In June 1960, football player Tony Collins became a pioneer as he was appointed as player-manager of Rochdale, making him the first ever non-white manager of a Football League club, 72 years after the creation of the league. This should have been seen as a momentous point in history, the turning point where black people were finally considered for management roles; however, 60 years later in 2020 and black people are still rare in the world of football management.
Image: Chris Hughton. One of Britains only black managers:
Collins enjoyed a successful 7 years as Rochdale FC manager, helping them to becoming only one of two fourth-tier sides in history to reach the Football League Cup Final, losing out to Norwich. Yet, despite this achievement, he never seemed to attract interest for more high profile jobs, and in 1967 he resigned to focus on family life and never worked as a full-time manager again, other than a caretaker spell at Bristol City, opting to work within the scouting department of various clubs instead.
In 2020, a modern era where it would be conceivable to think that society had passed the period of refuting black people to high-profile jobs, specifically in football management, however the problem is still very much present, at the time of writing, there are just 6 black or non-white managers in charge out of the 92 clubs that make up the top four divisions in England.
In fact, its entirely plausible to suggest that ex-players who are white are given their first roles at much higher levels than their black teammates. For example, two of the most talented and successful players in Premier League history: Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard; the former was handed his first role at Championship team Derby County FC and within a year landed one of the most lucrative jobs in the world as manager of Chelsea FC, and the latter at Rangers FC, one of the biggest clubs in the United Kingdom.
However, at the other end of the scale, equally talented and successful in his playing career, Sol Campbell had to make his start at third-tier Macclesfield. Paul Ince had an outstanding career at a host of top clubs, yet his first chance came at lower league club Swindon Town, and he has only ever secured one role in the Premier League, becoming the first ever black Premier League manager. Unfortunately this didn’t last long after he was sacked by Blackburn Rovers just 3 months into the job. Despite still being young enough to carve a decent managerial career for himself, Ince has not managed since 2014 and stated back in 2015 that “Black managers have to face more obstacles to get jobs.”
“A lot of managers get jobs and I wonder why they are getting jobs before me. If I’d been at 5 clubs and been an absolute disaster, I could understand it, but I haven’t. My win ratio is very good for the budgets I have had, but I have been out for a year now (now 6 years), Black people are not given time and we are judged straight away.”
This is not the only example either as there are an infinite number of talented black footballers who don’t seem to get the chances that their white counterparts receive when going into football management. Ince mentioned the fact that black people have to work harder, and this is apparent from the aforementioned “first roles” of white managers when compared to black managers. Lampard and Gerrard where immediately successful in securing important roles, roles that are likely to come with a larger budget and possibly even more leniency in terms of results. Sol Campbell, Paul Ince, John Barnes etc., the list goes on and on for black footballers who were left with the scraps when looking for jobs, often given a chance at a lower league club, with much smaller budgets and often judged on their results in a much quicker time than white managers are.
The fact that football is documented worldwide, shown on a large amount of TV channels and is generally accessible to millions makes this problem even more apparent, the gaping drop between the amount of white managers employed and the amount of black managers employed is as obvious as it is outrageous.
A thought even more disturbing; as football is at a heightened visibility level when compared with other jobs, it is worrying when you imagine how difficult it could be for black people when applying for regular, 9-5 jobs. If black and non-white people are not handed opportunities in an industry that has the eyes of the world on it, one can only imagine how little opportunities are available for the BAME community in other, more domestic sectors.
Clearly, change is needed, and the FA have promised to ensure that at least 20% of the England Men’s teams’ coaching staff are of black or non-white heritage. A small step, but one that they hope will lead to more openings for black people in the world of football management.
However, despite the need for more diversity, black people do not want to be handed jobs simply on the basis of their skin colour, or to simply fill diversity quotas; the problem will only be resolved when black footballers who go into management are handed as equal opportunities as their white counterparts, especially when they have had successful careers and have done more than enough to warrant at least an interview at top clubs.
In the near future, the inequality shown must be eradicated, and the Football League must show a more diverse approach to management and treat black ex-players just as well as white ex-players.