Premier League

John Salako Backs Rooney Rule in English Football

 • by Ryan Baldi
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Former England winger John Salako believes the number of black and ethnic managers in English football is “massively disproportionate” and supports the introduction of Rooney Rule-style legislature.

The Rooney Rule is a policy which the NFL introduced in 2003, whereby at least one candidate from a minority background must be interviewed by hiring teams for any head coach or senior operational position.

Similar policies have since been adopted by several other sports and there is a growing support for football to follow suit.

“I think we have Chris Hughton, Chris Powell, I can’t think of too many,” the former Crystal Palace and Coventry City player told Football Whispers.

“There should be jobs for ex-players and there should be more jobs held by ethnic or black players. The best candidate should get the job but black and ethnic former players don’t get the interviews.

“In my thinking and experience, there aren’t really people who are deeply racist or have some agenda within clubs but there’s an unconscious bias.


Behind the Lines: John Salako | FWTV by FootballWhispers

“They maybe look at a Bryan Robson or a Steve Bruce – or an ex-Manchester United, ex-Chelsea player that they’ve admired and can relate to – and want to hire them in the role of manager. So hopefully that’s something that will be changed quite quickly.”

Salako feels that there are positive signs of change starting to emerge with a couple of former Arsenal players leading the way for aspiring black managers.

Patrick Vieira is on a ladder [at New York City FC] and Thierry Henry has gone in as Belgium’s assistant, so there are buds there.”

He also believes that there should be more roles with football made available to former players in general.

“When it comes to footballers working in the game but not necessarily in the coaching staff,” Salako said. “Les Ferdinand is the only ex-player who’s working in a director of football-type role.

“There are so many roles in football that should be taken up by ex-players.

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“One of the things that blows me away is that we have an FA that has no ex-players working in it. If you go to Germany, I think 60-70 per cent of their FA is ex-players. It can’t be right.

“The English FA is made up of 90 per cent white, heterosexual males over the age of 60. That in itself will create an unconscious bias.”

Salako is also an advocate of clubs doing more to support the mental wellbeing of their players.

With Aaron Lennon’s struggles making the news earlier this year, a spotlight was shone on the subject.

In the 1990s, Salako saw his dream move to Serie A with Bari scuppered by a double cruciate knee ligament rupture – something he admits he struggled with – and thinks more support should be in place to help players.

“There needs to be help and a better approach,” he said. “There should be a systematic and sympathetic arm that helps to deal with those situations. I think a lot of it is brushed under the carpet and not really talked about.

“A lot of people forget how intense the dressing room is – you really have to be mentally strong.

“You’ve got to have thick skin. I think a lot of guys deal with that tremendously well.

“But the more help you can get from psychologists the better. It’s not something that’s alien, it’s not something that’s foreign. It’s just something that some people have to deal with.”

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