The Football Association’s chief executive, Martin Glenn, suggested female footballers may be less tolerant of “banter” than their male counterparts on the day the governing body announced plans to adopt the “Rooney rule” in an attempt to improve inclusivity in the sport.
Glenn confirmed at least one BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) candidate will be interviewed to be the next England manager after Gareth Southgate. However, when outlining an action plan on “enhancing the culture around the women’s senior team” following a bruising six months for the governing body and its senior executives, Glenn risked drawing further criticism by asserting there is a gender divide around acceptable interaction between players and management staff.
The FA is trying to rebuild its reputation after the Eniola Aluko crisis. Glenn insisted he was not referring to alleged racist remarks made to Aluko by the former England manager Mark Sampson, which he judges to be much more serious.
But he said: “I think culturally what women will be prepared to put up with has been a bit different from guys.”
Asked to explain what he meant, Glenn added: “I guess banter would be a case in point. Now our grievance and whistle-blowing procedures are common across men’s and women’s teams. Our coaching guidelines are common across men’s and women’s teams. But I think it’s fair to say from what we’ve seen is there are probably some differences in what they would expect to hear or say.”
Under the Rooney rule initiative, a BAME candidate will be interviewed for all England coaching jobs in the future to follow the Football League’s announcement that it would be adopting a similar pilot scheme.
There are only five BAME coaches across the 92 clubs in the pyramid, with Brighton’s Chris Hughton the only BAME manager in the Premier League. In November Sports People’s Think Tank said only 22 of 482 coaching roles in the top four divisions were held by BAME coaches.
The Premier League has no plan in place to implement the Rooney rule but Glenn said he hoped it would have a trickle down effect. The rule is named after the late Dan Rooney, the former owner of the American football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was adopted across the NFL before spreading to sports around the world.