In November 2018, Sol Campbell was appointed as manager of Macclesfield Town, taking the number of BAME managers in English football’s top four divisions to eight. However, with the announcement of Chris Hughton’s sacking by Brighton last week, that figure has been halved in the space of eight months. In the top three divisions, there is just one manager from an ethnic minority background.
The Rooney Rule, which states clubs have to interview at least one managerial candidate from an ethnic minority background, has been introduced by the EFL in an attempt to offer more opportunities for BAME managers. But the figures suggest very little has changed. According to a 2017 talkSport report, 33% of players in the Premier League are from a BAME background. With just over 4% of managers in the football league coming from an ethnic minority background, this is hugely disproportionate.
Eight become four
Shortly after Campbell’s appointment, Jos Luhakay of Sheffeld Wednesday was the first BAME managerial casualty. Luhakey won just 16 of his 49 games in the Hillsborough hot seat. However, his time in charge was blighted by off-field struggles. Languishing in lower mid-table was deemed below par for a club of Wednesday’s stature and Luhakay was dismissed in December.
The controversial sacking of Darren Moore followed three months later. Moore was put in temporary charge of West Brom in April 2018, with the midlands outfit marooned at the bottom of the Premier League. The appointment made Moore the first Jamaican to manage in the top flight. Although unable to prevent an inevitable relegation, he impressed in his short stint in the dugout, and was given the job permanently. A thrilling 4-3 win over eventual league champions Norwich and a 7-1 demolition of QPR were the highlights in West Brom’s strong start to the Championship season. But back to back defeats against fellow promotion chasers Sheffield United and Leeds, followed by a draw with lowly Ipswich, dented their automatic promotion chances. Despite sitting comfortably in the playoff positions, Moore’s tenure was abruptly ended. James Shan was drafted in as caretaker manager, no apparent replacement lined up.
This was swiftly followed by Southend’s sacking of Chris Powell. The former Charlton boss spent six years at Southend as a player and was held in high esteem by fans, particularly after helping them avoid the drop the previous season. But a run of no wins in 11 games and a slide towards the League One relegation zone saw Powell relieved of his duties after a little over a year in the job.
And then there were four
Chris Hughton’s sacking confirmed the 50% drop in BAME managers in an eight-month period. Hughton had worked wonders at Brighton, taking them from 21st in the Championship to the Premier League within two and a half years. In Hughton’s first full season in charge, the Seagulls agonisingly missed out on promotion on goal difference. While other teams could have suffered a heartache hangover, Brighton regrouped and secured automatic promotion the following year. But after comfortably reaching the 40 point mark in their first season in the Premier League, and a promising start to their second top flight campaign, the Seagulls stagnated. A run of three wins from 23 league games in the second half of the season jeopardised their Premier League status.
Brighton stayed up, just, but their points total of 36 means their survival was more a result of their rivals lack of quality than any success on Brighton’s behalf. Within 24 hours of the Premier League season concluding, Hughton paid the price for the Seagull’s cautious approach and absence of attacking flair. He joins Tony Pulis, Mick McCarthy and Sam Allardyce in the bracket of successful managers dismissed for their failure to entertain.
However, considerably bigger clubs than Brighton have been relegated from the Premier League in recent years. On top of transforming the club, Hughton has kept them in the division for a second consecutive season and reached an FA Cup semi-final. Hughton has every right to feel hard done by.
Hughton harshly fired once more
Unfair dismissal is a common trend in Hughton’s managerial career. After rejuvenating a Newcastle side left dejected by a disastrous relegation, he guided the Magpies back to the Premier League in style, losing just four games as Newcastle sealed the Championship title. But he was sacked that December, the club sitting 11th in the Premier League, much to the dismay of fans and players alike.
A similar pattern followed at Norwich. In his first season, Hughton led Norwich to an 11th place finish in the Premier League. He was bizarrely sacked the following April with just five games remaining and Norwich five points clear of the relegation zone. Norwich went on to be relegated. For a successful and hugely likable manager to be consistently treated in the manner that Hughton has appears unjust.
Brighton’s decision, generally unpopular amongst Brighton fans, leaves the number of BAME managers in the top four divisions of English football at just four. Nuno Santo of Wolves is now the sole BAME managerial representative in England’s top three leagues.
Along with Santo, Keith Curle of Northampton, Dino Maamria of Stevenage and Sol Campbell of Macclesfield are the remaining managers from minority ethnic backgrounds, all plying their trade in League Two.
Campbell forced to start at the bottom
Campbell himself has been vocal about the lack of BAME managerial opportunities. This is particularly evident when comparing Campbell to his former teammates from England’s Golden Generation. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard waltzed into high profile jobs as first choice appointments at Rangers and Derby County, while Campbell was parachuted in midway through the season to Macclesfield Town, rooted to the bottom rung of the football ladder. Campbell kept the Silkmen up against all the odds, but the question remains why a player who enjoyed such a glittering playing career had to drop to the basement of the football league for employment.
Upon taking the Macclesfield job, Campbell trod the same path former teammate Paul Ince had 12 years previously. Like Campbell, despite achieving substantial success as a player, Ince was forced to begin his managerial career rock bottom of the football league. In comparison, fellow members of the Euro 96 squad that Campbell and Ince were both a part of have been offered considerably more glamorous managerial debuts; Gary Neville at Valencia, Stuart Pearce at Manchester City, Alan Shearer at Newcastle, Phil Neville with England Women and of course Gareth Southgate, whose first managerial job ended in relegation from the Premier League with Middlesborough, but was followed by appointment into the England setup. A far cry from fighting relegation to the Conference with Macclesfield Town.
Sterling speaks out
Raheem Sterling has echoed Campbell’s sentiments and concerns. The Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year called for greater ethnic diversity amongst leadership figures in football, extending beyond managerial and coaching staff to boardroom directors. If there is diversity at the very top, this will filter down and be reflected by diversity in the dugout. As we have been accustomed with Sterling, every point he made was articulate, intelligent and thought provoking. But will any of his suggestions be implemented?
Danny Rose, a pioneering figure alongside Sterling for speaking frankly and honestly about football’s racism problem, recently stated he has no intention of remaining in the game post-retirement. The racist abuse he has suffered and the failure to combat it has left Rose fed up, worn out and adamant that he wants out of the sport he once loved.
With bright, outspoken BAME players like Rose not attracted by the prospect of management because of how they have been treated by football, and with Hughton’s sacking leaving an ever decreasing number of BAME managerial role models at the top level, will the number of ethnic minority managers in English football forever remain in single figures?