The English Football League and Wolves have rejected claims that the Championship club twice failed to interview a black, Asian and minority ethnic football candidate for the manager’s job this season.
Wolves are one of 10 EFL clubs that have signed up to a voluntary recruitment code being trialled this year which says they will interview at least one black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidate for every first-team coaching or managerial position.
But on Tuesday a report on the continued under-representation of BAME coaches in English football by the Sports People’s Think Tank (SPTT) singled out Wolves for criticism, saying they had not complied with the code when they hired Walter Zenga and then again when they replaced him with Paul Lambert.
The report also rebuked the authorities for failing to monitor code compliance but a statement from the EFL on Wednesday rejected this.
“Contrary to claims made in the report, Wolves notified the EFL following the recent appointment of Paul Lambert as manager to confirm that the club had complied fully with the code by interviewing at least one BAME candidate during the recruitment process,” it said.
The statement continued by explaining that the EFL asked Wolves about Zenga’s appointment during the summer but the club pointed to the “exceptional circumstances” of its new Chinese owners wanting to hire “a specific manager as part of their plans for the takeover of the club”.
The EFL says it reminded the club of its commitment and received assurances that Wolves “remained committed to the code going forward”, as the club demonstrated after the former Italy goalkeeper was sacked.
Wolves, currently 19th in the Championship, posted their own statement online shortly after the EFL.
It said: “The appointment of Walter Zenga came during exceptional circumstances and time scale during a transition of ownership, and Wolves explained why they didn’t adhere to the EFL’s voluntary recruitment code for BAME coaches.
“As outlined by the EFL, Wolves fully adhered to the voluntary code during the recruitment process resulting in the recent appointment of Paul Lambert.
“Wolves have provided details of the two processes to the EFL as requested, and remain committed to the club’s role as one of the 10 clubs which voluntarily put themselves forward to take part in the BAME recruitment process.”
The club added that they were not contacted by the SPTT while it was compiling its report and said it is “disappointed it has been published containing inaccurate information”.
The EFL statement said it was upset a “material inaccuracy in the report casts a doubt over the integrity of both the EFL and our clubs, who we believe are at the forefront of trying to address the under-representation of BAME managers and coaches in professional football”. It also said it had not been contacted by the report’s authors.
This apparent error by the SPPT, which compiled the report with help from Loughborough University and anti-racism group the FARE Network, is an unfortunate distraction from the important issues it raised.
It found that coaches from BAME backgrounds are still “at a disadvantage” when it comes to getting top coaching or managerial jobs.
Despite the fact that at least a quarter of all professional footballers in England are black, the report has found that only one in 25 managers, assistant managers or senior coaches are from the BAME community – a figure that has not changed over the last two years.
“It remains disappointing to note that since the first report in 2014 the figures have changed very little,” said the report.
“The data continues to show that if you are from a BAME background and aspire to be a manager or coach, you are at a disadvantage.
“Some people might still question why this issue is relevant when ethnic minorities, and the black community in particular, are so successful as players it is surely a matter of time and progression.
“Our findings simply do not back this up. If effective action is not taken we face the same situation in the decades to come.”
There are currently only three clubs in top four divisions with BAME managers – Brighton’s Chris Hughton, Carlisle’s Keith Curle and Grimsby’s Marcus Bignot – and this under-representation continues as you move down the pecking order within clubs, with only 20 BAME coaches holding one of the 500 senior jobs identified by the report.
The SPPT did, however, praise the EFL’s mandatory code for ensuring that BAME coaches are interviewed for academy jobs and the pilot voluntary code for first-team jobs.
The other clubs to sign up to the voluntary code are Accrington, Birmingham, Carlisle, Chesterfield, Coventry, Fulham, Huddersfield, Millwall and Peterborough.