Thursday, 5 March 2015

Do Football Coaches Deserve Employment Protection?

Football CAPTIN
The Football Coaches Association for the Trade Professionals – Independent

Its no new story to look into the seemingly high costs of qualifying as a coach in England. However, with all that investment in large sums of money along with the years and years of gaining experience to gain the qualifications for yourself. Do the opportunities that exist at the end represent a real living potential and are we taken seriously as an industry?

Recent changes to Academy football with the implementation of EPPP has had a significant effect on everybody and any investment and attempt to improve our football can surely only be a positive thing. The new system has created many jobs as football pushes home its holistic development method. The FA have created the best business model of all business as the governing body. It overseas our qualification process and has developed many overlapping courses with a CPD program that ensure ‘customers’ don’t just qualify and walk away, they must keep coming back for more with the positive messages about continuous development. For most and myself included, I love to learn and I don’t have an issue with that provided its value for money. However, my personal experience which was well documented, together with the many comments sent to me and what I see and hear further leaves me to still question if there is a real sustainable career path for the majority of coaches.

Whats the problem then?
To simplify the biggest concern for me, it relates to Time v Investment V Return. If a club truly had that latest term approach ‘Growth Mind-set’. Then they like the Academy Manager would be committed to the youth set up. If they simply go out and buy players as a constant solution to first team problems then of course, this in fact is a Fixed Mind-set that the clubs board possess. Regardless of what the FA Course promotes. So, if the Director of Football is committed to Growth Mind-set then the youth academy becomes paramount. For me, that means the youth players become of huge significant importance to the clubs ability to exercise its ethos. Therefore by nature of association the people that come into contact with those people must be of huge value to the club. Holistically there are many alternative members of staff to football who mostly have become very skilled post graduate individuals. The degree puts them in a strong position to deliver their skills they trained for, whether that be Educational, Medical, Sports Science etc. But what about the Football Coach? He or She has in some cases spent just as much time qualifying and gaining experience as the Sports Science and Medical teams but are they equally valued? They are also typically the person that has most contact time with the player and arguably are the ones that have the biggest influence on the player’s chances of success. But do they feel that reward and value? Of course football is a unique industry, one which can be frustrating as you can see others seemingly fast tracked into positions but I’m not sure what could ever be done about that. However, I do believe that there are some basic minimum expectations which would be fair for us and perhaps make clubs and authorities management wake up to the expert people they have under their nose.

Of course many coaches have been recognised and also many of the clubs are fantastic in the way they handle their staff and football coaches. But equally many feel that coaches are easily replaced and as I heard with my own ears, “there are thousands waiting to take your job”. I don’t go along with that concept. Just because you have a coaching licence that doesn't make you a high class ongoing coach. Experience still has a huge effect on development. Equally, many millions of people have driving licences in this country and it is those qualified drivers that make huge mistakes crashing cars every day and take huge liberties. So, a piece of paper in my view is just an indication that you did your studies. If I was in charge and had a coach that I knew was fantastic with his or her players and able to display excellence ongoing with a fair approach and a good attitude, then I would want to really look after and value them. Quality coaches and more importantly, quality people are not easily replaced.

EPPP demands with reporting have impacted on coach’s time and whether you agree with the whole process or not, it cannot be debated that this has added significant time to the job. Not just by demanding a session plan in line with a syllabus. I calculated that as a part-time coach I was in fact working full-time hours. But not afforded the extra pay, meaning pro-rata I was earning circa £1.74 per hour. More or less a quarter of the national minimum wage for over 21’s in the UK. So, with the new investment of TV money bursting the Premier Leagues pockets is it fair to ask them to intervene with clubs and ask to consider coaches remuneration? No, they cannot tell a club what to pay people but let’s be fair, it is them that provide half the academy funding in most cases so surely they can set some parameter’s on how the fund is distributed? What’s more important? A hardly used dome or high quality coaches?

So what can we do?

I think many coaches are frightened to speak up as they know they can easily be removed from their position on weak agreements or no contracts.  But when I look into this I think to myself, why? Football Managers who have previously earned millions of pounds are members of the LMA who lookout for their interest. Even the England Manager sits in a significant role, yet no one sees that as an issue. The Professional players are part of the PFA. For many they are rightly protected with low incomes. But we also know that in some of these cases some of these people are extremely wealthy individuals yet are still protected by trade associations. Even the scholars are on board with the PFA and educationally supported and advised by the LFE. So, what about coaches? Is your profession protected? We have FACA membership but does that really offer us the independent protection and advice that so many need and does it campaign for better working conditions?

I think there is a room for an independent association for professional coaches. I don’t have the spare resource or current time to risk setting this up but if the industry gets together perhaps it would gain support from the FA and Premier League with membership funds then supporting the project to get off the ground. I propose one but am seeking feedback from the industry to see if we can gauge significant support which will perhaps force our governing bodies to support it.

I would suggest membership to a website (needs setting up) This would provide lots of free service to members.
-          Sessions Ideas and Templates – Syllabus specific
-          Support material and advice for using new applications eg:
o   PMA
o   Replay Analysis
o   Microsoft Office
-          Discussion Forums eg:
o   Excellence
o   Development
o   Behaviour management
-          Recruitment advice
-          Releasing players advice
-          Handling Parent’s and challenging scenarios
-          Pay and Benefits advice
-          Employment contracts and advice
-          FREE Job listings and opportunities
-          Insurance advice
-          Grass roots coaches support section (Often want help with session ideas)
-          Help and advice from Key figures.
People could suggest other topics they would like assistance with but I believe that would provide a starting point. Its members would be Employed at a Professional Football Club either part-time or full-time and within the academy or associated development centres. It will also include coaches that work professionally for independent football delivery companies. We could perhaps also have a support section for grass roots coaches as they are vital to the cycle.

I would recommend an independent vote on social networking to elect a coach to represent the organisation. If it was myself I would have a manifesto as a simple starting point

1.       To ensure all clubs include reasonable planning and review time, typically on PMA systems or equivalent is included in paid time.
2.       To ensure all coaches are paid in accordance with the governments minimum rates with computer work included in that time. (excluding travel)
3.       Arrange a complete feedback study from all its coach members to establish the most important areas for concern that should be addressed.
4.       To have a yearly independent coach’s conference that covers north and south.
5.       To strongly encourage our academy coaches to find grass roots clubs to go and deliver coaching sessions to every year. I would think that its reasonable for our members to commit to at least 2 recorded sessions a year at a youth grass roots club. This will help reduce the ‘them and us’ and perceived ‘ego’ that I hear so much about.

This organisation would not be set up to be obstructive, difficult and to ‘find’ things that are wrong. Its simply a method to support people that have committed huge time and investment into their chosen career and give them a voice that shows that there mortgage and family are just as important as the first team managers.

Twitter @Football_CAPTIN
To gauge interest I have set up a temporary twitter site @Football_CAPTIN If you would support such an association to protect and assist your future please follow. We will RT and post interesting coaching articles and session material as a starting point. If support is significant we will then consider taking to the next stage, if it’s what coaches want. I would be happy to later hand over control and domain (if wanted) to another party if they wanted to activate the Association fully with another chairperson or spokesperson and team.

Too many great coaches have walked away from football. Let’s help fix it and ensure we have the best people nurturing our talented players. That means working WITH the FA and PREMIER LEAGUE not against them. If all key people in football are treated fairly and equally we can together fix the game for our future success.

Tony McCool


1 comment:

  1. Another insightful piece Tony but with one omission. There is an organisation called the Professional Coaches Association which is a part of the LMA. They offer many of the things you've mentioned above but are not widely publicised.