The Football League has moved a step closer to improving employment opportunities for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) coaches.
Currently only five managers out of the 72 member clubs are from a BAME background - Chris Ramsey at QPR, Huddersfield’s Chris Powell, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of Burton, former Sheffield United player Keith Curle at Carlisle and Notts County boss Ricardo Moniz.
League chairman Greg Clarke feels to simply transpose the ‘Rooney Rule’ from the American National Football League - requiring teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coach and senior football operation jobs, which has led to a rise in appointments - would not be feasible.
However, following a six-month process of engagement with the likes of the Football Association, Premier League, Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association, as well as anti-discrimination campaign Kick it Out and the NFL, Clarke put the BAME proposals to The Football League Owners’ and Executives’ Conference 2015 in Portugal - and they received full support.
A period of dialogue will now follow with clubs and stakeholders, ahead of a proposed formal vote at the 2016 Annual General Meeting and potential implementation in 2016/17.
The recommendations include making it compulsory for clubs to interview at least one BAME candidate, where an application has been received, for all youth development roles requiring a minimum of a UEFA B coaching licence.
A voluntary recruitment code, initially piloted by five to 10 clubs, should be adopted for first team football, except “in the specific instance of an individual being recruited from another club on terms agreed between the two parties”.
Other proposals include creation of a ‘ready-list’ of identified current BAME coaches and players “with the potential and aspiration to coach in professional football” while also improving networking opportunities.
Clarke explained: “I think the Rooney Rule is a wonderful thing, but it has to be modified for the Football League, because the NFL has no promotion and relegation, and when they are going to change a manager, they do it at the end of the season.
“At the moment, we are fishing in a pool of predominantly white managers, what we want to do is find a way the clubs can look beyond the obvious talent and give people from the BAME community a chance to enter that pool.
“It is about board members and chief executives, managers, coaches in academies hopefully over time seeing football more closely reflecting the make-up of our multi-cultural society.
“How long it will take to get there, I have no idea, but we have had overwhelming support from the clubs to move forwards.”
However, Clarke stressed: “We are not seeking to do anything else other than make sure the best person gets the job - but I want to make sure they see more people from an ethnic minority background.
“It is about a lot of things which break down the barriers to allow it to be a natural choice based on merit.
“I don’t want people to feel under pressure to hire a black person and by having a target we are short of, people will feel under pressure to hire from ethnic minorities - which would be in breach of a lot of the equality legislation.
“I want to make sure people are given the chance to get in front of decision-makers without the decision-makers being put into the position where they select on the basis of colour.”
Clarke also hopes the Premier League will eventually embrace the initiative.
“If the Football League can increase their proportion of BAME managers, then Premier League clubs who want to recruit from the Football League would have a better choice,” he said.
Dan Rooney, now the chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, also endorsed the initiative via a video presentation.
“I hope these proposals make the same impact in England that the Rooney Rule has in the NFL,” he said.
Chair of the FA’s inclusion advisory board Heather Rabbatts welcomed the initiative. She added: “It is only by collective action and shared responsibility that we will truly end discrimination and open up the pathways for talent.”