Lined up for today: Raheem Sterling’s Newsnight interview and the lack of Black people in positions of power in football.
Ramble of the Day
As a well known advocate for racial equality, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling made for a good interview on BBC’s Newsnight on Monday. The whole 20 minute interview is worth watching, but one of the main takeaways for me came when Sterling spoke about specifically about football and the lack of opportunities people of color have outside of playing.
His concern, which you may have already heard since it was one of the more discussed notes of his interview:
I can only kind of touch on topics that I see on everyday issues in my field. There’s something like 500 players in the Premier League and only a third of them are Black and we have no representation of us in the hierarchy. No representations of us in the coaching staff. There’s not a lot of faces that we can relate to and have conversations with.
This is a classic case of systemic racism, both in football and outside it. In football, the pool of Black players, percentage wise, tends to be larger than the pool of Black coaches or Black executives — this is also the case for other diverse groups in men’s football. Only one Premier League manager is Black — Nuno Espírito Santo, whose grandfather was from Africa — which does not come close to matching the percentage of Black players in the league. No Premier League clubs have a Black chairperson. No Premier League team is owned by a Black person.
Sterling also focused on managers specifically, and the particular connection between having a professional playing career before heading into management. All of the current Premier League managers have playing experience, some more successful than others. There is clearly a pool of older players and newly retired players that have an interest in coaching and eventually pursue it.
During his Newsnight interview, Sterling named four examples of young coaches in England: Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard. “All had great [playing] careers,” he said. “All played for England, but at the same time, they’ve all respectfully done their coaching badges to coach at the highest level and the two haven’t been given the right opportunities are the two Black former players.”
He, of course, is not the first person to mention it and is not the only one saying it now. Campbell told The Guardian in 2017 about his struggles just to get started as a manager, which provides quite the comparison to Lampard’s and Gerrard’s fairly quick moves to relatively high profile jobs. Rangers’ Jermain Defoe spoke about his perspective as an older player looking to continue a life in football in an interview with Sky Sports:
It’s made me question my life after football. Is it worth me doing my coaching badges? I love football and I’d love to give something back but I question that because all of the players I looked up to as a kid, the black players, they’re not managers and coaches. They’re Premier League legends and they’re not in the game.
A quick look at the issue shows that it is not just an issue of systemic racism, but why representation matters. Right now, two inherently linked pools of talent do not match each other — the top-tier coaching pool is missing the people of color that exist in the playing pool, and probably a number of passionate people outside it. It does require a proper look from those in powerful positions, and as Sterling advocated for multiple times in his Newsnight interview, actual change.
Links of the Day
- Stoke manager Michael O’Neill tested positive for COVID-19.
- France’s Conseil d’État suspended relegation from Ligue 1, saving Amiens and Toulouse from dropping down to Ligue 2.
- Leagues One and Two have ended the 2019-20 season, with the final standings decided by points per game.
Adam Lallana will leave Liverpool on a free at the end of the season.
David Squires covers hypocrisy in football teams’ statements on racism in his latest cartoon
The Utah Royals’ Christen Press will reportedly opt out of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
A longer read: Bria Felicien on the mental and physical health of Black NWSL players as they prepare for the upcoming Challenge Cup during worldwide protests against police brutality for All for XI