I know Why There Are No Black Football Managers in the English Premier League And So Do You.
7 months ago Chad 5
Uncover your eyes and take a peek at the green benches in Westminster or in the televisions studios at the BBC. Peep through the panes of the curtained window and look at the CEOs of large corporations in the City of London or the heads of our Universities and Colleges. Gaze at the police, the justice system, the upper echelons of the health profession and people of a darker hue are hard to find. The only place ethnic minorities are overrepresented in this society are our prisons and the base of the janitorial vocation. Why then should anyone be surprised that a glance down the touchline of any Premier League football game this weekend would have not one black manager?
There are black players, though. Plenty of them, in fact. CLR James once wrote that sports are an accurate reflection of society. In his seminal work ‘Beyond a Boundary’, he argued that what happened inside the ‘Boundary Line’ in cricket affected life beyond it, as well as the converse. Like Sisyphus black folk in sports and society are endlessly and tirelessly pushing that boulder up the hill, only to watch it roll back downhill each and every time.
There are many black teachers; not so many black head teachers. There are many black nurses; not so many black nursing managers. There are many black bus drivers, not so many in the upper reaches of Transport for London. In journalism, research by the New Statesman concluded that ethnic minorities remain ‘largely absent’ from opinion pages, senior executive roles and staff jobs within the British media. This, when the non-white population stands at around 16%. In the 1950s, black cricketers were ‘allowed’ to play for the West Indies cricket team, but they weren’t allowed to be ‘the captain.’
Tony Cozier wrote in his History of West Indian cricket that the refusal to appoint a black captain was “historically understandable at a time when it was generally considered by the ruling classes that the black man was not ready for leadership, political, social, sporting or otherwise.” He is more forgiving than most. The selectors’ thinking was transparently ignorant and prejudiced. But that was the 1950s, right? We have progressed, right?
A Numbers Game
The number of football managers and coaches relative to the proportion of black, Asian and ethnic minority football players is incredibly low.
As of April 2017, there are no black or Asian managers in the Premier League; Chris Hughton at Brighton in the Championship, Marcus Bignot at Grimsby Town and Keith Curle at Carlisle United in League 2. That is 3 black managers out of a possible 92. That is incredible! Do you know why?
The Sports People’s Think Tank report found that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people hold 23 out of 552 elite coaching roles. That is just 4% of the available positions, despite 25% of players being from BAME backgrounds. Former Reading striker Jason Roberts said it was due to “unconscious bias” at best or “possibly racism” at worst.
PFA numbers suggest that around 18% of the candidates who attend football coaching courses and other qualifications on the pathway to becoming football managers are BAME individuals. This number is, if not as high, at least closer to the proportion of BAME players. Why are they not getting jobs? At 64.3%, a significant number of black managers have managed only once. Can you think of why that is?
Sports is but a Mirror
The Sunday Supplement is Sky Sports’ flagship weekend football program, with Britain’s best and brightest journalists discussing the week’s football in a topical and erudite way. This, at least, is what they advertise. Other than a few fleeting appearances from Darren Lewis, who of the abominable Daily Mirror, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black person on their four man (occasional woman) panel. So the sports journalists that cover football with their groupthink and regurgitated sameness are white. Why should the management of football clubs they cover be any different?
The issue of black cricket captains mentioned above is indicative of a worldview in much of sports: Black people are athletic, yes, but not too clever upstairs. Their bodies are supple enough to catch or kick a ball but not good enough to make decisions on how, when, and why the ball is being caught or kicked.
In football, Proper Football Men held steadfastly to the view that blacks were capable of being nippy little wingers. A creative, thinking midfield genius? Not so much. This is not just an issue for football or cricket. The same can be seen in the NFL where the thinking position of the quarterback was long the preserve of whites. In basketball the point guard was also excluded from blacks, white coaches preferring the heady smarts of their white sons.
Golf with its logistics and mental arithmetic was long kept off the muddled lawns of imprudent black people. Too complicated, we were told. Lawn tennis, ditto. This idea, long peddled by white supremacists, their sympathizers and their descendants that on average white people are smarter than black people.
Apparently, history proves this. But this is no mere historical eugenics babble. It is the foundation of white (in) security. As CLR James would recognize, the sporting field or court has merely been an extension of the prejudice we experience in broader society.
Racism is prevalent in football. The information, gathered from 24 police forces across the UK, shows there have been over 350 incidents since 2012. But as those only accounts for around half the police forces in the country, as well as the few who actually report the hate they experience, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.
The charity, Show Racism The Red Card, said the number of incidents shows that racism is a societal problem and it was particularly shocked by the number of incidents of racist abuse at children’s matches. Greater Manchester Police reported 46 incidents, which included a man cleaning a toilet in a stadium being told ‘that’s a f****** black man’s job, you f****** n*****’ and a manager at a children’s game being told ‘I’ll do you, I’m gonna wait for you outside, I’m going to do you, you f****** n*****.’ Hertfordshire Police recorded 11 incidents of alleged racist abuse at children’s football games, while Northamptonshire Police said that during a non-league game a man was spat at and racially abused before eventually having his leg broken in a strong challenge.
