Equality through representation, not tokenism
by Yasin Bangee
I asked a question of my social media followers;
“Can you name 10 black football managers who have managed in Europe, ever?”
The answers came pouring in, with various people naming between 4-6. The obvious candidates, Chris Powell, Jean Tigana, Paul Ince, Chris Hughton, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Beyond that some unfamiliar names such as Leroy Rosenior, Terry Conners and…silence.
It seems ludicrous to suggest that racism and inequality still holds a place within British football. Far away in Moscow we all witnessed Yaya Toure face racial abuse and we thought “that’s them, we’ve got our house in order in the English game”. Sadly, that’s not the reality.The FA has set up a commission to look into the English national game with a view to improve footballing standards of young English footballers, and all but one is a white man (and the exception, Rio Ferdinand, is naturally a man). His appointment to the panel came after outrage and shock at the original selections of white men.
Despite black footballers making up 30% of all professionals in Britain, less than 1% of all managers are black. The higher up you go in the football structure the less diversity you come across. Whilst the 30% may be a recent figure, black footballers have been present in the English leagues since 1990.
Black managers speak of difficulties in getting a job
, and thereafter keeping that job should things go awry. Football is a notoriously fickle sport but the difference in how black and white managers are treated is noticeable. Whilst others like Neil Warnock, Martin Allen, Ian Holloway, Simon Grayson and Aidy Boothroyd walk from job to job despite less than impressive results at prior appointments, black managers get one shot, one opportunity and are rarely seen from again. Keith Curle has vanished after being sacked earlier this year. His replacement Chris Kiwomya was in charge for 8 months before leaving earlier this week.
Love him or hate him, Sol Campbell addresses the problem head on. Here’s a man who is the ultimate mercenary, who wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers and cause controversy. Some may say he’s a bit like Roy Keane. But Roy Keane has managed 2 football clubs, whilst Sol Campbell has stated he may have to go abroad, like Brian Deane, in order to get on the footballing ladder.
Interestingly both Phil Neville and Gary Neville have secured England supporting roles under Roy Hodgson whilst Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have been retained by Manchester United to coach their next generation of footballers. Where are the black coaches? The black assistant managers? Black footballers have been around for 20-30 years in the British game yet so few remain in the game once their playing careers end.
Time once was where black footballers had certain stereotypes pinned against them. A black footballer is quick, so put him on the wing and up front. A black footballer is strong but not so smart, so lets kick the ball at him and he’ll flick it on. A black footballer though cannot ever play in goal. All of the above is nonsense but the fallout from such nonsense exists to this day. The way people describe Benteke and Lukaku, two very different footballers to Drogba, as “beasts, powerful, monsters” is telling of a game that still considers the white footballer as the true superstar. Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez are lauded for being inventive and tricky, whilst Eto’o, Yaya Toure and Drogba are admired for their physicality, their pace and power and dominance.
As Roberto Martinez unwittingly said, of Lukaku, “He’s also intelligent”. As though being black and intelligent isn’t common occurrence.
At Liverpool the only minority I can think of within the coaching staff is the club doctor, who naturally hails from South Asia. What about the club you follow? Ignore the 11 men on the pitch, what’s the make up of the backroom staff?
Lots may argue that football in Britain is not racist, or has flashes of one off racist incidents such as Luis Suarez and John Terry, but like any world system, the higher up to you go the whiter it becomes.
Yasin Bangee is a writer based in the North West. He writes about his main passions, football, social justice and inequality, and offers thoughts on all things political. As a a British Muslim he has first hand experience of the rise and impact of Islamophobia. Archive of his column ‘This Week in Islamophobia‘ Find his writing at False7andahalf