Mark Jules is a PFA coach educator who joined the players’ union after a 12-year stint as Centre of Excellence Manager and Head of Coach Development at Chesterfield. Seeing coach education as a natural career progression after developing his team at the academy, Mark's current role is about helping PFA members qualify as professional coaches. Now, with the launch of the Coach Index, a joint initiative between the PFA and our Professional Game Partners, we caught up with Mark to find out all about how it works, who it’s for and why he thinks it will improve diversity and make the game work better.
Mark, what is the Coach Index?
It’s an online coaching directory for coaches from underrepresented groups in English Football. Male and Female coaches from Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage backgrounds will be eligible to register, and we hope it will improve visibility, opportunity and development for these coaches.
How will the Coach Index work?
As coaches register and sign up, we’ll build a database of diverse coaches with the right qualifications and experience that can match club's vacancies. Then, if they meet the criteria for the role, these coaches will be shortlisted, get an interview and hopefully a job.
Why is it important to focus on underrepresented groups within coaching?
The stats speak for themselves. Less than one in ten coaches at academies in the professional game are from Black, Asian or Mixed Heritage backgrounds, which drops to 1 in 20 at senior level. However, 75% of 16–18-year-old scholars in Premier League football clubs and 25% of senior professional footballers are from a Black, Asian or Mixed background, so it’s just not representative. The diversity we see in players needs to be reflected in coaching, especially within academies, because we’ve got so many players coming through with Black, Asian and Mixed heritage. Having people around that come from similar backgrounds to the players helps clubs relate to their teams and get to know them better, which helps the players massively.
Like with any organisation, having a more diverse workforce within your football structure means there are more ideas, people think differently, and you get perspectives from different cultures. If players can see themselves in their coaches, it can also help them believe coaching is a viable career option when they stop playing, which can only be a good thing.
What are the benefits of using the Coach Index?
As a coach, it’s really helpful because the work is done by the clubs and Professional Game Partners, such as the PFA, the Premier League, the English Football League, The FA and the League Manager’s Association. All coaches have to do is keep their profiles up to date as they develop more experience and gain new qualifications so that clubs can match them to roles. Initiatives like our Player To Coach Scheme will also be there, so we’ll be looking on the Coach Index when recruiting for the next cohort. All the clubs signed up to the FA Leadership and Diversity Code will be able to access the Coach Index, so we’ve got quite a few clubs buying in, and hopefully, they'll take this tool onboard and use it to improve diversity and inclusion in their clubs.
How does it differ from the old PFA Coaching Directory?
Jason Lee and Iffy Onuora did a tremendous amount of work getting as many qualified members as possible onto the PFA Coaching Directory, but that was for all members. The Coach Index is designed specifically to address the issue of coaching underrepresentation within the game. The biggest thing for me is that Iffy and Jason were working in isolation, but now we’re working with the other Professional Game Partners on the Coach Index, so hopefully, they will all be able to push it on their own channels and make this work.
What are your hopes for the Coach Index?
At the moment, the diversity figures in coach education reflect those at senior playing level, and those figures are too low. We’re quite diverse in the PFA coaching department, but unfortunately, that doesn't track across the whole professional game. I want these coaches to be working in clubs, but I think the PFA can also use the Coach Index to identify future tutors that we can develop into the best coach educators.
I hope the Coach Index will improve diversity and inclusion at clubs, in the workforce and within the professional game, but I want a future where we shouldn’t need it because having coaches that properly represent the players becomes the norm. I think now that everyone’s involved, we’ll be able to get the right coaches, at the right clubs, in the right environment so we can have a more diverse coaching workforce. The Coach Index is just another step forward to help get us there.
Find out more...
If you're a female coach or a male coach from a Black, Asian or Mixed Heritage background with a UEFA B Licence and aspirations to coach full-time in English Professional Football, you can register on the Coach Index.