Why the EFL's BAME rule is a step in the right direction but too late for many

The EFL have introduced their very own 'Rooney rule' to its members.
The EFL have introduced their very own 'Rooney rule' to its members.
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The EFL’s attempt to increase the representation of black and other ethnic minorities in managerial jobs has come too late for Brian Deane. The former Leeds United striker gave up on coaching after trying without success to get his foot in the door at any English club.

The EFL is aware of other stories like that and 18 months ago it asked its 72 members to voluntarily commit to interviewing at least one BAME candidate whenever a first-team vacancy arose.

Last week the clubs voted to make that stipulation mandatory, meaning any who fail to do so in future will be charged with misconduct by the governing body.

Deane declined to discuss the initiative further when contacted by the YEP but he used Twitter over the weekend to explain why the push to open doors for coaches from BAME backgrounds was necessary.

“The best candidate should always get the job regardless of colour,” he wrote.

“People are entitled to employ who they want. That would be me as an owner. It’s relevant to get a chance to express your ideas. Interview.”

Deane’s one coaching job to date came in Norway, where he managed Sarpsborg for two years. Sarpsborg had the second lowest budget in their division and narrowly avoided relegation in his first season but showed marked improvement in his second, finishing in eighth and reaching the last four of the Norwegian Cup.

He stepped down after that and Sarpsborg were sorry to see him go. There were stories of locals leaving bottles of wine on his doorstep.

He came back to England but in the two years that followed, he failed to get a sniff of a manager’s job anywhere or even the invitation to outline his plans to a club via a formal interview process.

After an extended period away from day-to-day coaching, and despite holding various badges and qualifications, he drew a line under coaching and turned his attention elsewhere.

The ‘Rooney Rule’, as it is known in America’s NFL, was designed to address the lack of African-American coaches in the sport and has been in place across the NFL since 2003.

At first, franchises were required to interview at least one BAME candidate for head coaching roles but that has since been extended to general manager’s jobs and similar positions. For the past two years, interview processes for executive roles have been required to include at least one woman.

Both the Premier League and EFL can see a problem with a scenario where around a third of their players are from ethnic minorities but only four of their 92 clubs have BAME managers: Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Nuno Espirito Santo, Stevenage Borough’s Dino Maamria, Macclesfield Town’s Sol Campbell and Northampton Town’s Keith Curle.

Chris Hughton and Darren Moore were sacked by Brighton and West Bromwich Albion in the past six months, though Hughton is highly respected in the game and likely to return to a management soon. He is seen as a leading contender for the vacancy at West Brom.

Under the EFL’s new guidelines, it is still the prerogative of individual clubs to appoint who they like and the new regulation would have made little difference to Leeds United’s search for a new head coach last summer.

Leeds identified Marcelo Bielsa as their chosen replacement for Paul Heckingbottom even before Heckingbottom was formally dismissed and their decision to line-up fellow Argentine Matias Almeyda as a fall-back was done in the hope that a contingency would not be needed.

In future, they and other EFL clubs will be expected to function differently and ensure that any appointment process allows a coach of BAME heritage to have the chance to present to them.

The concern of Deane and others is that the current lack of representation and the sense of BAME candidates struggling to earn themselves an interview will dissuade players in future from considering taking their coaching badges, especially those who have earned enough from football to do without the disenchantment of chasing jobs which never materialise.

Deane admitted on Twitter that “the ship sailed for me after being back for a couple of years with no realistic opportunities to further myself”, despite an accomplished playing career, England caps and a respected stint of management in Norway.

In his words, “an interview should be the right of anyone qualified.” Which is how the EFL wants its members to think.