Clubs in the professional and semi-professional game aren’t racist. Why? They simply can’t afford to be.
Today, the BBC (here) has dutifully reported Jason Roberts stating that ‘”unconscious bias” at best or “possibly racism” at worst’ is what lies behind the lack of Black coaches and Managers (they use BME in the report, but no one is really talking about the lack of Managers from South Asian heritage background) in the professional game.
These claims are based on a four page report put together for the think tank Jason Roberts is part of, the Sport People’s Think Tank (which you can view here), which on the face of it contains some stats that would appear to be a damning indictment of the state of professional football.
Only 23 out of 552 (4.2%) senior coaching positions in professional football are occupied by BME backgrounds, BME folks make up only 8.4% of highly qualified coaches (which the study doesn’t state but I believe is from FA Level 2 and above) compared to the general UK BME population at 14%.
At the current rate of progress, it would take over 31 years for us to reach equality in the amount of Managers from non-white backgrounds. The explanation given for this is there are “processes of conscious and unconscious racial bias” which “constitute a form of institutional discrimination.”
So, should we be worried? Not really and there are several reasons for this, the main one of course being that Professional Football is a cut throat meritocracy. The only concern is to win and the benefit of meritocracy (which does have downsides) is that the only thing that matters is your ability.
No one at Burton Albion gives a toss what colour the Manager is in the same way none at professional clubs care what colour the skin of the player is, if he is the best. It is the reason why ethnic minorities are over-represented on the playing side (25%) compared to the general population (14%). If we were to just look at black people (which is really what we’re talking about) this would be an even greater over-representation.
The reason for this? Well without getting too technical and also acknowledging socio-economic factors (working class people are drawn to sport because they represent a meritocracy), black people have more potential to be faster and athletic then white people, period. It is why they dominate the rosters of American Football and Basketball, again competitions where hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line and players are picked for ability above any and all considerations.
No one is complaining about this for good reason because competition is king and in a sporting environment we want to see the best. If Jason Roberts is really as committed to equality as he makes out, I look forward to him calling for more white and Asian people to run the wing for Crystal Palace.
Call me flippant but many of the concerns raised have bugger all to do with skin colour at all. I accept that a lack of role models can be a genuine point but others don’t hold up to much water. For starters, ‘limited access to high level coach education courses’ is a problem which is down to the FA’s atrocious record of not creating enough coaches in this country, where we are dwarfed by a European neighbours.
Having a FA Level 2 qualification myself I can attest plenty of this is socio-economic. There is no way I could’ve afford this without grant money and as a high amount of black people are also likely to be found lower down the socio –economic scale, the eye watering costs of FA courses (used as a cash cow far too often in England) massively limits how many BAME coaches we’re going to have. This is a problem which is about the weight of your wallet, not the colour of your skin.
This is of course not a problem facing those ex-professional footballers like Jason Roberts, who do have lots of money and contacts within the game. I am dismissing the ‘unconscious racial bias’ point because it is the most pathetic form of sociology and pseudo-science, as being unfalsifiable, it merely grants authority to projectionism on behalf of the accuser.
The latest figures of BAME from 2014 to 2015 getting a Pro-License was 17% , which is actually higher than the population as a whole but does suggest a decent amount of those professional footballers do not take up coaching. Could this be racial bias?
I suspect it has more to do with the fact that footballers at the top level now are loaded with amounts of money meaning they never have to work again. The average salary playing at the Championship in 2006 was £200,000, in League 1 £68,000 and the Premier League £676,000 (here). That was nearly ten years ago and has only gone one way.
To become a Football Manager is to have to start from the bottom again; you can’t just expect a top job with no experience and have to earn the right by being prepared to make a long hard graft of it, probably starting in Non-League football.
Clubs would give their right arms at Step 5 and 4 to give these ex-players a chance to bring their professionalism to the table but I can’t really see Defoe, Zaha or even Jason Roberts being up for that and who could blame them? Going from playing in front of thousands, to managing an obscure Non-League side watched by hundreds on a cold Tuesday night when you could be spending your time on a sunny beach or get a cushy TV job. You’d have to be mad to want to be a football manager.
There is a reason why some of the best managers never played at a high level and that is because Management represented a chance to win something in football despite their lack of footballing ability. The same desire isn’t going to be there for people who must fall all the way down the pyramid and may not have any success.
Overall, despite the headline grabbing report and accusations of clubs not even understanding their evil racist ways, football and sport in general has little to worry about due to it’s relentless on field meritocracy.
However, when clubs are owned by those (such as Man City) who have arrested and locked up people in the past for opposing their atrocious regime, we might want to start talking about importing barbaric into the UK via the boardroom but somehow, I don’t think we’ll be hearing much about that any time soon.