Rio Ferdinand is not expected to attend a Black Lives Matter event. He should be on the Manchester United board of directors.
Maybe Leeds United, maybe West Ham. Ferdinand played for all of them with distinction. He is articulate, intelligent, he has campaigned on social issues affecting urban communities and he knows football. Each club should have a man like Ferdinand among its directors, because each club can find one.
Either a former player, unfortunately in smaller numbers, a former coach or manager, or simply a local BAME character with an affiliation for their football team. These people are there and, much more than the Rooney rule which does not meet the requirements of an English football season, their presence in the conference hall would present real potential for advancement. It should be included in the rules of the Premier League and the Football League.
Rio Ferdinand (right) pictured during a Black Lives Matter march in London over the weekend
Non-executive directors, independent voices who sit on the board but not on the management team, can play an important role in the club if they are trusted and used properly.
Sky Sports presenter David Jones is a non-executive director of Sunderland. He was previously director at Oxford United. Sunderland is his club, however, and he undoubtedly takes his role very seriously.
What if a non-executive director position was opened for Gary Bennett? He is in Sunderland’s top five for player appearances – described as a “club legend” by no less authority than the Sunderland Echo last month – has coached and managed in clubs in the North East, including Darlington, Middlesbrough Academy and the Sunderland University team and has been a leading activist for Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out.
Thus, at 58, Bennett has been around as a player, coach and ambassador. Couldn’t he also have something to offer in the meeting room? The next time Sunderland makes a decision about a coach or manager, could Bennett expand the conversation or brief to persuade the administrators to look beyond a familiar list of candidates?
Not that the black guy is trying to get his friends into the business. Les Ferdinand is the football manager at Queens Park Rangers. He made Chris Ramsey his first manager. Next is Neil Warnock. Then Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. After that, Ian Holloway, Steve McClaren, Mark Warburton.
Ferdinand has the ability to change attitudes in the boardroom of one of his former clubs
Ferdinand does not treat his football club as an experience of positive discrimination, but neither does he stick to the network of old boys. He values experience in certain meetings, he promotes potential where he sees it.
The bottom line is that no budding black coach will feel the door closed at Queens Park Rangers while Ferdinand is part of the decision-making process. This does not, however, presume that Ferdinand’s duty is to his race, not his club. There should be no alarms, no threats to have a BAME executive or board member. It’s about providing opportunity, not replacing one old friend’s act with another.
Mark Bright is invariably seated next to Crystal Palace president Steve Parish in the administrator box – yet Palace manager is 72-year-old white man Roy Hodgson. Diversity should not lead to more compliance. If Bright moved from the president’s ally to his non-executive colleague, nothing would change except perceptions.
This is true for all clubs. Would Liverpool have reacted to Luis Suarez’s racial abuse of Patrice Evra with T-shirts and unquestionable support if John Barnes had attended the meeting? To what extent would Chelsea have seen the exchange between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, if Paul Elliott had served on their board of directors?
Would Liverpool have worn these Luis Suarez T-shirts if John Barnes had attended the meeting?
Liverpool players trained in “Suarez 7” t-shirts after attacker pleaded innocent in 2011
It was Elliott, as chairman of the Football Association’s inclusion advisory council, who made several valid points about recent football protests. He made a slight mockery of taking the knee – as players are encouraged to do when the game restarts – as a symbolic gesture, emphasizing that English football should have greater goals and ideals.
“There must be BAME people at the senior management level throughout the game,” he concluded. Elliott said it would create role models and inspire aspirations. “Diversity really improves an organization,” he said.
He is right. The reason the Rooney rule – in which a BAME candidate must be interviewed for all major leadership, coaching and managerial positions – is unsuitable for English football is that changes of leadership are often done under the extreme pressure of relegation.
An NFL franchise does not face a demotion. It’s happening again in the same league next season, whatever happens. For this reason, changes are often left until the end of a campaign, when it’s time to review a long list of candidates. It would also work in England if managers could not be sacked in mid-season.
The Rooney rule saw 28 managers appointed with only two, including Sol Campbell BAME
However, more generally, a club threatened with relegation can abandon the manager on Saturday, in order to make an appointment on Sunday, follow training on Monday, for a match on Tuesday evening. Often the identity of the next manager is known at the time of the dismissal. Allowing yourself a meaningless interview with a BAME candidate just to comply with the regulations is wasting everyone’s time.
Of course, the Rooney rule could be imposed during the summer. As it stands, the Football League introduced it after a successful testing period in time for the 2019-2020 season and so far 28 managers have been appointed with only two BAMEs. That the two – Sol Campbell in Southend and Dino Maamria of Oldham – started the season in a job elsewhere suggests that even among BAME candidates and with the legislation in place, experience counts.
So aiming higher is the way to go. The most significant change should take place at the executive level, where the power really resides. There are few more eloquent political statements than What’s going on with Marvin Gaye? but it’s Berry Gordy, owner of Motown, who really made a difference.
Boycott speaks widely
Andre Gray struck a nerve when he spoke of antipathy towards many black players in England. Admittedly, at the 2018 World Cup, seeing Raheem Sterling consistently ranked in the BBC polls as the weakest performer in England – often the worst on the field – in matches in England was uncomfortable.
It couldn’t just be that everyone watching at home did not know football. There must have been more.
