Mediawatch: When admin stands in the way of equality

Date published: Wednesday 10th January 2018 12:00

Ask him what he thinks
After the Football Association introduced the ‘Rooney Rule’ which means that at least one BAME candidate will be interviewed for managerial positions, the Daily Mail have a take from someone on either side of the debate.

Arguing against its introduction is former England international Carlton Palmer, who uses the ‘tokenism’ line of argument. Palmer’s opinion contains some relevant points, but he ends with a message:

‘I want to see us tackling this problem properly by addressing the real issues and listening to people like Chris Hughton, a black manager who knows what it takes to succeed.’

Indeed, and what does Hughton think?

“Whether it’s the Rooney Rule exactly I don’t know but I do agree with a type of rule or legislation which gives opportunities for an interview process. Nobody is saying an organisation has to employ a certain amount of black and ethnic coaches and managers – but they should at least have the opportunity to get to the interview process, to get in front of people. The percentage of black and ethnic minority players is growing higher and higher but those at the top of management hasn’t moved at all.”

Well then.


One rule for one
You may or may not be interested to hear that the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel agrees with the introduction of the Rooney Rule, but like yesterday there is a ‘but’ coming. Samuel isn’t interested in its implementation in the Premier League. Oh good.

‘Before chief executive Martin Glenn begins preening, however, it must be accepted that the FA’s circumstances are very different from that of clubs; less immediate, with a favourable timescale in which to make appointments. Club managers are dismissed in the hurly-burly of a season, and usually amid crisis.’

By ‘preening’, we think Samuel means ‘discussing the need for equality in the wider game’.

‘Stoke sacked Mark Hughes having lost to Coventry in the FA Cup, in 18th place, having won twice since October. It is pure good fortune that their next game is on Monday. It could have been on Tuesday night, or on Saturday at 12.30pm. There is very little time to get a replacement.

‘If Stoke know that they want, say, Martin O’Neill, any compulsory interview of a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) candidate would merely delay the process, and have no real worth.’

Oh, well if interviewing BAME candidates is going to cause administrative delays of up to an hour, let’s call the whole thing off. It certainly isn’t worth aiming to improve the fortunes of previously victimised sections of our community and sport if it’s going to mean booking out that boardroom again for a meeting. You can do four people in a morning, but five? That’s just going to eat into lunch.

But seriously, where does Samuel think these potential BAME England managers are going to come from if roadblocks are still in place at club level? The whole system needs to change, surely, not just the top layer.

‘Say Stoke ask to interview Keith Curle, at Carlisle, to satisfy the Rooney Rule. Curle would be interested in a step up from League Two, no doubt, and would ask permission to talk. Yet this could damage his relationship with his employers and fans — and for what, if his interview is merely a box-ticking exercise?’

Interesting that Samuel used an example of a black manager in League Two, rather than one in the Premier League or one currently top of the Championship table. But it’s the ‘box-ticking’ dismissal that frustrates Mediawatch so much.

Like Matthew Syed’s argument against equal pay in sport, this ‘box-ticking’ excuse overlooks the bigger picture. Maybe it would initially seem like a box-ticking exercise to some, but that’s only because there are so few likely BAME candidates. And there are so few BAME candidates because BAME coaches are being dissuaded from taking their badges and giving it a go because of the white, glass ceiling that figures show so clearly exist in the game.

And that’s the point. The Premier League is the most influential part of English football culture. By them sending the message that they understand the issues of inequality within the game and are looking to address them, the picture can, over time, hopefully change.

‘Equally, the Rooney Rule can be applied in NFL franchises because there is no relegation in major American sport. Stoke, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Swansea, West Brom and Everton have all sacked their managers this season, to avoid falling a division, a cost measured in tens of millions.’

