As the FA introduces the Rooney Rule, Tim Wade submits some other reforms for their consideration

It’s that time of year when talk of New Year’s Resolutions and dry-Januarys fades pleasingly into the background and we all return to hating ourselves in the traditional, non-goal-orientated manner. But for those with some residual festive cheer still coursing through their veins, came one pleasing 2018 reboot.On 9th January, the Football Association adopted the ‘Rooney Rule’. Translating that into practice means that the FA will have to interview at least one candidate from a BAME background for all future roles in the England set-up. It’s a necessary step towards addressing the gaping divide between the number of BAME players in the upper echelons of the game (approximately a third in the premier league) and the number occupying senior coaching roles (4.6% according to the Sports People’s Think Tank). It came alongside a couple of less eye-catching, but equally important, proposals to publish the organisation’s gender pay gap and to ensure that proper procedures were put in place for reporting concerns regarding discrimination.

The announcement has generally been received well in the press, even after Martin Glenn, the association’s chief executive, tried his best to derail proceedings with his ill-advised musings on the different responses to ‘banter’ in male and female changing rooms. Needless to say, this second Rooonaaay rule of megabantz-that-the-gals-can’t-handle didn’t catch on and Glenn clarified his remarks in the following days.

The issue of race has recently taken centre-stage in English football following the mishandling of Eniola Aluko’s accusations within the women’s national team and the abuse directed towards Rhian Brewster and Bobby Adekanye from Spartak Moscow fans and players. It looks set to continue with the latest accusations surrounding Chelsea’s youth coaches. What’s clear is that the FA is indicative both of a wider failure in the UK to integrate those with BAME backgrounds into positions of authority and, perhaps worse, of an attempt to pretend that race is no longer an issue. Recent revelations about poorer outcomes in the justice system or shockingly low admission rates at Oxbridge are not unconnected: they are part of a quieter form of discrimination, that is simply made more glaring by the phenomenal achievements of BAME players within football.

To his credit, Glenn did suggest that the Aluko affair had been a major impetus for the changes. But on closer inspection it remains true that the FA is primarily a reactive organisation.

The Rooney Rule was first introduced in the NFL in 2003 but discussion of its implementation in England has been bubbling away since at least 2011, when Cyrus Mehri, one of the architects of the rule’s creation, spoke to the FA about its benefits. At the time, Mehri called it a ‘key moment’ for football in England, stating that he was ‘very confident that when they study this issue they’re going to reach the same conclusion that the bosses in the NFL reached’. Eight years and one parliamentary committee later, the cogs have finally begun to turn.

Some (un)likely FA resolutions for 2018.

– Make women’s pitches smaller – A controversial issue within the women’s game but one that continually resurfaces. Advocates point to the increased pace and intensity that it could bring to the game. Expect Martin Glenn to announce the measure with a ‘riotous’ selection of Sepp Blatter quotes on the women’s game.

– Video Assistant Referee (VAR) – Will it spoil the game? Probably not. Expect Martin Glenn to announce the measure by musing on the benefits that sex robots have brought to his love life.

– Merge with Wales – Never going to happen. Expect Martin Glenn to open the press conference dressed as St George slaying the dragon, only to clarify later that he didn’t mean to suggest England would be doing the same to Wales.


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