Diversity and Inclusion are at the top of many industries priorities at the moment, with companies looking for ways to undo generations of disparity among their staff. Football is no different and in 2018, The PFA launched a three-year programme placing BAME football coaches across all England teams, in conjunction with the FA. The scheme was designed to increase visibility of elite BAME coaches, further their progression in the game and address the imbalance of BAME representation off the field.
Iffy Onuora is a seasoned coach and ex-Huddersfield Town player, who took part in the inaugural programme. Now a regional coach educator at the PFA, Iffy took some time to tell us more about his experience.
Iffy, how did you get involved with the BAME coaching placement programme?
I was aware of the scheme as it was a PFA-led initative and I knew the England Under-21 manager, Aidy Boothroyd, from my time at Huddersfield. Aidy was mindful of making sure that the participants of the scheme were credible and experienced, and he knew me and was comfortable with me being around his squad. I was part of the set up last summer, and it was a really enjoyable experience to see the team succeed in Toulon and win the tournament.
Why is a programme like this so important?
The BAME presence across all age groups of our national teams isn’t being reflected in the wider landscape of coaching. When I attended coaching conferences, a black face would be few and far between and that hasn’t changed significantly enough over the years I’ve been in this space. This programme is about getting experienced people the visibility they need and gaining some valuable input from their time spent across the age groups. It’s great for the coaches and especially for young BAME players who may aspire to become coaches one day. Even at big clubs, they may only have access to a handful of BAME coaching role models so I think it’s important to have that level of elite representation for them.
What will this extra visibility mean for BAME players?
You’re looking for players to be well rounded, not just as footballers. As young people - and for what they aspire to be in society - Football is a great vehicle to express talent. To see other people who look like them being part of that picture is vital. It’s important to set examples, make sure they have someone to look up to, and give real projection of opportunity to young players.
What does this programme hope to achieve?
The biggest impediment for gaining more high-level BAME coaches is possibly down to experience, as nobody wants to take a chance on inexperience. You will usually find budding coaches gaining the relevant experience in the lower divisions, so you’d like to think BAME coaches get more chances there - but even then the numbers don’t stack up. Through this placement, we’re trying to give coaches the experience that says they’ve spent time around the England setup and really know their way around, which they can then add to their CV and boost their employability in the future.
What changes around representation would you like to see in coaching?
Following PFA lobbying, the EFL launched a pilot scheme involving 12 clubs that mirrors what they do in the States with recruitment in the NFL, interviewing a BAME candidate for each head coach role. This is now extending throughout the football league to all 72 clubs, so that is incredibly positive. I’ve played with lots of BAME players and you just don’t know how many of them could have been an outstanding coach given an opportunity like this. We’ve missed several years of BAME coaches already, so lets try not to miss more by taking advantage of this opportunity and encourage clubs to give people a real chance.
BAME Coaching Placement Programme
- Find out more about the BAME Coaching Placement Programme: click here.