Why the Rooney Rule is a Great Step Forward for Football

There has been plenty of controversy and discussion over the Rooney Rule coming to English football, but here’s why it’s a great idea…


Don’t be fooled by the name – the Rooney Rule coming into football is nothing to do with ex-England player, Wayne Rooney. It in fact came from America. In 2003, NFL decided to make it a requirement for all league teams to interview at least one BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnicity) candidate for head coaching and senior operation roles. It came about in an attempt to make the industry more representative and inclusive.

Now, the Football Association has decided to adopt it themselves. This would mean that when the current England manager, Gareth Southgate is to leave the managerial role, the list of candidates to take over him will have to include a BAME candidate. But this rule will also apply to jobs throughout all England teams.

In November last year, the BBC reported that out of 482 senior coaching roles in English football’s top four divisions, only 22 were BAME. This is massively under representative of people of colour.

Although the rule hasn’t hugely changed the NFL, it has certainly boosted its diversity with the number of coaches of colour increasing since the rule was introduced in 2003. However, there are still a lot of complaints and confusion from football fans over why this rule is being brought in, and how it’s going to work.

Although the rule hasn’t hugely changed the NFL, it has certainly boosted its’ diversity with the number of BAME coaches increasing since the rule was introduced in 2003

Firstly, there is a worry that this means the best potential candidates for the job won’t be interviewed because of the fact they’re white. This isn’t true. There are no rules on how many candidates are interviewed, nor are there any rules on how many white people will be interviewed. The rule simply states that, as well as these white candidates, a BAME candidate must also be included.

Secondly, no, an unqualified possible candidate will not get the job over a qualified possible candidate because they aren’t white. The rule doesn’t effect who the club choose to hire, only who they interview. Also, it is clearly stated that all candidates must be qualified.

Thirdly, yes, racism does obviously still exist in football. In 2016, the team that was taken to the Euro’s with manager at the time, Roy Hodgson included 11 black or mixed-race players out of 26. That’s almost half. The players are there, representing a country that has become incredibly diverse, so why aren’t they becoming managers and coaches after?

The numbers speak for themselves in an industry that is still struggling to combat racism from fans. In 2015, the Independent revealed the number of arrests made due to racism in the 13 seasons prior to the research. Arresting fans for racism is certainly a positive move on tackling the issue, but now it’s time to look at the problem within the industry.

The Rooney Rule may help to make the industry more racially representative very quickly, it may take some time, or it may not work at all. But there’s simply no logical reason not to give it a go. When there’s a problem with representation, racism and inequality, it needs addressing and it needs fixing. It’s likely that it’s so ingrained in football, it won’t be an easy fix but it’s equally likely that this will at least open the conversation.

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