The English Football And The Black-White Thing

Sat, 12 Nov 2011 Source: Alfred Quaynor


According to Wikipedia, the Football Association, also known as The FA, is the governing body of football in England, and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. It was formed in 1863, and it is the oldest national football association in the world.

Over the years since its inception, a number of reforms have taken place, from re-engineering of the rules on several occasions to make it more modern, moving football from an amateur level to a professional level, attracting arguably the best football marketing and sponsorship deals in the world and a host of others which you may be aware of.

However, the only part of these reforms or modernizations of the league or English football which I find to be very slow (whether intentionally or not) is the inclusion and prominent involvement of BLACKS in the premier league/English football.

My call may come as a shock especially looking at the number of Black players in the premier league and the English national team as a whole. I made some few observations which informed my decision to do an extra desktop research to actually confirm those observations.

As at the time of putting this piece together, of the 92 clubs in the English football league (i.e. from the premiership right down to league 2) there were only TWO black Managers, Chris Houghton, who himself was appointed by Birmingham on the 22nd of June 2011, and Chris Powell who was appointed by Charlton Athletic on 17th January 2011.

There have been only FIVE black coaches ever to manage clubs in the English Top division (i.e. from the premiership right down to league 2) and they are Paul Ince at Blackburn appointed on 22 June 2008 and sacked on 16th December 2008, Keith Curle who was just gained promotion with Queens Park Rangers(as first team coach) for the 2011-2012 Premier league season, John Barnes who had a disastrous patch at the then League One side Tranmere Rovers, Keith Alexander at Macasefield Town and guess who? The same Chris Houghton! Who was appointed in 2009 by Newcastle United and after successfully bringing Newcastle up from the championship to the Premier league in 2010 and further stabilizing the team by October 2010 (Newcastle was actually 9th in October 2010), he was sacked in December 2010 after a 3-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion. The club stated that "an individual with more managerial experience was needed to take the club forward”.

I wonder where Houghton was going to get all that experience from if he wasn’t allowed to continue with the good work at Newcastle.

I can bet that if Houghton were to be white he will be hailed as the new sensation in English football, having brought back Newcastle from relegation during the farcical “to sell or not to sell” era of Newcastle. Alan Pardew would be appointed as coach on a five year contract and the Club would end up in 12th position at the end of the 2010/2011season.

Meanwhile in the US, as at 2007, of the 32 teams in the NFL, six (6) had Black coaches and in the 2007 finals the two teams that met in the super bowl were managed by Black coaches!

In the same 2007, just two of the nine most highly-qualified black coaches in the England - all of whom had better qualifications than Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate - had jobs in the football league

You look at this scenario and the fact that coaches like Pardew, Allardyce, and Mclaren have had very disruptive and worse seasons than Houghton only for them to jump to another club. The question that comes to mind is how come these(white) coaches in England secure jobs with other premiership sides after wrecking one and it becomes increasingly difficult for the black coaches to even secure a club let alone move to another one should they fail with any club?

Is it not strange that after almost Twenty (20) years of the English premiership only Chris Houghton and Paul Ince have managed clubs in the premiership and even with them, they coached for a total period of less than a season? This is comparatively very low particularly because of the number of black footballers who actually made it to the top, players such as Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright, John Barnes, Andy Cole, Paul Ince, Viv Anderson etc you wonder why there aren’t many black coaches in the league.

Being a successful footballer has no direct relationship with being a successful manager though, but if with 92 clubs in the league system and with over 120 years of football only 2 black coaches have had a total of less than a season coaching tenure in the Premiership, and a further two more in the third and fourth tier of English football you don’t believe there is something racially wrong somewhere in English football?


As a sequel to last week’s article, I found out that In the United States, the introduction of the “Rooney rule” in 2003, which requires clubs to interview qualified minority candidates for coaching vacancies, has helped a lot in having black coaches at the very highest level of football (NFL).

While reading around I found out that this rule will not be possible in England since employment laws over there prohibits affirmative action.

Quite recently, Cyrus Mehri, the Washington based Lawyer behind the Rooney rule in the USA had discussions with the Professional Football Association(PFA) on the possibility of adopting the Rooney rule in English Football, though the initial response has been slow, the expectation is that something positive would come out it..

Another interesting observation also has to do with refereeing in the English game.Currently, there are four (4) referees per game in the premiership and with a total of seven-hundred and sixty (760) games played in a season; a simple mathematics will give us three thousand and forty (3040) refereeing spots in a season. This figure could easily rise to about three thousand four-hundred (3,400) refereeing spots if you are to add the FA cup and Carling Cup matches, yet there has been only ONE ¬ black referee ever to referee in the Premiership and he goes by the name Uriah Renee.

He started his refereeing career in 1979 and was given his first appointment in 1997 retiring in 2008. Currently there is no Black referee in the premiership!

One tends to wonder whether Blacks do not apply to become referees or there are not enough role models, for young blacks to follow in terms refereeing or simply that the system somehow believes that Blacks are not smart enough to take up such roles in football. Your guess is as good as mine.

I know the English FA is trying its best to ensure a level playing field for all persons interested in taking active roles in football irrespective of one’s Race, Skin colour, Ethnic background, and Religion.

Ironically, while there is this apparent dominance of indigenes’ (whites) in terms of coaching offers/refereeing and club chairmanship in Europe, we in Africa are shunning our own and giving the coaching jobs to foreigners. Much as this Article focuses on the happenings in the English Football I believe our FA here in Ghana should also start doing more for our local coaches, who knows with time we may start having names like Godslove Kpotavi or Ayittey Quartey or some other Ghanaian name as the coach of Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspurs. Can’t happen eh?

Alfred Quaynor


The writer is a staff of Barclays Bank Ghana Ltd and an avid lover of football

Source: Alfred Quaynor