The Rooney Rule was first introduced in the NFL in 2003 and was named after the late Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the league’s diversity committee. It requires teams to interview at least one BAME candidate for head coaching roles, with the aim of engendering better representation at senior levels of American football for generations to come.
On paper, this policy, adopted since by the FA and the EFL, promises to deliver greater diversity in areas where it has been lacking for far too long. However, the Rooney Rule only necessitates that a BAME candidate is interviewed, with there no requirement for them to be offered the job, for this would be positive discrimination, which is illegal in the UK.
As a result, BAME candidates with stellar résumés continue to be overlooked for high-profile footballing roles, with Nuno Espírito Santo, the Wolves head coach, the only BAME person among 20 Premier League managers. Clearly then, Kick It Out’s Head of Development, Troy Townsend, was correct to note how this form of affirmative action does not carry enough weight in reality.
Therefore, for many, the Rooney Rule is stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to be legally reinforced without encouraging positive discrimination on the grounds of race, yet also ineffective in its current format.
I, much like the Premier League, would refuse to implement the Rooney Rule on different grounds however. The rule is constantly referred to as a temporary measure that would ideally not be necessary in the distant future. Personally, I do not believe that rules that fail to align with a racism-free ideology should be implemented, for they fail to properly address the underlying issues we have within society.
Change, in this author’s view, must begin at a much more fundamental level, through our education systems. Young people must be taught that racism in any form is simply unacceptable, with it clamped down on much more severely in grass-roots football. Although this filtering up method is undesirable for its lack of immediacy, I truly believe that this is the best way to bring about complete and long-lasting change that will enable us to kick racism out of football within my lifetime.