Interesting then that the Football League has just expanded its trial from January 1 so that EFL clubs will meet at least one BAME candidate for every first-team position as part of a recruitment process that involves interviews, a measure agreed by all clubs. Seems like they aren’t as worried as Samuel about relegation? Quite why interviewing a BAME candidate would increase the chances of relegation is not clear.

The ‘Rooney Rule’ is not a perfect solution, and certainly contains flaws. But it is intended to send a message from the top down that must be replicated from the bottom up and at every level in between. You’ll forgive Mediawatch for believing that that message is more important than a potential administrative delays in a process that usually takes days anyway.


Coutinho: The bulls**t recommences
When Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona was confirmed, one rascal at Football365 sent the following tweet:

A lovely bit of banter, there. Classic bantering. But yeah, we weren’t far wrong.

‘Philippe Coutinho risks Barcelona wrath after calls to rivals Real Madrid,’ reads the headline on the Daily Express website. A day early and the wrong club, but we hope you’ll allow us the error.

So what are these calls? Has Coutinho been drop-calling Florentino Perez? Or leaving explicit voicemails for Dani Carvajal? Or has he been ringing Zinedine Zidane to ask him to make a bid? Strangely enough, no to all three.

‘Coutinho is said to have been on the receiving end of calls and messages from Real’s Brazilian players.

‘The likes of Casemiro and Marcelo seem to have looked past their rivalry with Barca and have welcomed Coutinho with open arms.’

So Brazilian players have contacted their international teammate to tell him they are happy to have him in Spain? Mediawatch somehow suspects that Barcelona’s wrath might not be provoked.

The URL for the story? ‘Philippe-Coutinho-Barcelona-Transfer-News-Real-Madrid-Marcelo-Casemiro’. Embarrassing, guys.


Stir the pot
Whatever your take on Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho’s childish spat, let it not be in doubt that stories like these are adored by the media. And with good reason too. Very little sells papers and generates interest amongst supporters like two famous people calling each other names.

On Wednesday evening, Conte’s Chelsea play Arsenal in the semi-final first leg of the EFL Cup, and yet The Sun‘s double-page preview of the game focuses on a manager who isn’t even involved. Their headlines give the game away: ‘Special Bond’ in the paper and ‘The Special War’ online. It’s all about Mourinho, apparently.

‘Wenger and Conte do not have anything in common – except they both hate Jose’ reads the subheading. That subheading is rendered meaningless by Andrew Dillon’s first paragraph – ‘Antonio Conte and Wenger are more alike than they may care to admit.’ Can you be alike and have nothing in common?

Still, Dillon does get into the spirit of things eventually, including this sensational leap by the tenth paragraph:

‘If Wenger, 68, and Conte prolong their pre- or post-match handshake and have a quiet little word in each other’s ear they will most likely be talking about the common denominator when it comes to managerial squabbling — Mourinho.’

Is that really the most likely thing they will talk about? Or just a quick ‘good luc’k, if anything at all?

It is wonderful to see The Sun’s chief sports writer Dave Kidd skewer the spat in his column on Wednesday, labelling it as ‘tiresome Punch and Judy nonsense’. Just a shame your paper just gave it three pages of coverage and made it the main talking point ahead of an EFL Cup semi-final, Dave.


More as we get it
‘Crystal Palace stars look like kids as 76ers players tower over them’ – The Sun.

So you’re saying that basketball players are typically taller than footballers?


Sports news story of the day
‘Manchester United’s Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera poke fun out of football’s dark art by jumping feet first into swimming pool: ‘Diving in the modern game is a disgrace!’ – MailOnline.

We’re still getting to grips with ‘poke fun out of’.


Naughty headline of the day
‘Kane has ‘everything ready for move to Real Madrid’ after admitting Tottenham contract talks are on hold’ – MailOnline.

That hints that the quotes are from Kane, rather than some questionable, low-level Spanish gossip site.


Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on the gamble of buying strikers.

Michael Cox on Arsenal and the EFL Cup.

Graham Ruthven on Cristiano Ronaldo.

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