CHANCE TO JOIN MARCUS & CO IS COMING
WHEN Marcus Bignot was appointed Grimsby Town manager in November, he became just the third black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) boss in the EFL – joining Chris Hughton and Keith Curle.
Figures compiled by Loughborough University earlier this season showed that the percentage of BAME coaches in senior positions is only 4.1 per cent.
Yet former Football League stalwart and the FA’s current coach inclusion and diversity manager, Wayne Allison, is convinced the positive work going on at grassroots level will soon improve those numbers.
The FA are providing 200 bursaries per year, for the next five years, as a contribution to candidates taking their Level 3 (UEFA B) Coaching qualification – with 100 of those bursaries for BAME males and 100 for females from any background.
Allison also oversees the FA bursary programme that supports coaches in the professional game working towards their Level 4 (UEFA A) and Level 5 (UEFA pro) licences.
But, for the ex-Bristol City, Sheffield United and Chesterfield striker, grassroots holds the key to increasing diversity, alongside the likes of Bignot, Hughton (Brighton) and Curle (Carlisle) in the elite ranks.
“It starts at the grassroots level. We have to build that talent pool,” explained the 48-year-old. “Obviously, we want to address the lack of BAME coaches at the top end, but everyone comes through the grassroots.
“They deserve the opportunity to either be coaching at grassroots or try to bridge that gap to the professional game and take their elite coaching qualifications.
“There’s under-repre- sentation and the lack of a talent pool, so we have to build that. That may take a while, but it’s already started.
“I definitely believe the numbers of BAME Football League coaches will increase over time because we’ve got some fantastic coaches in the system already.
“It’s just a case of providing support, guidance, a bit of mentoring or whatever is needed to give these people the best opportunity.
“We’re supporting prospective coaches financially, but it’s not just financial support that the coaches, male and female, need.
“It’s support in other ways to get these people to employment opportunities. The quality is good already, so in four or five years it will be even better.
“A wider, better-quality pool to choose from will help and it’s only a matter of time. It’s really positive at the moment and long may it continue.”
The FA are also running a mentorship programme, where four mentees spend 12 months working with their technical coaching department, which includes opportunities to shadow the international age-group coaches.
To try to increase the number of BAME employees in the Football League, the EFL introduced mandatory new recruitment practices for coaching positions in academy football at the start of the season. Clubs now have to include one suitably-qualified BAME candidate on their interview shortlist. Additionally, ten clubs – Birmingham, Fulham, Huddersfield, Wolves, Chesterfield, Coventry, Millwall, Peterborough, Accrington and Carlisle – are piloting a Voluntary Recruitment Code, which extends those requirements to first-team roles.
The man who was nicknamed ‘the chief ’ during his playing days is hopeful these measures can move football towards more accurately reflecting society when it comes to diversity.
“It’s about positive action. That’s what we’re trying to drive and that’s what the Voluntary Recruitment Code is all about,” added Allison. “We talk about coaching, and things will evolve, but it’s about all employment opportunities within the game. There are thousands of opportunities where we can improve the under-representation.
“There’s a lot of support staff, for example, where the Voluntary Recruitment will help in addressing that, not just in coaching. Football has to reflect society.
“We can always sit back and bemoan that this or that isn’t happening but we have to do something about it. That’s what we’re trying to do and early indications are positive.”
PROGRESS: Wayne Allison, then with Tranmere, says more black coaches are in the wings
OPPORTUNITY: Marcus Bignot