Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : WHY WONT CLUBS GIVE THESE FOOTBALLERS THE JOB OF MANAGERS ? THIS MAN FEARS THE ANSWER MAY BE SIMPLE : BECAUSE THEY ARE BLACK ?
Michael Johnson has all the qualifications and, as a former defender with Birmingham and Derby, all the experience.
But the 30 applications for coaching and management jobs he has made over the last two years have resulted in just two interviews - one for an academy job, the other at a non-League club.
Johnson, now 39, holds the prestige UEFA Pro License and enjoyed success as a youth coach at Notts County under director of football and former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson.
Damning: Cyrus Mehri believes black managers struggle to get jobs in this country because of their colour
Experience: Michael Johnson has the qualifications and the credentials
So if experience and qualifications are not the problem, why has Johnson found job offers so sparse?
Cyrus Mehri, a lawyer with a New York accent and a love of American football, fears that the answer may lie in the simple fact that Michael Johnson is black.
Mehri is the architect of what is known in the United States as the Rooney Rule, under which clubs in American football's NFL must interview candidates from ethnic minorities for management jobs. It revolutionised the race issue in American sport.
Now Mehri wants English football to do the same. Last week this 52-year-old son of Iranian immigrants was in England for what he hailed as a 'pivotal' week for the English game.
Ten years after the NFL brought in the Rooney Rule, Football League chief Greg Clarke has backed similar moves for his 72 clubs under the banner of Coaching Fair Play. For Michael Johnson, the move cannot come too soon.
'The idea of getting different people into the interview process is not controversial,' he said last week.
'What is controversial is that your job prospects aren't based on merit. In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to talk about this but we need to have fairness in the interview process. I've sent so many applications out and got two replies back. And for League manager's jobs, absolutely nothing.
'To listen to Cyrus and realise what he has accomplished in America has given us a boost, particularly the younger coaches and players who can see hope for the future. And what's happening with the Football League is progress.'
'What's happening here is exactly the same as the racial barriers we had 10 years ago'
- Paul Davis
Johnson's case is one that Paul Davis understands all too well. Davis, now 51, played more than 400 times for Arsenal after making his debut in 1978 and now works for the Professional Footballers' Association.
A respected youth coach at Arsenal, his only opportunity in a more senior management role came at non- League Kettering, where he worked briefly as assistant to Paul Gascoigne.
Davis said: 'Black players and former players are telling our union that they suffer from a lack of opportunities. I've had my own experiences that have stunted me personally.
'Thirty years ago, I was one of the few black players. We have moved past that, thankfully, but we are still being told by black players that it is harder for them to further their coaching careers after they finish playing.'
As he listened to the concerns of black footballers anxious that they will never have the chance to work as managers, Mehri saw parallels with the American experience.
Chance: The likes of Ugo Ehiogu might benefit should the Premier League adopt an equivalent of the Rooney Rule
'What's happening here is exactly the same as the racial barriers we had 10 years ago,' he said.
'The pain people feel when they don't get an opportunity because of the colour of their skin is profound.'
English football has endured its worst season for race relations for 25 years. Former England captain John Terry was banned for four games for abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand and, in the aftermath of that case, black players, unhappy at the PFA's Kick It Out campaign, threatened to form a breakaway union.
On Friday Terry, still resentful about his loss of the England captaincy and the way he was charged by the Football Association despite being cleared in a court of law, refused to shake the hand of FA chairman David Bernstein.
Taken seriously: Marcus Bean (right) and Paul Davis (left)
Mehri insists that a system which gives qualified black coaches the chance to be managers is imperative for racism to end on the pitch and in the stands.
He says no club owner would be forced to appoint a black manager, but by interviewing ethnic minorities, clubs would make better choices.
Otherwise the managerial merry-go-round will contain the same faces, nearly always white, rather than eager young black applicants such as former Aston Villa and England defender Ugo Ehiogu, recently appointed to Peter Taylor's England under-20 team.
'Racism is not as overt as in the past,' said Mehri.
'It's more subtle discrimination, favouritism from owners towards people who are more like them. It's the opposite of a competitive situation and I've no doubt that managers have been hired who are not the best men for the job but decision-makers have closed their minds and just looked at one or two people.'
Mehri is adamant that American sport and society have changed since the report drafted by him and fellow lawyer Johnny Cochrane - the man who defended OJ Simpson - was put on to the statute book by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney.
Competitive: Lovie Smith (R) of the Chicago Bears contested the 2007 Super Bowl against Tony Dungy (below)
'There were five vacancies when the Rooney Rule was introduced. The first four went to white coaches and then Marvin Lewis, a brilliant defensive co-ordinator at the Baltimore Ravens, was taken on as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
'Before the Rooney Rule, he couldn't even get an interview - it was blatant discrimination. Ten years later, he's still in the job.' The 2007 Superbowl was contested between two black coaches.
The following year, the US elected their first black President. 'It opened the door in some small way for Barack Obama,' said Mehri.
'It helped people see that the sky is the limit for anyone.'
That has not been generally true in English football. Chris Hughton, of Norwich, is currently the only black manager in the Premier League.
Only five of the 92 clubs in the Premier and Football Leagues have ethnic minority managers, a tiny percentage considering 30 per cent of players and nearly 20 per cent of newly-qualified coaches are black.
Mehri believes that, without role models at the top, problems highlighted by the recent Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra and Terry-Ferdinand cases will continue. 'Race issues are linked,' he argued.
Role models: John Terry (right) was banned for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand
Shame: Liverpool's Luis Suarez (left) was also banned for abusing Patrice Evra
'Put yourself in the shoes of a black player. He may see or hear racism in the stands or on the pitch, and then look up and see an all-white oligarchy in management. It has to change.'
The PFA, themselves accused of not doing enough to push a strong anti-racist agenda, are fully onside with Mehri's proposals, which will be voted on by the 72 Football League chairmen this summer.
The Football Association have expressed an interest, as have the League Managers Association. But, according to Mehri, the Premier League have failed to take up the issue.
He said : 'The NFL showed leadership over this issue so I was expecting the same from the Premier League when I first came over two years ago. I have to say I was deeply disappointed. Their view was, "This can't work in the UK".'
Snub: John Terry chose to ignore David Bernstein's gesture of shaking hands
Scathing: David James believes unemployed black managers aren't chosen because they aren't good enough
The Premier League are adamant that they take equality issues seriously.
'We have a proven track record in addressing this area,' said a spokesman. Ehiogu and Johnson, along with Colchester's Jamaica international Marcus Bean and former Portsmouth winger Paul Hall, are on a list of more than 25 black players ready for interview.
Mehri believes that having a 'ready list' of candidates is vital. But not everyone agrees with his philosophy.
Former England goalkeeper David James, who is starting his coaching career as a player-manager in Iceland, believes owners hire and fire on results rather than skin colour.
'Chris Hughton has had one job after another because he's decent at what he does. And that's the problem: the standard of black managers in England isn't good enough to demand these positions,' he said.
'If a white manager is sacked, do people say there's racism?' Despite James's assertions, Davis shares Mehri's optimism that if the Football League sanction the move for black candidates to be interviewed, it will have a deep and long-lasting effect on race relations in football, as it has in the NFL.
'It was a big thing to get black players qualified to coach and manage,' said Davis. 'Now all they need is a chance to show what they can do.'