By Ben Jones
An early start the other week resulted in many hours of sports radio discussing the fact that The Football League is planning to introduce a version of American Football’s ‘Rooney Rule’.
In a nutshell the plan means that from the 2016/17 season each club will have to interview one black minority ethnic (BME) for each head coach or manager role. The thinking behind this is simple; of the 72 league clubs only five employ black managers.
I nearly fell into the trap of trying to be overly fair and balanced and saying that any move in this direction is to be applauded. Nearly. But I simply can’t. I’m apoplectic with rage at this idea. I find it an insult of the highest order. I think our sanitised and PC world has gone so far as to shoot itself in the foot. It’s outrageous what is being proposed for reasons that require some thought and not an immediate reaction of encouragement for a gesture of apparent appeasement.
Firstly, please never reduce a human to an acronym. BME. Please?
Secondly, do not insult human beings by unfairly advantaging them due to the colour of their skin. The world’s leagues are awash with brilliant players whom have risen through a driven childhood. Their lives dedicated to a sport and little else. For some it’s building a better life and achieving- dramatically for some, leaving a war torn or deprived country. For those in the developed world it’s foregoing the lifestyles of those who couldn’t make it. No nightclubs, little alcohol and leaving friends behind to be dedicated. There is a reason only the chosen make it. Hard work, graft, hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and more graft.
Anyone who has ever known a professional sportsman will know they are a different breed. Robotic. Confident. Driven. Arrogant. I cannot imagine one professional sportsman who feels they deserve a favour. We all need luck. A break. But a favour? No. Not one true professional would want to be somewhere due to a favour. It goes against the grain. But to be given that favour due to the pigmentation of your skin. That’s downright offensive.
It’s a fact that only five mangers of the 72 in league football are of colour. I cannot explain that. It does seem crassly disproportionate. It’s also disproportionate that Scotland seems to produce a raft of the current good managers. I also cannot explain that.
Perhaps we try too hard to seek explanation. I personally believe we do. Simply because the racism angle doesn’t float with me. Perhaps I’m naive, but in this harsh modern world I don’t believe the vast majority of the population give a thought to the colour of another’s skin. In everyday life we are all happy to achieve a new friendship with a person if they are decent, kind and funny. If a person presents as an enhancement to your life, you will encourage and foster that relationship.
In football fandom this equation is strangely skewed as you never know the manager or player. But again, if they enhance your club, and therefore your life, you will worship them. The vast majority of football fans – I am not so naive as to say all – don’t recognise the colour of their team’s players. They recognise heroes. They crave heroes.
I’m 40 years old. But Nakhi Wells just ignited me with pure pride. I loved the back story. I loved his humble beginnings. I loved his silly voice. Above all else I loved that for the first time in years when he got the ball I felt magic. Expectant. I felt we had unearthed a superstar. I sung his name loud and proud. I wish he was still a City player.
I didn’t care what colour his skin is.
I also loved Gary Jones. Brian Tinnion. Nigel Pepper. Robbie Blake. Eric McManus.
I don’t care what colour their skin is.
A player who gives his all will always be cherished. Be it Paul Ince or Paul Gascoigne. Ian Wright or Ian Rush. David Beckham or David Ginola. Colour, nationality or any other factor matter not. A heart, a flourish of skill and a pride to wear the jersey do though.
In short fans don’t care. So what of the clubs?
Nor do they. It’s a results business. If a manager could guarantee promotion then they would be hired. Nothing matters in football but success. It’s therefore a fanciful theory to suggest that a potential manager or coach would not be hired due to the colour of their skin. Why is every top league in Europe heavily represented by players of all nationalities? Because they are good enough to attempt to bring success to their employers. To sell shirts. To be idolised by the fans. There is no suggestion of any racism or selectiveness when picking players. Why would it be any different with managers? It simply would not. It’s a leap too far.
Bringing the issue back to Bradford City, I will never forget Chris Kamara’s anger-fuelled charge down the stairs following the assault upon Gordon Watson. Nor Paul Jewell’s cigar gesture at Wolves away. Nor Phil Parkinson’s sheer jubilation at Chelsea away.
I shall never forget the tough tackling of Nigel Pepper or Stuart McCall. The skills of Jamie Lawrence. The fact Jamie stands behind you at Villa away and simply loves the club. His tweets oozing passion for our club. His club. Our club.
I shall never forget Edinho. I may forget Rodrigeuez! I shan’t forget Zavon, Doyle, Cooke.
I will remember all as City players who contributed to the club, to a greater or lesser extent. Players who brought me immense happiness and cherished memories.
So please don’t patronise a fellow man, or perhaps in the future woman, by placing them in a box. Let the best rise to the top because they eventually do.
I always watched Jamie’s tweets with interest and bemusement. How did he not have a top conditioning/ fitness role at a top club I thought. Then with immense pride I saw him sat next to Avram Grant. He earned that. He was hired due to his graft, determination, skill and more graft. And long may it continue.
But here’s the caveat, I’m a member of the indigenous population. I may have no right to speak for those who feel in a majority. And if that’s the case, then I apologise for trying to state your cause.