In a new book called Pitch Black, written by Emy Onura, there is a passage in which an anti-racism in football campaigner claims Graham Taylor admitted to him that 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 when picking black players.
There is no suggestion in the book that Taylor agreed to the policy, but the book states at the time that there were senior figures within the FA trying to put pressure on him to keep the team predominantly white.
Richie Moran, a former footballer himself, eventually quit the game due to the racial abuse he suffered and now campaigns against racism in football.
Moran claims he was guest speaking at an event at Watford’s training ground, when Taylor approached him at the end and said:
Look, I’m going to tell you something. I’m never going to admit it, I will be sued for libel. But when I was manager of England I was called in by two members of the FA, who I won’t name. I was told in no uncertain terms not to pick too many black players for the national side.
This ties in with a Kick It Out event on its 10th anniversary in 2004, attended by Taylor. It was reported that a former England manager had disclosed the same conversation to other guests, but refused to go public about it. The Guardian spoke to one of the event’s organisers, another senior figure in football-related race issues, who said Taylor was the manager quoted.
When Taylor was initally made aware of the book he told the Guardian he could not 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, since that conversation, Taylor has publicly denied Moran’s version of events:
I can’t remember everything that happened but I would have remembered being told by the FA not to pick too many black players. If the FA came to me and said ‘Not too many black players,’ well I might have resigned and told the media why.
I never had interference from the FA on any criteria in my team selection. I am very annoyed about it. They did not even have the courtesy to tell me this was in a book. That should makes you suspicious to start with.
Taylor managed England between 1990 and 1993, and is a known anti-racism campaigner. He was one of the few coaches who actually attended their 10th anniversary lunch. He had a close relationship with John Barnes, whom he helped develop at Watford, and as England manager, he twice selected six black players in his squads and used at least one in each of his 38 starting line-ups.