‘Being a black manager is poisoned chalice’: Former Wimbledon coach Paul Mortimer attacks football’s decision makers

There are 92 managers striding up and down the sidelines, shouting tactical advice and disputing referees’ decisions in the Premier League and Football League.

All of them are surrounded by coaching staff and desperate to secure a win.

Just three are black.

Before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was appointed manager of Burton Albion, Lambeth-born Huddersfield boss Chris Powell and Keith Curle of Carlisle were the only black managers in the Football League.

There are none in the Premier League.

It’s a startling statistic which highlights the lack of diversity within positions of power in Britain’s biggest sport.

Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor recently described football as having a ‘hidden resistance’ to black managers.

Ex-Wimbledon coach Paul Mortimer, who is Kick it Out’s Professional Player engagement manager, agrees with Taylor.

He told South West Londoner: “Statistics tell you there most definitely is a hidden resistance to black coaches and ethnic minorities.

“Paul Lambert is viewed as a manager – Chris Powell is viewed as a black manager.”

But Mortimer believes the lack of black managers is just the tip of a very large iceberg in a sport which he deems to be an unequal opportunity employer.

Around 30% of players in the professional game are non-white, yet this is not reflected in the senior positions of football.

Mortimer partly attributes this inequality to a form of ignorance and the perception people have of black managers.

The ex-Wimbledon coach said the lack of opportunities presented to black managers is a result of football’s ‘decision makers’ who hold outdated views and aren’t used to seeing black people in positions of power.

He spoke about football being an institution run by middle-aged white people from a different era and stressed the importance of challenging the mindsets of decision makers.

These ‘outdated views’ are perpetuated in the lack of diversity when recruiting managers, something that Mortimer reveals he experienced first hand.

After a playing career he turned his attention to coaching but claims he was overlooked on three occasions.

Mortimer, who has had coaching roles at Wimbledon and Chelsea among others, explained how at times people with fewer credentials and experience than him would be appointed.

Based on his experiences he believes football clubs couldn’t tell him the truth and as a result started to doubt his own abilities.

“I don’t want to say it’s because I’m a black man but what else can I say?” he said.

There is inevitably an unfair burden on black managers as they are expected to tackle this inequality while carrying out their duties as football club manager where there is an added pressure to be successful.

Mortimer explained: “Being a black manager is something of a poisoned chalice, you have to be successful – you can’t become one of the statistics.”

There’s been a lot of debate in recent months on the matter with strong calls for the ‘Rooney Rule’ to be introduced to increase opportunities for black managers.

This would ensure black and ethnic minority candidates are appropriately represented in the recruitment process.

The rule, first seen in American football, has been credited with an increase in black coaches being hired in the NFL.

Mortimer believes the rule would be great if everyone embraced it in the way the US has but doubts whether it would be introduced.

He said: “Instead of dancing around the topic, the authorities need to grab hold of the issue by the throat and confront it.”

Image courtesy of Open Society Foundations via YouTube, with thanks

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