The Premier League has defended itself against accusations it is hindering the appointment of black managers in the English game.
21 Apr 2013 - 11:04 PM  UPDATED 22 Apr 2013 - 1:07 PM

Cyrus Mehri, the New York lawyer who created the 'Rooney Rule' in American Football - which enforces the inclusion of a black candidate for every coaching vacancy - hit out at the governing body on Saturday.

Mehri claimed the Premier League had shown 'deliberate ignorance' over the issue and lacked leadership.

However, the Premier League responded to the allegations and said it takes issues of equality very seriously.

A spokesperson for the Premier League said: "We have a proven track record in addressing this area, as well as providing best practice employment guidelines to ensure our clubs not only meet legislative requirements, but surpass them, too.

"The clubs employ on merit only. Their players, coaches and managers are from diverse geographical, cultural and racial backgrounds.

"Where the English game as a whole needs to work harder is ensuring that there are more qualified coaches, from all backgrounds, feeding into the system and progressing to the highest level.

"One thing is for sure, that clubs in the Premier League and Football League will always seek to employ the best possible talent."

There is currently only one black manager in the Premier League,
Chris Hughton at Norwich, and five in total at English football's 92 professional clubs.

The Rooney Rule, which was brought into operation in the NFL 10 years ago and is named after
Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise and chairman of the league's diversity committee, exists to ensure coaches from ethnic minorities progress to the top managerial level in gridiron's elite competition.

Mehri, who visited the UK to advise leading figures in English football about the initiative, said the Premier League is a major stumbling block to bringing something similar into action in this country.

"The NFL showed leadership over this issue, so I was expecting the same from the Premier League when I first came over two years ago. I have to say I was deeply disappointed," Mehri told the Daily Mail.

"They showed what I would call deliberate ignorance. They didn't really try to inquire what it was about. Their view was, "This can't work in the UK."

The Football League is currently investigating new measures to increase the number of ethnic minority managers within its 72 member clubs, which has the backing of the Professional Footballers' Association.