Black football Manager in English football

Black football Manager in English football

The number of black and minority ethnic (BME) managers in Englishprofessional association football, or soccer, has been stable for nearly tenyears: there are usually between two and four (out of a possible ninetytwo). Yet black players regularly make up more than a quarter of professional club squads. The reasons for this apparent under-representa-tion are explored among 1,000 football fans, including players and ex-players, both white and BME. Opinions were solicited via an onlineresearch platform, designed and executed by theauthors. The findings indicate 56 per cent of respondents believe racismoperates at the executive levels of football, i.e. the boardroom. While someaccuse club owners and directors of deliberate discrimination, mostsuspect a form of unwitting or institutional racism in which assumptionsabout black people’s capacities are not analysed and challenged and socontinue to circulate. Among the possible remedies to this is the AmericanNational Football League’s Rooney Rule, which mandates BME candi-dates’ inclusion on shortlists for senior coaching positions. A third of participants in the research approved of this type of initiative. While blackmanagers are scarce when compared to the number of black players inprofessional football, their presence is actually an accurate reflection of their number in the total British population. So is the dearth of blackmanagers an under-representation?

he list of black and ethnic minority managers in English football may be a short one but their history stretches back even beyond the last century. When Arthur Wharton joined the Lancashire League side Stalybridge Rovers in 1895, the Gold Coast-born goalkeeper who had become the first black professional player a decade earlier took his first steps into coaching while continuing to play.

“They were known as Wharton’s Brigade because he was very much in charge,” says Phil Vasili, author of Colouring Over the White Line: the history of black footballers in Britain. “He even helped them to sign Herbert Chapman before falling out with the owners and moving to Ashton North End.”

Chapman went on to win a combined four league titles with Huddersfield and Arsenal and is regarded as one of the most influential coaches in history, but it wasn’t until June 1959 that a Football League club appointed the first BAME manager. Frank Soo, the son of a Chinese father and English mother, was born in Buxton and brought up in Liverpool, going on to make almost 200 appearances for Stoke and representing England during the second world war.

His managerial career began in Finland and took in spells with St Albans City, Padova and the Norway national team before he was named as the Scunthorpe United manager. He earned praise from the future England manager Alf Ramsey having guided them to 15th place in the Second Division but resigned at the end of the season and returned to Scandinavia.