ECB accused of ignoring Rooney Rule in elite coaching appointment


The ECB has been accused of “failing to adopt their own policies” on inclusion and diversity after they made a high-profile coaching appointment without advertising the role.

The ECB announced on Monday that Richard Dawson, currently the head coach at Gloucestershire, would be the new Elite Performance Pathway Coach alongside three other specialist coaching positions.

But while the vacancies for a spin bowling, seam bowling and batting coach (subsequently filled by Jeetan Patel, Jon Lewis and Marcus Trescothick respectively) were all advertised, the pathway role was not.

This would appear to go against the ECB’s own announcement, in July 2020, that they were “recommending the adoption of the Rooney Rule for all coaching roles across the game”. Named in recognition of Dan Rooney, a former chair of the NFL’s diversity committee, the Rule demands that a non-white candidate be interviewed for every senior coaching role.

It was introduced in the US to tackle the issue of exclusion and had been publically adopted by the ECB in the aftermath of the growing appreciation of the game’s struggle to achieve appropriate levels of diversity across playing, coaching and administrative positions.

But with the pathway role filled without a specific interview process, there was no opportunity to interview candidates of any ethnicity before the appointment. And that, some claim, amounts to a failure by the ECB to implement their own inclusivity and diversity agenda.

“It is quite unbelievable that the ECB are failing to adopt their own policies,” Ismail Dawood, the former umpire who is currently pursuing a discrimination claim against the board, told ESPNcricinfo. “Richard Dawson is an excellent coach. With his holistic approach, he has done a fantastic job in developing a successful team of cricketers and men. I’m sure he will be a great success with the Young Lions team.

“The ECB, on the other hand, seem to be a law unto themselves, implementing knee-jerk policies but not following them through eight months later. Cronyism and institutional racism, both historical and active, have been highlighted over the past 12 months, with many in the game speaking out.”

While accepting that the specific role was not advertised, the ECB insist the recruitment process was thorough and fair. A spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo that the vacancy only came about after Lewis, the previous pathway coach, was given the role of elite seam bowling coach. With many other candidates having been interviewed – and around 30 percent of the candidates short-listed for interview having been non-white – the ECB felt they had explored the talent pool available to them and were well placed to make the appointment.

They also point out that the interview panels were diverse both in terms of gender and ethnicity (the process was headed by the ECB Performance Director, Mo Bobat, who is a British Asian from a state-school background), and that one of the coaches appointed was non-white.

While the ECB would not confirm that Dawson was interviewed for the spin bowling position, it seems safe to assume he was and that he made a strong impression. Having narrowly missed out to Patel for the spin job, it seems the ECB felt he was the perfect man to replace Lewis.

Criticism of the ECB on the issue is not limited to issues around diversity and inclusion. Toby Radford, batting coach of West Indies when they defeated England in 2019, also makes the point that, by not advertising the specific role, the ECB limited the field of candidates. In particular, he argues that interviewing for specialised roles and then appointing a more general coach makes little sense.

“I am disappointed that the ECB has appointed an important national coaching role without advertising or interviewing specifically for it,” Radford told ESPNcricinfo.

“I am sure that many high quality international coaches with substantial experience and knowledge would have jumped at the chance to go for this job if they had known that it existed.”

Other coaches with views similar to Radford or Dawood shared their views with ESPNcricinfo but were reluctant to do so on the record in case it jeopardised future employment opportunities. One of them, a former first-class player with a Level 4 coaching qualification, dismissed the ECB’s statements on inclusion and diversity as “nothing but fluff and politically correct statements”.

“These actions seem reminiscent of the similar systematic failings by the ECB in adopting any of the recommendations of the 1998 race review they commissioned,” Dawood added, referring to a previous review into inclusion issues which he claims was not actioned.

Meanwhile the ECB have confirmed that Jonathan Trott, who has been the batting consultant with the England Test team in India during the Test series, will stay on to fill in for Trescothick who was due to join the tour ahead of the limited-overs games. Trescothick has recently suffered a family bereavement.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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