HUDDERSFIELD TOWN manager Chris Powell believes the adoption of a ‘Rooney Rule’ similar to that used in American football will increase management opportunities for black and ethnic minority coaches.
But the former England international has also warned that any appointments must be made “on merit”.
A report from a high-profile think-tank revealed this week that only 19 of the 552 senior coaching positions at the 92 Premier and Football League clubs come from a black or ethnic minority (BME) background.
Since then, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s appointment by League Two Burton Albion has increased the tally of black managers to three, but that is still way below the 25 per cent of players in the professional game that hail from a similar background.
The figures, which came from a report by the Sports Person’s Think Tank which was funded by Football Against Racism in Europe, were branded “appalling and worrying” by Sports Minister Helen Grant.
Powell, as one of those who first at Charlton and now Huddersfield has in recent years been seen as a role model for aspiring young black managers, is keen to see the situation change and believes the ‘Rooney Rule’ that states clubs must interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate when appointing a new head coach could help.
He said: “I do recognise there is an opportunity now to possibly look at something along the lines of the ‘Rooney Rule’. Maybe a type of ‘Rooney Rule’. That could be a positive thing.
“But, equally, I don’t want people to just tick a box and say, ‘You’ve been interviewed, that’s it’. You have to give the job to the right person, regardless of their background.
“I just want people to come through on merit. I had to come through on merit. I was interviewed, I got myself educated with my coaching qualifications. That is the only way you can do it.
“Then, once you do get an opportunity – and eventually you will, even if it doesn’t come straight away – it is up to you to take it.”
Powell’s dismissal by Charlton last March meant this season kicked off with no black managers at the helm of the 92 clubs. He had started last season as one of three alongside Chris Hughton of Norwich City and Notts County’s Chris Kiwomya.
The return to management of Powell, a long-standing ambassador for the Kick It Out campaign, was followed by the appointment of Keith Curle as Carlisle manager and now Hasselbaink at Burton.
All three have worked their way through the coaching system with Hasselbaink, a former Leeds United striker, having managed Royal Antwerp last season after a spell working for Chelsea’s Academy. He has also taken his UEFA A and B Licences.
Powell, who served five years as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association towards the end of his playing career, said: “I recognise the position I am in.
“I take that on board and recognise I have to be a bit of a role model. I have to be a bit of a leader, I know that.
“I can’t be anything else in the position I am in. But I also think people have to make sure they are qualified.
“Maybe some think the opportunity (to coach or manage) will come straight away. But, like anyone in any walk of life, you have to put yourself out there, and you have to do your badges.
“Then, see where that takes you. It may not come instantly but what it will do is put you in a better position than someone who hasn’t got the qualifications or the experience of coaching at Academy level.
“That is what I did. I coached at Leicester under Nigel Pearson and then Sven (Goran Eriksson) before becoming Charlton manager.
“I believe all my experiences have helped, even being the PFA chairman. That showed I could lead people, which is a big part of management.
“I got my Pro Licence. (Town assistant) Alex Dyer did that, too, and we would like to inspire others.
“I would like there to be more black managers and coaches getting the opportunity and then showing that they can do the job.”
The ‘Rooney Rule’ was introduced in 2003 by the NFL to ensure minority coaches are on the interview lists for job vacancies.
It states all clubs must interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate when appointing a new head coach.