Another season, another Football Association launch. A decade on from creating the FA Coaches Association, the game's governing body is still trying to get coaching recognised as a serious profession, one which is crucial to the development of a strong national team and domestic base.
Yesterday, at a sports ground in west London, it enlisted Graeme le Saux, former Chelsea and England footballer, Ben Shepherd, the Sky TV presenter, and several "real people" (a Punjabi singer, a headteacher and an air steward) to promote a campaign entitled "Football Needs You", aimed at producing 50,000 new level one coaches by 2011.
There is no disputing the need. Level one is a basic qualification (cost: £120-£150, time: 24-30 hours tuition), and is as much about club administration, including child protection and first aid, as football technique. The hope is some of these coaches will move on to levels two and three, which together make up the Uefa B licence, and focuses on technique and tactics. There are currently 3,854 B licence holders in England, a figure dwarfed by Spain, Germany, Italy and France who in 2008 (the last available figures) had more than 100,000 between them. The FA is making serious strides to rectify this, overhauling the coaching system, putting an emphasis on coaching young players, and promoting the concept with events like yesterday's.
It is a challenge. Put simply, coaching is given greater respect in other countries where the show-us-your-caps mentality is less prevalent. In the Netherlands Dennis Bergkamp and Bryan Roy are coaching teenagers as they learn their trade. In England Alan Shearer is given the reins to Newcastle without any previous experience, and a pulpit on Match of the Day where he admits he knows little about the club's new signing, French international and multiple title-winner Hatem Ben Arfa.
As a consequence coaches are poorly paid, which perpetuates the problem. The only way to progress in salary and status is to move up the age groups. The highest salaries are often paid to administrators, thus robbing the game of its best practitioners. Furthermore, too many senior positions are awarded on the basis of who you know.
Making a career from coaching, rather than doing it as a hobby, is precarious. It is one thing to encourage the likes of Jaz Dhami, Manisha Tailor and David Green (the singer, teacher and steward present yesterday) to fit in some coaching part-time, it is another altogether to persuade them to give up the day-job.
Nevertheless, yesterday's launch is another step in the right direction. So too the concurrent campaign to recruit more than 8,000 new referees by 2012. The game needs more referees just as it needs more coaches, not least to increase the talent pool.Reuse content