Following the sacking of Darren Moore as West Brom manager, Danny Keegan questions the current landscape for ethnic minorities in football management with reference to how things are stateside in the NBA
West Brom’s draw against relegation-threatened Ipswich Town earlier this month signalled the beginning of the end of Darren Moore’s reign as the Championship team’s manager.
In a two-year spell with the Baggies he managed to steady an already sinking ship after he took over from Alan Pardew as interim manager in April 2018. Pardew was dismissed after a poor run of results which left the team 10 points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table. Caretaker Moore won the Premier League Manager of the Month award in his first month in charge after victories against Manchester United and Newcastle. He experienced continued success in the Championship, steering West Brom to a top-four play-off place with 10 games to play before being sacked.
In an industry as precarious as football management, where you can be sacked a year on from winning the Premier League title, and despite the longevity of the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger being a precedent consigned to the passed, Moore’s dismissal has thrown up more questions than answers. One of those questions being: Where does this leave ethnic minorities in management, who find it significantly harder to get ahead in what is already a competitive field?
A notable exception, and someone who has flourished at the highest level in the women’s game is ex-England manager Hope Powell. With a career spanning 15 years, Powell, currently in charge at Brighton, helped guide the Lionesses to a World Cup quarter-final before losing on penalties in 2011. Despite her successes, which also includes coaching the first ever Great Britain Football team at the 2012 Olympic Games, she has not been without her detractors who have unfairly levelled accusations of “positive discrimination” playing a part in her career progression, an attack all too familiar with ethnic minorities inside and outside the game.
One of her most vocal critics, Keith Boanas, a fellow manager in women’s football, had cited Powell’s lack of experience as a reasoned argument for her not being appointed England head coach, a job he was overlooked for. He suggested the selection of Powell was a “political appointment to cover all bases.”
Knowing the prejudices black managers have had to contend with, and in light of Thierry Henry’s unsuccessful stint with Monaco in Ligue 1, individuals have opted to prove themselves in the lower echelons of the English game. Powell’s namesake Chris has enjoyed spells at Huddersfield Town, Charlton Athletic – where he spent the majority of his playing career and earned an England call-up – Leicester City where he was reunited with former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson who said that Powell “will be a very good manager in the future,” Derby County and *Southend United.
Sol Campbell, another former England international, has been getting his managerial feet wet in League Two with Macclesfield Town. Campbell has fully embraced the challenges of lower league football by showing it the respect it deserves attaining his Uefa Pro licence coaching badges and also toning his foreign language skills to cater for, what is nowadays, an international changing room.
There was a time though when Campbell had resigned himself to the fact that the opportunity to manage a team would never have materialised. And while he has had to jump through hoops to prove his worth as a manager, fellow England teammates from the Golden Generation have been afforded opportunities seasoned managers would struggle to attract. Steven Gerrard has been learning the ropes north of the border with Scottish giants Rangers; Frank Lampard has been plying his managerial trade with Championship side Derby County, while Gary Neville at one time appeared to be the most in-demand, landing jobs as Valencia head coach as well as England assistant coach.
It’s also worth noting that this is not exclusively a British issue. Over in America where basketball is king, the anointed one, LeBron James belonged to the 74.4% of black players who made up the NBA player roster in 2015. But despite this, today’s NBA is comprised of just eight (8) head coaches out of a possible 30 who would identify as black – LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers (pictured below) being one. So, where does this disparity stem from and what is being done to level the playing field?
If we look outside the sporting arena in Britain, we can see concerted efforts made by elite universities in admitting a higher proportion of ethnic minority students from state schools and underprivileged backgrounds who may not have the financial backing and networking resources to advance and prosper in their chosen fields of expertise.
America has gone a step further – owing to their chequered history of confederate segregation in the deep south – by financing historically black colleges like Howard and Morehouse to name a few, with the expressed aim of mentoring tomorrow’s leaders of industry.
A 2017 report showed that just 4% of FTSE 100 companies were headed up by minority CEOs. In time the hope is to realise a sea change in opportunities where upper management is more representative of the organisations at large. How this would manifest itself into the beautiful game is a bit more complex. More can be done, more should be done; exactly what that would be is harder to pinpoint. Unfortunately the issue is not so black and white.
Words by Danny Keegan
*Chris Powell was sacked by Southend after this article was written