What is the Rooney Rule and why have EFL clubs adopted it?

The English Football League’s 72 sides will pilot the code from 1 January

Nuno Espirito Santo Wolves head coach
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ head coach Nuno Espirito Santo
(Image credit: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Clubs from the English Football League will adopt the so-called Rooney Rule from 1 January in a bid to increase the number of managers and coaches from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME).

The Times reports that all 72 EFL clubs have agreed to follow a voluntary Rooney Rule pilot scheme for an 18-month period. The move follows a trial of the code by ten clubs last season.

Under the scheme, all clubs will interview at least one BAME candidate for first-team manager or coaching jobs. The pilot of the rule will continue until the end of the 2019 season, when it will be reviewed by the EFL.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Here we look at the Rooney Rule and how it works.

What is the Rooney Rule?

Named after the late Dan Rooney, former owner of American football team the Pittsburgh Steelers, the code of conduct was introduced by America’s National Football League (NFL) in 2003. It requires every NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate when filling head coaching vacancies.

How will it work for EFL clubs?

The pilot scheme will run from 1 January until the end of the 2019 season. According to the BBC, EFL clubs “will interview one or more BAME coach during any recruitment process”, although they will still be able to make appointments without holding interviews.

Has the Rooney Rule been used before in the Football League?

Last season ten EFL clubs extended the use of the code to include their first teams as well as their academies. Only two BAME coaches were interviewed for first-team positions, however, says The Times.

Why is the Rooney Rule being introduced in the EFL?

There have long been concerns over the lack of BAME coaches and managers in English football. A new study by the Sports Person’s Think Tank found that there are only 22 BAME coaches out of a possible 482 “top” coaching positions at professional clubs in England. That equates to less than 5% - even though up to 30% of professional players come from BAME backgrounds.

What has been said about the EFL’s Rooney Rule pilot scheme?

Annoucing the scheme, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “We acknowledge that some would like to see us go further and move faster, but the priority, at this time, has to be to understand whether a code of this type is capable of delivering the positive results that everyone in the game is seeking. By supporting the extension of our positive action measures, EFL clubs are leading the way to address the under-representation of BAME managers and coaches in professional football. Having operated such measures in both academy and first-team football over a whole season, we believe that this approach has the potential to deliver the right outcomes if operated by all clubs over a period of time.”

However, the chairman of the Kick It Out anti-discrimination campaign, Lord Ouseley, is calling for tougher measures. He said: “We are pleased that the code is being expanded to all 72 clubs, but it is clear that the EFL’s voluntary recruitment code pilot in 2016-17 did not yield the results that many hoped it would. We firmly believe that the threat of sanctions is now required for the EFL’s recruitment code to succeed.”

Who are the BAME coaches and managers in the EFL?

According to the BBC, the current BAME managers and coaches in the league are:

  • First-team managers: Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves), Keith Curle (Carlisle), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Northampton), Jack Lester (Chesterfield)
  • First-team assistant/coach: Terry Connor (Ipswich), Curtis Fleming (QPR), Chris Allen (Oxford United), Said Bakkati (Reading)
  • U-21/ U-23 squad coach: Jason Euell (Charlton), Paul Hall (QPR)
  • U-18 squad coach: Paul Furlong (QPR), Michael Gilkes (Reading)
  • Youth academy director: Jon de Souza (Colchester), Sevvy Aslam (Port Vale), Antoine Thompson (Cheltenham Town)

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.