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Calls for ‘Rooney Rule’ sparks debate

This year, just 2% of the Football League and Premier League clubs have black managers. In 2002, the figure also stood at 2%. Only two bosses – Chris Powell of Charlton and Birmingham’s Chris Hughton – currently sit in the hot seat at English clubs. A staggering statistic, and one that US civil rights lawyer Cyrus Mehri has been recruited to amend.

No, this doesn’t concern Wayne Rooney. The rule refers to Dan Rooney, owner of the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers, who persuaded other NFL owners to welcome the so-called Rooney Rule. It involves interviewing a wider selection of people for vacancies, giving better opportunities to previously overlooked applicants.

In 2002, the NFL’s position was uncanny. Just 6% of head coaches in the NFL were black. Eight years on and the impact of the rule has been undeniable. Now 22% of head coaches in America’s favourite game are black.

Mehri is urging English football governing bodies to follow the NFL’s lead and adopt the rule that has served America’s Game so well.

“When we started in 2002, there were one or two black head coaches of the 32 in the NFL,” said Mehri.

“Now there are eight. That came about because of the changed interview process. The general managers at NFL clubs went from one to five.”

But, as Mehri has stated, the Rooney Rule doesn’t tell you who to employ. It merely acts as a mind-opener, allowing owners to broaden their mind and consider more options. White coaches have been aided by the rule that would have previously seen them snubbed. Instead of taking two days to complete a search, it might take two weeks. A necessary sacrifice.

English football’s cultural progression has stagnated. Something has to, and will, be done. So when Mehri was invited to attend a meeting to address the Football Association, the Premier League, Football League and League Managers Association, it evoked a sense of change. The meeting was also attended by former England internationals Sol Campbell, Des Walker and Andy Cole, as well as current stars such as Rio Ferdinand.

Those whose careers have just ended, such as Cole, or will do sooner or later, like Ferdinand, could be some of the first to benefit from a possible Rooney Rule. Time will only tell if Mehri succeeds.

Follow me on Twitter @playitcoolrod

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