However, Gray’s solution is unlikely to fly. “If it means not playing, too bad,” he said. “I don’t think England would be the team they are now without black footballers. “
Andre Gray struck a nerve when he spoke of antipathy towards the black players of England
But a boycott is much less difficult for a 28-year-old striker with 16 goals in three seasons for Watford and little chance of playing for his country.
Even if he recognizes the truth of Gray’s words, it would never be easier for a player of Sterling’s talent to simply step out or walk away. And who would win if it happened?
Comparing racism with the virus is useless
As Anthony Joshua discovered, every word spoken about the breed must be taken into account, beyond caution.
To this end, while being fully aware of his argument, Raheem Sterling must say to Newsnight, “The only disease right now is the racism we are fighting against” is very unnecessary.
Whatever valid arguments were raised throughout his interview, the suggestion that the spread of the coronavirus through mass gatherings is irrelevant or potentially harmful is false.
Sterling, who lost a family member and family friend to Covid-19, and whose mother is the head of a nursing home, will likely experience the risk of large crowds.
To speak as if the danger to BAME communities has not been explained is misleading.
Race is undoubtedly an influence in the spread of Covid-19, and more likely to be influenced by socio-economic factors than genetics. Those in the poorest communities suffer disproportionately.
Raheem Sterling says it is useless to say that racism is the only disease we are fighting right now
However, these problems do not disappear quickly and when protesters return to their inner city communities, the same problems and the potential consequences will be expected.
Sterling’s mother is on the phone. Why are so many BAME workers in the NHS affected? Go to any hospital in any big city and it’s simple. The health service is built on the back of the BAME community, especially in London where the first peak of coronavirus occurred. There was therefore a huge danger in the weekend demonstrations, a danger that would not be present if racism was the only fight on the map.
Tyrone Mings paraded in Birmingham and announced, “I don’t apologize for standing up for my beliefs.”
It’s his right. There are bigger things we all need to worry about as Aston Villa remains infection free.
Yet for Premier League clubs, wearing the NHS logos for next week’s comeback, as players casually dismiss the very real threat that coronaviruses still pose to frontline workers is at the very least mixed message, at worst the most empty of gestures.
There can be more than one cause and more than one fight that deserves to be won.
EFL boss Parry has no right to condemn Tranmere
Tranmere will discover their fate Tuesday, although all the signs point to an unjust and summary relegation. If League One clubs vote to shorten the season and resolve promotion and relegation issues on points per game, Tranmere will fall.
They are three points behind AFC Wimbledon, with one game in hand and one match to come between the clubs to come. It must have been at Kingsmeadow, but Tranmere had won three straight before the save.
EFL President overvalued Rick Parry having insisted on relegation to all divisions, the fact that no Ligue Two team has really won promotion on the 46 games required will have no importance either.
Tranmere chairman Mark Palios will find out about his team on Tuesday, although all signs point to relegation
Tranmere has been left at the mercy of special interests, including AFC Wimbledon who will vote to save themselves without kicking another ball, and these safe clubs with nothing to play for, who only see the financial cost of ending the season.
Instead of identifying relegation as a monstrous miscarriage of justice unless 2019-20 is played out, Parry will sacrifice a handful of clubs and move on. The need for this thirst for blood has never been sufficiently explained. As if Covid-19 hadn’t made survival hard enough in football backwaters.
Ironically, the president of Tranmere is Mark Palios, whose professional expertise is in accounting, insolvency and business restructuring. He’s just the kind of person that a struggling EFL club, or even the governing body, could seek free advice in the coming months. You would pay to hear this call, when it takes it.
Missing tests is the new standard
Salwa Eid Naser says she is not a cheat. It certainly makes a crisp impression of one, the spirit. Naser missed three drug tests before the 2019 World Championships, and one since.
In Doha, to win the gold medal, she ran the fastest women’s 400-meter since 1985 and the third-fastest in history. Only Marita Koch and Jarmila Kratochvilova went faster.
Koch appeared in the doping records of East Germany, and it is fair to say that the era of Kratochvilova is now viewed with extreme suspicion, despite his denials.
Salwa Eid Naser missed three drug tests before the 2019 World Championships and one since
Just like Naser. His jaded description of failed tests as “normal” only highlights what has become a discredited athletic sport.
The fact that the three failed tests were recorded before a world championship in which she was allowed to participate shows that athletics also does not think of deceiving the public.
There is a reason why sport is increasingly marginalized – and cheaters and their administrative facilitators are also accomplices.
After the fanfare when the Bundesliga returned to BT Sport, we would be interested to see the viewing figures now.
A peak audience of 652,000 spectators saw Borussia Dortmund beat Schalke this first weekend, but 10 days later Dortmund lost at home to Bayern Munich and the air quickly escaped the ball.
The title, once again, goes to Munich, making it their eighth in a row, and judging by the conversation, people seem to have lost interest. Too bad for all those lawyers who claim that the English game has a lot to learn from Germany.
“In England clubs pay so much money trying to win the Premier League or the Champions League,” said Tony Woodcock, the former English striker who has had a career in Germany since arriving in Cologne in 1979. And he is right, the English clubs do it.
Again; it’s better than supporting a system that allows the same club almost a decade of supremacy, with the result that the whole world sees your competition as meaningless boredom.
Considering the willingness of the Football Federation to be at the forefront of trans issues, how long before the England women’s team is, in accordance with modern customs, renamed the England team for menstruating people?
Fortunately, the FA will not have to answer JK Rowling in this case, as it appears to be a Scottish supporter.