The UK's players’ chief Gordon Taylor has announced a six-point action plan to deal with racism in football after criticism from some members.
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive says the union wants tougher penalties for racist abuse including making it potentially a sackable offence, culprits ordered to attend awareness programmes and a form of the ’Rooney rule’ to boost the number of black coaches and managers.
Taylor outlined the PFA’s action plan in a statement. The plan calls for:
1 Speeding up the process of dealing with reported racist abuse with close monitoring of any incidents.
2 Consideration of stiffer penalties for racist abuse and to include an equality awareness programme for culprits and clubs involved.
3 An English form of the ’Rooney rule’ – introduced by the NFL in America in 2003 – to make sure qualified black coaches are on interview lists for job vacancies.
4 The proportion of black coaches and managers to be monitored and any inequality or progress highlighted.
5 Racial abuse to be considered gross misconduct in player and coach contracts (and therefore potentially a sackable offence).
6 To not to lose sight of other equality issues such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Asians in football.
THE ROONEY RULE
Here we look at the Rooney Rule and its success since it was introduced in NFL in 2003.
At the start of the new millennium the NFL was facing a glaring case of inequality in its coaching ranks.
Over the previous 40 years, black players had gone from being a distinct minority to a clear majority, but their numbers were far from reflected on the sidelines.
A study in 2002 found that black players made up 70% of the league’s player rosters, and yet only two of the 32 teams employed a black head coach.
Such was the league’s record that the two lawyers who commissioned that report, Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri, were threatening legal action against the NFL for discrimination.
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, a white man of Irish descent, had been handed the role of chairman of the league’s diversity committee thanks to the Steelers’ long history of promoting African Americans into top jobs, and he resolved to do something about it.
The resulting ’Rooney Rule’, introduced in 2003. has proven both simple and effective as an example of affirmative action.
It requires all NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coaching position.
When the rule was introduced, only seven minority coaches had ever been employed in the NFL and only two were active.
Within three years, seven teams were employing minority coaches, and by the start of the 2011 season the number was 11.
Rooney’s own Steelers hired Mike Tomlin, the franchise’s first black coach, before the 2007 season, and he led them to Super Bowl glory in 2009.
That same year, the rule was extended to apply to all senior football operations positions within the league.
The rule has not been a complete success. In its first season, the Detroit Lions were fined $200,000 for breaching it in the hiring of Steve Mariucci.
The Lions claimed they had contacted a number of African American candidates, but all had declined an interview as team president Matt Millen had already publicly stated his intention to hire Michigan native Mariucci following his successes in San Francisco.
Other teams have since been accused of carrying out only ’token’ interviews to comply with the rule before hiring their preferred candidates, but such cases were largely confined to the early years after the rule’s introduction and its effectiveness seems to be growing thanks to the successes of several of the coaches hired as a result.
In contrast, in America’s highly popular college football, the percentage of minority head coaches has barely shifted, leading to calls for the introduction of a similar rule there.
Rooney himself seems only so proud of the rule which bears his name, happy with the progress made, but also slightly embarrassed by it.
“I really feel and hope,” he told ESPN back in 2007, “that we will not need a Rooney Rule very long.”