Football clubs should embrace compulsory shortlisting of BAME-managerial candidates - or face sanctions, report says


There should be a national campaign and recruitment-training for all English Football League (EFL) clubs to get more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people into senior football positions, a new report says.

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Otherwise, clubs should face financial penalties or even points deductions, the authors argue.

The Voluntary Recruitment Code (VRC) was made mandatory for EFL clubs in January 2018 but progress has been slow, according to the report by researchers from the University of Greenwich and Charlton Athletic Community Trust.

Recommendations that will be reported today include a national campaign and training programme for all ELF clubs, transparent monitoring of recruitment practices and financial penalties and possibly points deductions for violations of the Code.

"Although regrettable, sanctions may be the single most important measure to ensure that inclusive shortlisting is taken seriously by club directors, like they do in American football" says Dr Patrick McGurk who worked on the report.

"The EFL is missing an open goal with its adoption of the 'Rooney rule.' The under-representation problem is simply dire and not improving, and clubs are just waiting to be led on this issue. The EFL deserves credit for its initiative so far, but now needs to relaunch the Code in a bold and positive way so that clubs can embrace the new measure and show that they are responsible and inclusive employers. But there's been a reluctance to give the Code real teeth. It would be good for fan engagement to have a more diverse set of football managers, and a fresh chance to source a great pool of coaching talent that's being missed.

"We recommend compulsory inclusive shortlisting, accompanied by transparent monitoring and a combination of positive and negative incentives for clubs to adapt. This is politically achievable and immediately implementable, even for the most senior coaching roles in clubs.

"The VRC has come in very gradually with little fanfare. The data on it is not too transparent and there are no sanctions, other than reputational, for not complying.

"The magic bullet would be the Premier League adopting it, because it's so high profile. But the recruitment culture across football is so short-termist and secretive, particularly with first-team appointments.

"In 2019, clubs need to be thinking more long-term and have a more level-headed approach to HR planning, as there's no evidence that the typical crisis-driven approach to managerial changes has any sustained impact on improving football clubs' actual performance."

'English Football's 'Rooney Rule' for BAME managers: An Open Goal' will be presented at Charlton Athletic Football Club on Thursday 12 September (4-6pm).

Results from a questionnaire survey of EFL Club Secretaries will be presented with case studies of four EFL clubs, based on meetings and interviews with senior club staff and industry experts.

Adapted from the 2003 US National Football League's (NFL) 'Rooney Rule', the VRC was piloted in the English Football League (EFL) in the 2016-17 season and made mandatory across all EFL clubs from 1 January 2018. The Code requires clubs to interview at least one BAME candidate in a recruitment process for any new senior coaching vacancy.

The research was carried out by: Dr Patrick McGurk (Queen Mary University of London, formerly University of Greenwich); Dr Leroi Henry (University of Greenwich); Professor Sian Moore (University of Greenwich); Dr Michael Seeraj (Charlton Athletic Community Trust).

It will be presented at The Valley, Charlton Athletic FC, Floyd Road, London, London SE7 8BL.