All 72 English Football League clubs have agreed to interview at least one black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidate for vacant managerial or first-team coaching jobs, the league has announced.
The decision, which was reached at an extraordinary general meeting on Thursday, is an extension of the trial of a voluntary recruitment code that was piloted by 10 EFL clubs last season.
The new arrangement will come into force on January 1 and last until the end of next season.
The results of last season’s trial were mixed, as the code only applies when the club runs a full recruitment process, meaning boards can still appoint specific individuals without interviewing anybody, and there is no mechanism to measure compliance or sanction those who ignore the code.
That said, the EFL is at least trying to tackle the stark under-representation of BAME coaches and managers in the professional game and already has a mandatory recruitment code that applies to coaching jobs in academies.
As a result of that initiative, qualified BAME coaches have a better than one-in-two chance of being interviewed for an academy job, compared to a one-in-five chance for all applicants, and 11 BAME coaches have been successful in those interviews since the start of last season.
In a statement, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey thanked the clubs for agreeing to the extension and said by doing so they were “leading the way” on improving the game’s diversity and equality of opportunity.
However, progress in this area has been painfully slow, as the publication of the latest research by the Sports People’s Think Tank and the Fare network revealed last week.
Their fourth annual report found that fewer than one in 20 senior jobs in English football are held by BAME coaches, despite BAME players making up more than a quarter of all squads.
This has led most anti-racism campaigners to call for the implementation of a National Football League-style ‘Rooney Rule’, a mandatory commitment to interview BAME candidates with sanctions behind it.
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 voluntary recruitment code of this type is capable of delivering the positive results that everyone in the game is seeking.
“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.
“Once we have the necessary insight and evidence to assess the effectiveness of these arrangements, we will then be in a position to consider our next step on the journey of addressing this issue.”