To facilitate this development, the Professional Footballers’ Association has invited the distinguished American lawyer, Cyrus Mehri, one of the driving forces behind the so-called Rooney Rule in the National Football League, to address the Football Association, Premier League, Football League and League Managers Association. Any man who draws inspiration from Bob Dylan and JFK is worth listening to. Mehri is certainly an eloquent and thought-filled speaker. Over coffee in Kensington on Monday, Mehri outlined why English football must change, including more black candidates in the managerial interviewing process, stressing the myriad benefits for all parties of adopting the Rooney Rule. If the FA, for example, agrees to the proposal it would mean a black candidate being invited to join the list of those applying to be Fabio Capello’s successor next year. So for a moment forget Wayne Rooney. The Rooney Rule is named after Dan Rooney, the enlightened owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers who persuaded other NFL clubs to expand their interviewing process in 2003, offering at least a chance for black candidates to present their credentials. The issue of the lack of black head coaches in the NFL had been highlighted in a report that Mehri was involved with.“When we started in 2002, there were one or two black head coaches of the 32 in the NFL,” said Mehri. “Now there are eight. That came about because of the [changed] interview process. The general managers at NFL clubs went from one to five.” This is no mere tokenism; success followed. The 2007 Super Bowl teams, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, had black head coaches (respectively Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith). “That was historic,’’ said Mehri. “I was very proud. That’s a message of hope and empowerment.“The similarity in England now with the US 10 years ago is uncanny. I have no doubt the Rooney Rule can be a big success here. The numbers would go up dramatically. It should help that the Glazers, [Randy] Lerner and [Stan] Kroenke are owners here as they have a positive experience of the Rooney Rule.” He added that there is “an awareness here” that the rarity of black managers “is an embarrassing problem and something has to be done. My message to the Premier League is that if you want to be the best of the best, this professionalises your interviewing process. “The Rooney Rule does not tell you who to hire. It just gets everybody to slow down, don’t put on blinkers, open their mind to a broad slate of candidates, including minority coaching candidates. Instead of taking two days to do the search, it might take two weeks. This Rooney Rule has also helped white coaching candidates who would have been overlooked. Rather than interview one candidate, teams interviewed 10.” Tuesday’s meeting is sure to stir much debate. Pitfalls immediately present themselves. Certain chairmen in the Football League have admitted privately to their concerns of how their club’s fans would react to the installation of a black manager, although the consensus is that supporters are becoming more tolerant. The PFA is encouraged that the Football League is led by a chairman in Greg Clarke who has spoken out on the need for more diverse dugouts.In the Premier League, the possibility of making the interviewing process more open would set alarm bells ringing in many boardrooms. Owners like the interview process to be conducted in secret. Often there is no shortlist as the owner has already targeted the successor before the incumbent is dismissed. If anybody can convince the dysfunctional family of English football to unite on an issue then the charismatic Mehri has a chance. He has not become one of America’s best-known lawyers without taking on difficult cases, notably against Texaco, Coca-Cola and Morgan Stanley. He fought the corporations and won huge settlements for aggrieved employees.The pursuit of justice has long been his life. Mehri’s parents immigrated to the United States from Persia (now Iran) after his mother was accused of making a critical comment about the Shah. “They wanted to live in a free country,’’ he recalled. “The Kennedy-era idealism was all in the household. That gave me my values.’’ Now Mehri has broken off briefly from fighting racial discrimination on Madison Avenue for a flying visit to London to help out the PFA. “I had to take this call from Gordon Taylor [PFA chief executive] ,’’ he added. “This has the potential to create hope for a lot of young people. I kept thinking of the 16 year-olds [going into sports], watching prejudice playing out before their eyes. It’s like putting poison right through society. That demoralises. The Rooney Rule now sends a message. Sixteen-year-olds now have real hope for the future.’’Those whose careers have just ended, like Cole, or will do sooner or later, like Ferdinand, could be the first black players in English football to benefit from the Rooney Rule. “This week we are going to start that path of changing that culture,” added Mehri. “We want to be a catalyst to open up the minds on all sides. We need to create hope that if you are a retired [black] player, you can rise up to the top, that the playing field will be level.”When he walks in to face the power brokers of English football on Tuesday, Mehri will remember the lyrics to The Grain of Sand, one of his favourite Dylan songs. “It is about making the most of your moment in time, about using that grain of sand,’’ said Mehri. “I have been blessed with opportunities that I can be a catalyst for change.” Ferdinand, Cole and company will hope Mehri succeeds.