Proven racists back in work in football
Jamie Vardy. Malky Mackay. You saw above that the few black managers that find work are typically given one opportunity and if deemed a failure, they never receive a second shot at it. They are forever tainted by it. Enter stage left Malky Mackay, the tough talking square jawed Scottish man. In 2014, his private texts revealed by a former friend, exposed a racist, sexist, homophobic little man. That should have been a permanent gardening leave, right? Wrong! Manky Malky was appointed as Wigan manager soon thereafter and after being sacked for poor run of results, he was handed the cushy job as Scottish Football Association’s performance director.
Enter stage right: Jamie Vardy. Mr. Vardy racially mimicked and abused a Japanese man but since he returned to the Premier League and scored a few goals, all was forgiven. Gary Lineker addressed the issue: ‘Well, people make mistakes. They say stupid things. He did it and he apologized.’ It is a weak defence which was expertly deconstructed by Telegraph journalist Jonathan Liew when Vardy broke a Premier League record by scoring in his 11th consecutive game last season. “Yes, we all make mistakes,” Liew wrote. “But my drunken mistakes tend to involve falling asleep on the night bus rather than racially abusing a stranger. Maybe I need to get out more.”
“I think it depends on how you say it, and where you say it,” Lineker added. “But I know footballers, and they are generally really not racist at all. I’ve heard things said on football pitches that players clearly don’t mean, whether it’s racism or just an abusive comment in the heat of the moment.”
This has troubling implications. Does it really matter how you racially abuse someone, or where? Is it really any less offensive if it is said in the heat of the moment? And let’s not forget that Vardy wasn’t on a football pitch, playing in an intense and furious Premier League match – he was in a casino. This was not a case of banter gone wrong either, it was a nasty insult hurled at a bystander in aggressive and intimidating fashion.
Racist abuse of the kind uttered by Vardy, or indeed any other kind, is language which is simply off limits and there is no excuse for it. But the verbal gymnastics employed by Lineker are hardly unusual when it comes to football supporters in this country. It could be a Liverpool fan passionately drawing on their surprisingly extensive knowledge of the nuances of the Spanish language to inform anyone who is listening that, in fact, “negrito” is often employed as an affectionate term in Uruguay. It could be a Chelsea fan, parroting the defence line that no, John Terry uttered the words “f****** black c***” to Anton Ferdinand purely “by way of sarcastic exclamation”, rather than what the Football Association concluded when they banned him for four matches.
“Sickening, embarrassing, moronic, disgraceful”. All words that Lineker could have deployed again to describe Vardy’s actions, but chose not to. Vardy just made a ‘mistake.’ And was his behavior really so different to that of the Chelsea fans abusing a black man on the Paris Metro? No. It was almost identical in nature.
Either Lineker is joining the ranks of supporters who act as the unofficial propaganda wing of their club, always seeing the good and refusing to acknowledge the bad, or he genuinely believes Vardy’s behavior wasn’t as awful as the incidents catalogued above. Neither is a satisfactory stance to take.
The Elephant in the Room
Let’s address the elephant that is no longer in the room. The elephant has leaned on the creaking, enclosed wall of society for so long that it has now given way, the way a broken skin invites disease. Raheem Sterling. Marcus Rashford. The British press is infamous for its savage treatment of black players.
Let’s address the elephant that is no longer in the room. The elephant has leaned on the creaking, enclosed wall of society for so long that it has now given way, the way a broken skin invites disease.
It’s the value of their cars being a key part of the story.
It’s the amount the pay for their mother’s houses being derided as if they bought it with drug money.
It’s a black female MP in the House of Common being mistaken for the cleaners.
It’s being a black teenager profiled by the police and much of society for being the bearer of chocolate skin and a frown.
It’s being the parent of a black pupil and knowing they’re much, much more likely to be excluded from school than a white pupil. This stretches to adulthood and the likelihood of being imprisoned.
It’s being unable to learn about your history as a part of the core curriculum.
It’s about being unable to find children books or dolls or TV heroes for black kids.
It’s former Birmingham defender Michael Johnson, who had to wait four years before successfully interviewing for a role with Cardiff City’s academy this year, saying:
‘The networks are closed off. Predominately football is run by white, older men, so you seem to gravitate to what you have found is the norm. I couldn’t get any more qualified. But I was out of work from August 2011 to August 2015. My main challenge was getting to the table to show people what I’m about.’
It’s institutional racism.
It’s the old boy network.
It’s the lack of transparency in the recruitment process.
It’s broader societal stereotypes.
It’s the call for the American Rooney rule which in attempt to solve ingrained prejudice, is to force unwilling minds to interview black candidates.
That is a real indictment on racism in 2017. So when you turn on Arsenal versus Crystal Palace or Everton versus Southampton, don’t wonder why there are no black men in retro striped scarfs, bin bag jackets or uncomfortably close fitting suits. The invisible aliens know why that’s the case and so do you.