ANDY Preece has supported the introduction of new rules making it a legal requirement for football clubs to interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate for key roles.
The Wingmakers' director of football told Dave Goodban of the Flintshire Chronicle he sees no reason to oppose the ‘Rooney Rule’ in British football - and said he believes there is still racial discrimination in the boardrooms of some professional clubs.
Preece spoke out after Football League chairman Greg Clarke announced a review into the under-representation of ethnic minority managers and coaches.
"The percentages don’t add up for some reason, whatever that is. It’s impossible to say why, because no-one’s ever going to come out and say they’re not hiring someone because he’s black," said the 47-year-old, who had successful spells at Bury, Worcester City and Northwich Victoria before joining Airbus in January 2012.
The Rooney Rule was established in 2003 by Dan Rooney, owner of American football side the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the NFL’s diversity committee. It stipulates clubs must interview at least one ethnic minority candidate for senior sporting roles.
Preece said: "I don’t understand the opposition to it. Just because you interview a black manager doesn’t mean you have to give him the job. I’d never want to get a job because I’m black, you want it on merit.
"It’s just an opportunity to get in front of a board and put your ideas across. It doesn’t guarantee anything, it just gives you a chance. I don’t see why anyone would be against it. Why would they be? What are they scared of? That worries me.
"I think if more black managers get the chance to get in front of a board, the percentages would go up and it’d be more representative."
During his four years player-manager at Gigg Lane, Preece steered the penniless Shakers to the 2003 Division Three play-offs before the club was forced to let him go. He has since been interviewed for several Football League jobs without success.
"There’s been a number where you look at the club and think ‘it fits, my profile fits the club’ and you don’t even get an interview, and it does get frustrating," he said.
"My record is pretty good when you look at it. I’ve been successful. I’ve had tough jobs, not clubs with loads of money, and I’ve probably got a 50% win ratio over 600-plus games.
"You’ve got to tick all the boxes and make sure there’s no reason for them to ignore you, so it does get to you when you go for an interview and you get great feedback but you don’t get the job, and they can’t tell you why you haven’t got it or what else you could have done.
"You have to keep going – I’m still young and I’m not going to give up.
"I love my job and I’m happy here. It’s a great opportunity at a really well-run club in a competitive league, and you’ve got Europe as the carrot.
"I don’t think I’d move for a job below the Conference, but you obviously want to manage at the highest level you can and I think I’m capable of going higher – I’ve proved I am."
Among the 72 Football League clubs, Chris Powell of Huddersfield and Carlisle’s Keith Curle are the only non-white bosses.
Preece, who will soon get his Uefa Pro Licence, became the first black English manager to lead a side in Europe last year. He concedes it’s ‘impossible to say’ whether he would have had a chance if he was white.
"I wouldn’t like to say I haven’t got a job because of the colour of my skin, but if you look at the overall picture and the numbers then it’s obvious something’s not right," he said.
"In some boardrooms there will be certain people who find it very hard to accept the idea of a black manager, whether it’s a generational thing or the way they’ve been brought up I don’t know.
"You still get some racism on the terraces and in society in general, so it stands to reason it’ll be in boardrooms as well. Most people don’t look twice at a black person these days, but there are some still around that do.
"I said five years ago it might take 20 years to change, so hopefully we’ll see more among in next generation."
[This article appeared in the Flintshire Chronicle, 16 October 2014].