The head of Fifa’s anti-racism task force has said that discrimination in English football is “right in front of your face” and backed calls for the introduction of the Rooney Rule.
Jeffrey Webb, the Concacaf president and Fifa vice-president, said the lack of black and ethnic minority figures in the dugout and the boardroom was overt but that no one wanted to deal with the problem.
The Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor recently said that racism was a “hidden problem” in English football, making his own call for the Rooney Rule to be introduced.
Webb responded: “I don’t know how it could be hidden. You have 92 clubs, you have two coaches of colour. How many board members or executives are in various club positions or at the FA, in Uefa? So, it’s not hidden.
“It’s hidden from a discussion standpoint. No-one wants to deal with it. No-one wants to deal with it from a commercial standpoint.”
Webb said that he had recently spoken to Eddie Newton, the Chelsea youth coach who has been linked with a move to Schalke 04 with Roberto Di Matteo, who had described his frustration at being unable to secure an interview.
“I hosted a dinner a few months ago, last time I was here. I met a young guy coaching at Chelsea, assistant coach, won a Champions League final, doing well,” said Webb.
“Can’t even get an interview. Eddie Newton. I’m not talking about getting a job, getting an interview. That’s not hidden. That’s right in front of your face.”
Taylor’s intervention kicked off a renewed debate within English football about whether the Rooney Rule should be introduced.
The Kick It Out trustee Garth Crooks hit out at the Football League chairman Greg Clarke for not raising the issue at their summer meeting, while the Football Association and the Premier League have also faced questions over their stance on the issue.
Webb said the Rooney Rule, which would force clubs to ensure that at least one person from a BME background was included on each interview list, should not be necessary in the modern age, but it was.
“In this day and time, in this era, in this century, should we really be having to mandate opportunities for qualified individuals? Sadly, the answer is yes.”
Webb said the pressure for change needed to come from club owners and from fans.
“It has to come within. It has to come from the clubs. It has to start with clubs. It has to start with ownership,” he said. “And, of course, the fans have to demand that there is opportunity, that there is equality. And, unless we have that, don’t expect any changes.
“How many American owners do we have from English Premier League clubs in the UK? So, why have certain standards here and then, of course, in the US, in the NFL leagues, where you live, where you conduct business, you live by different standards?”
Webb also said that Fifa faced a “huge, huge challenge with Russia” ahead of the 2018 World Cup given the prevalence of racism in football there and said that action “must start with education, must come from the top down”. – The Guardian