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Saturday 24th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

RABBIL SIKDAR analyses the relationship between diversity in communities and in English dugouts

Britain is a single society yet feels like a million different societies. The way Britain is seen by some is not always how it is seen by others. The welfare of society is read differently by people depending on where they fit on the social scale.

The closer you are towards the top, the happier you are with the status quo, or so it tends to go.

In football, ever so slowly, the shadow of racism that has hung long over stadiums is giving way to a shining outbreak of enthusiasm for diversity, at least on the pitch.

There is a recognition that the game has benefited enormously from moving beyond the English frontiers, blessed by the artistry of the Brazilians and the Spaniards, improved immeasurably by the gritty knowhow styles of Germany and Italy.

Certainly within the Premier League, the explosion of wealth and success has owed a great deal to the import of foreign talent.

There are now more black footballers too. As racism as dwindled, opportunities have opened themselves up. Obstacles are increasingly less common as the pathway to professional football is made easier.

At least on the pitch. Just yards away and the pathway to being a manager on the touchlines still feels like an altogether tougher battle.

There are 92 clubs within the four divisions of English football. Only four of the 92 are black. That is a bleak damnation of exactly how much or how little progress in football has been made.

The battle against racism on the pitch for the case of a diverse range of players has been made and won. But the war against institutional racism within football, rooted in invisible shadows, unseen and unheard, is tougher to spot.

It’s always easy to spot the racist bigot on the street. Usually their tone exposes them. But so often, the debate on racism is framed almost exclusively around individuals like this, lacking the nuance to challenge deeper issues.

People will condemn groups like the EDL and Britain First but be far slower in admitting the existence of institutional racism that puts obstacles in the path of ethnic minorities searching for top jobs, places in top universities, homes or puts them at risk of racial profiling, by newspapers or by the police.

In football, it runs on a similar course. People will condemn Chelsea supporters pushing a black man off a train or comments made by Dave Whelan but be less prepared to accept the role of racism in explaining the lack of managers.

Somehow, four black managers out of 92 doesn’t feel a little out of place. There is nothing alarming about those statistics.

These people will never say white people are biologically superior to BME people yet every defence of this status quo seems to be saying just that, that somehow white managers are just better than black managers.

It’s why they reject the Rooney Rule which indicates that BME individuals must at the very least be interviewed in promotion of diversity.

This is about a fairer and more equal environment but to those with privilege, equality can feel like a nightmare, some form of oppression that is asking them to step down rather than actually make space without having to concede anything.

It’s the same rhetoric spewed whenever people reject quotas in Parliament for having a larger number of female MPs.

Defenders of the unjust status quo make it seem like that female politicians or black managers will be there on the basis of their gender or skin colour rather than merit.

Even though a multicultural society dominated by white men suggests that it’s middle-class white men who are often likelier to succeed purely because of their gender and skin colour.

The point of the Rooney Rule anyway is to ramp up the opportunities for people of different backgrounds.

Diversity is always a rich ingredient for success, by broadening views and unlocking more potential.

It’s about forcing the status quo to recognise BME managers who would be there on merit and not because of their skin.

It’s also about encouraging BME individuals to start applying for these positions.

One of the counterweighted arguments by critics of the Rooney Rule is that BME individuals don’t apply anyway.

Maybe they would if they felt they had a chance.