve the situation especially in countries such as England, France, the Netherlands and Portugal.
“If it’s applied in the way that it is in the United States, with the back up the NFL has created, then it will work,” he said. “It will be seen as something that is very normal and is bringing forward the best talent.”
Jeremy Duri, professor of sports law at the American university in Washington, said the number of non-white NFL coaches went from one to three and then nine before settling between six and eight after the rule was implemented.
“Those who got the opportunity won, they were successful,” he said.
“Since 2007, ten of 20 teams who reached the Superbowl final had a coach of color or general manager of color. The fact they were winning created a business case for diversity.”
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis