There is much talk within the game, particularly from black ex-players, that there is discrimination and prejudice against them, and that is why they are not offered similar management positions within the English Football League and, including, the Premier League.
English football has always had a problem with not appointing enough black managers. There are currently just three in the 92 first-team jobs in the professional game: Chris Hughton at Brighton and Hove Albion, Marcus Bignot (former right-back/midfielder) at Grimsby Town and Keith Curle (former defender and club captain) at Carlisle United.
However, there may be more here than meets the eye.
Some twenty years ago, I came across a theory on ‘stacking’ in the sport. Stacking is the placing of players within sport into certain positions based on a conscious or unconscious bias or prejudice. In its essence, a black player might be looked upon as physically strong and fast, and thus, at the start of their career, as a young player, they would typically be placed in wide (fast) or forward (strong) positions on the field. White players were favoured in positions where; intelligence’ and ‘; leadership qualities were more valued (e.g. central midfield positions).
What does this have to do with management? Quite simple. By being placed in positions of leadership and decision-making, a midfield player would develop those qualities over the years. Imagine a young 12-year player coming to a club and being stereotyped and placed in a position that he has developed over ten years. The central midfield-positioned player would have grown much stronger leadership skills. Many managers do come from central midfield positions (how many goalkeepers or centre-forwards do you know that become managers?). Therefore, there will be a bias at the end of a player’s career based on those qualities developed over many years.
So it is highly likely, although by no means exclusive, that the bias against black players started long before they wanted to enter management. Many are fighting a losing battle based on the stacking much earlier in their career.
Look at Patrick Viera and Paul Ince; both did become managers and have had a certain amount of success. Both are central midfield positions. Chris Hughton is an exception, but he has served his time and then some developing his management skills. I used to work for Spurs and saw him work through the youth team, become assistant to other first-team managers, and continue to develop a successful career with two promotions from the Championship (Newcastle and Brighton) to the Premier League. His work ethic, by the way, is phenomenal.
Racial stacking in sports is not a new phenomenon. It is prevalent in many sports and has been taking place for many decades. So the basic premise, although changing too slowly, is that whites are commonly thought of as smarter and more intelligent than Blacks and thus pushed to play positions like centre-midfield in football, quarterback and centre in American football, and pitcher and catcher in baseball. These positions are commonly associated with requiring intelligence and quick decision-making. On the other hand, blacks are often pushed to play positions like a centre forward or wide in football, running back, wide receiver, and defensive back in American football because these positions are commonly thought of as reactionary positions and require greater athleticism.
The proportion of British Premier League players from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds has doubled since the 1992-93 season. The percentage of BAME players was 33 per cent on the opening day of 2017-18, compared to 16.5 per cent 25 years ago. Compare this to the percentage of black managers at only 3%.
At the start of the 2014 season, NFL surveys revealed that the league was approximately 68% African-American and about 28% white, with the remaining 4% comprising Asian/Pacific Islanders, non-white Hispanics, and those preferring a Mixed Race category. Only 20% of the quarterbacks were black. “Blacks athletes are prey to a fallacious logic that runs something like this: Physical ability and smarts are inversely proportional, and since blacks are more naturally athletic than whites, blacks are less intelligent,” explained sports analyst Jon Entine. (Entine, 1) Despite numerous studies that have shown blacks and whites are equally athletic, blacks are still commonly associated with being of superior athletic ability
Listen to the interview with James O’Brien on LBC CLICK HERE