The Football Association tried to impose an unofficial quota system on the number of black players an England manager should be allowed to use, according to a new book about racism within the sport.
Pitch Black, written by Emy Onuora, includes a passage in which an anti-racism in football campaigner claims Graham Taylor admitted to him he had been summoned by two members of the FA’s hierarchy and told “in no uncertain terms” he should not go beyond a certain limit.
There is absolutely no suggestion that Taylor, with a long history of working with some of England’s leading black players over the past 30 years, adhered to this policy but the book recounts him saying there were senior figures trying to put pressure on him to keep the team predominantly white.
Taylor is said to have revealed this during a function at Watford’s ground during the 1999-2000 season when Richie Moran was the guest speaker. Moran, a Birmingham City player in the 1990s who eventually quit the game because of the racial abuse he suffered, recalls in the book: “Graham Taylor came up to me and said: ‘Look, I’m going to tell you something … I’m never going to admit it, I will be sued for libel.’ He said: ‘When I was manager of England I was called in by two members of the FA, who I won’t name …’ I volunteered two names. He said: ‘I’m not prepared to say, but I was told in no uncertain terms not to pick too many black players for the national side.’”
This also ties in with a Kick It Out function on its 10th anniversary in 2004, attended by Taylor, when it was reported a former England manager had revealed the same conversation to other guests but declined to go public. The Guardian has spoken to one of the event’s organisers, another senior figure in football-related race issues, who said he could confirm Taylor was the manager quoted.
Taylor has been made aware of the book and told the Guardian he could not specifically remember the conversation with Moran. “That is not me trying to evade it – and it also doesn’t mean I didn’t say it – but if anyone looks at my record with club and country it would be obvious to everyone anyway that I didn’t follow what was apparently said. If anyone looks at my record, I could never be accused of blocking the way for any black player.”
However, Taylor later went on BBC Radio Five Live and said: “Certainly never during my time at the Football Association I had no FA people coming up to me and telling me which team to pick and to pick less black players. I would have remembered that.
“I have no memory of that conversation (with Moran). There certainly was an event at Watford. I can remember that, but I certainly have no memory of a conversation about black players.
“They’ve gone ahead – as I understand it, what I’ve said to them privately has just got out. Or what I’m accused of saying to them privately, which I deny and can’t remember it, they’ve gone out publicly and said it and yet they’re saying themselves it was said to them privately.
“Oh it’s very private then to publish a book about it, isn’t it? There was never any interruption, there was never anyone coming in and asking, ‘Why have you selected him?’ I never had any problems regarding team selection concerning black players from the Football Association.
“I’m going to have to take some form of legal advice here. To have my name linked into this kind of thing is totally wrong.”
Moran, speaking to the Guardian on Wednesday night, refuted Taylor’s denials. “I have a very vivid memory of the conversation. My then girlfriend said to me after he’d told me ‘who was that?’. I said: ‘it’s the former England manager!’ . She said: ‘Well why did he tell you that then?’.
“I’ve mentioned it on numerous occasions, and I’ve even had a cease and desist letter, I think seven years ago, from the FA. But I’m happy for them to sue me for two reasons. One: I don’t have any personal assets for them to take. And two: I’m telling the truth.
“I’m not saying for one moment that Graham Taylor had any intentions … all I’m saying is that that is a conversation I had with him. I have no reason to make it up.”
Onuora’s book, officially launched on Friday, makes the same point – that there is no claim that Taylor acted upon any pressure – but the allegations do potentially raise serious questions about the attitudes of some FA figures during a period of the game – Taylor managed England from 1990 to 1993 – when the sport was supposed to be leaving behind the more obvious elements of racism from previous decades. The FA has been notified about the claim and chosen not to comment. No members of the current FA board were in charge at the time of the allegation.
Onuora, whose brother Iffy was a striker for nine professional clubs and later managed the Ethiopia national team, has a masters degree in ethnic studies and race relations and has lectured extensively on issues of race and sport. His analysis is that Taylor is unlikely to be the first England manager to have been given these instructions in the past.
“Moran’s revelation reveals that the FA’s primary concern was to preserve a predominantly white image of the England team, an image that they themselves had constructed and took great steps to preserve,” the author writes.
“There is no question of Taylor having acted on those instructions, but the episode raises some important questions as to how many other England managers were given the same instructions and therefore felt pressurised to limit the numbers of black players selected to play for the national side.
“During his playing career, Paul Davis had wondered whether some kind of unofficial quota system was in operation, but had never considered it beyond mere speculation. It would raise the question of how many black players had had their chances of playing for England restricted and what impact this might have had on England’s fortunes.”
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