Radical action is needed to change the balance of the English game.

I know I am in trouble when the very core of my argument supports theories espoused by Prime Minister David Cameron and his erstwhile Cabinet compatriot Nick Clegg. They both have suggested it is time to tackle the need for more black managers in the English professional game. That said, I have a sneaking belief that PFA chief Gordon Taylor might support the idea of racially-motivated football management quotas, given that he and others have also said more black managers should be commanding sidelines on a Saturday afternoon. If you find yourself asking, why now, perhaps you should be asking, why not decades ago, when folks around the world were addressing the idea of quotas to address racial indifference to change.

 

We should not waste another second on those pseudo intellectual arguments, such as better white candidates will lose out or we blacks will be offended that we are not capable of competing on a level playing field. If you never give black candidates a chance, what do you expect? The playing field isn’t even, because the ownership does not reflect society. 

In 2003, Brazil began imposing quotas in public government jobs, contracts and University admission to address major issues when it came to access for disadvantaged minorities. Decades earlier, the US Supreme Court upheld the idea of racial quotas, which had been broadly used to integrate systems that had long been dominated by whites.  

 And many moons ago that bastion of Oxbridge-favour, the BBC, began a quota system to better reflect the audience it represents. While the system has issues, in principle and practice, it has helped to at least start to redress the balance. You see, the critical challenge is not performing the football management job itself. It is getting the opportunity to perform the job.  

There are so few black management successes because there are so few black management opportunities. Changing that is critical and we should move swiftly to impose quotas on the game’s management. I am all but convinced that quotas are the only way to go to address a completely unacceptable status quo. Yes, some excellent candidates will suffer. Yes, they will be white, possibly former England players. But it is crucial that the beautiful game addresses it’s most glaring challenge. That black people, want, need, must be more involved in the running of the game at every level. 

Quota’s should be installed.  

I’d be in favour of coaching quotas to start almost immediately. There is nothing to stop clubs instituting a two out of every eight coach system where people of colour must be employed. I’d force clubs that currently don’t have any black coaches to hire people of colour when they need replacements. There is a large pool of great former players to pick from. And, as coaches move, new ones come and people of colour must get their chance at every level.  

I’d push for a system whereby there must be opportunities at first team level also. More black coaches than I can count have been frustrated out of clubs because they never got the chance to progress beyond Academy level. As for management opportunities, I’d insist on employing the American Football model. That within five years, a minimum of  three candidates must be interviewed for every new management or head coaching position and one candidate must be of colour. You’d hope that might extend into other areas of the club, from sales, to marketing and finance. 

I know those moguls - wealthier than sense for the most part - that control many football club boardrooms are changing the very fabric of the English game in ways we are yet to understand but the pool of potential black management talent is undeniably thin. And as always, talent is not the reason why. Any way you slice it, black players are unlikely to make it into management.  

Imagine this. Just a handful of the 66 black players to wear the England three lions shirt have ended up managing a team, even in the non-leagues.  

Arguably, the most successful is Paul Ince, who was given short shrift at Blackburn Rovers. Maybe John Barnes, the best black player ever to come out of the UK, could make a credible argument that his stint managing Jamaica and stewardship of Celtic puts him in the frame for that title. But Viv Anderson, Paul Parker, Ricky Hill, Carlton Palmer, Keith Curle and Chris Powell, who could well become a top Premier League manager if given the opportunity, are the only others I can see to even have had a chance - at any level. 

Maybe they just didn’t fancy it. After all, not everyone is cut out for the high pressured hot seat that is modern day football management. Yet, it remains shocking to me that former England players such as Earl Barrett, Brian Deane, Dion Dublin and John Fashanu were never enticed to be The Gaffer. Never, encouraged or cajoled to take a greater part in shaping the game on and off the field. And, there are way too many players, like Paul Elliott who comes easily to mind, that didn’t play for England but could probably have made good managers. 

I want to think that a top class future manager is among the likes of Ashley Cole, Ledley King, Glen Johnson, Darren Bent, Wes Brown, Emile Heskey, David James and Rio Ferdinand. I want to think it but in all probability it’s not going to happen. They pretty much know their chances are limited regardless of their playing careers and they are probably too rich to bother with the hassle knowing that the patience needed to learn their craft won’t be there. 

Spare a thought for Terry Connor. He finally gets his chance and what does he have to do, almost the impossible. I know what you’re saying. It’s great that he’s gotten his chance right, but he is in charge of a team that has won just three times in the last 20 games. If he can turn those draws – six in that period – into wins and make some of those 11 loses into draws, his team will stay up. I hope he can because if he doesn’t, he’ll probably have to wait till Mick McCarthy gets a new job to get the chance to sit on the sidelines again. 

The point I am making is that things typically have to be bad at a club for the management to go black. My brother Keith Alexander knew it, so did Paul Ince, John Barnes, Viv Anderson and all the rest. There are very few opportunities, where given the choice, the management actually chose a brother to lead the ship. By the very nature of the job, new managers usually come on board to right a bad situation. If you are black, you damn well know that’s the case. 

Chris Hughton, Chris Powell and now Keith Curle should cherish their opportunities; they are unlikely to come again. That said, guys...please don’t lose three games on the bounce. Football is of course the harshest of management environments. Along with that desperate immediate need to win, comes an unhealthy dose of rich, ego maniacs with little sporting business in football and there is a chronic lack of commonsense in boardrooms. Throwing piles of cash and poor management judgement at problems that require analysis and skill has become an artful past time in the political circles that make up football boardrooms.  

That is why I think, quotas are the correct answer at this time. There is nothing, no evidence at all I can think of to suggest, that football clubs will put the situation right in this decade never mind the next five. It is no longer acceptable to us black consumers, that a profession where 25 percent of the workers looks like us are offered so few desirable management opportunities. Change must come now Gaffer and unfortunately it’s time to make someone else understand what the loss of opportunity feels like. 

It might sound like radical action but nothing near as unconventional as making changes to increase black ownership. The FA and Premier League should make it a priority to assist people of colour to own clubs. They should put together a venture fund/soft loan programme that is specifically designed to be used by people of colour to acquire clubs. You see, another problem we have is raising adequate finance but that’s a story for another time. Such a fund might buy ailing clubs or assist in saving struggling teams and seek to find a new breed of owner. Even at the non-league level this would be a tremendous change. 

We ought not to forget that the English Football Association is a membership club, whose governing council includes more than 100 positions – one of which is filled by a person of colour. Race Equality Advisory Group head Lord Herman Ouseley (2008). There cannot be change unless this group wants it and there is nothing to suggest it does. Providing capital and racial coaching quotas, by law if necessary, would force a change that can only benefit society as a whole. 

Football is literally a throwback to the dark ages of 1863. It is time to drag it into the modern age. Such leadership often requires unpopular but necessary measures. And football is desperately in need of leadership on the issue of race and quotas.