Where Are England’s Coaches?

England Football Coaching

I want to draw your attention to an article in today’s Guardian newspaper which might offer a clue as to the World Cup trophy’s likely destination in a month’s time.

You can read the article here but the key points are summarised below:

Three years ago an official report concluded that coaching is the “golden thread” leading to international success, but new Uefa data shows that there are only 2,769 English coaches holding Uefa’s B, A and Pro badges, its top qualifications. Spain has produced 23,995, Italy 29,420, Germany 34,970 and France 17,588.

Between them those four nations have provided eight of the 12 finalists at all the World Cups and European Championships since 1998. England, meanwhile, have not appeared in a tournament final in 44 years.

There are 2.25 million players in England and only one Uefa-qualified coach for every 812 people playing the game. Spain, the World Cup favourites, have 408,134 players, giving a ratio of 1:17. In Italy, the world champions, the ratio is 1:48, in France it is 1:96, Germany 1:150 and even Greece, the Euro 2004 winners, have only 180,000 registered players for their 1,100 coaches, a ratio of 1:135.

The numbers are fairly damning, but the most important point in all this is the lack of opportunity that coaches in England have to progress on the coaching pathway.

Uefa’s census in July 2006 found there to be 1,430 Uefa B-qualified coaches in England, 397 with the A badge and only 45 with Pro licences. In the October 2009 study those numbers had crept up to 1,759, to 895 and to 115 respectively.

In my experience UEFA ‘B’ Licence courses are too infrequent and prohibitively expensive for many grassroots coaches to attend off their own back. There is, rightly, an impetus for junior football clubs to first fund unqualified coaches on FA Level 1 and sometimes FA Level 2 coaching courses. But the fact that there is this backlog of coaches at all, despite football being the most established grassroots sport in the country, is evidence of a systematic failure to support coach education over an extended period of time.

Spain have almost as many Pro-licensed coaches as there are English coaches of any stripe: 2,140 as against 2,769. Again, the ratios of available Pro-licensed coaches to players show an alarming gulf between England and the top-ranked football nation – 1:190 in Spain, 1:19,565 here.

At the current rate of progress it will take 123 years for England’s resource of Pro-licensed coaches to match Spain’s today.

The investment in junior sport in Spain, which is reflected in their successful nationwide deportivo system, is paying dividends at the top of many sports besides football – Spain are one of the top-ranked nations in Tennis, Basketball, Cycling, Hockey, and Golf.

Unfortunately the economic situation makes it increasingly unlikely that we will ever see anything like the wholesale investment in sport that Spain has enjoyed. So instead it’s going to be down to coaches like you and me to redress the imbalance.

If watching the World Cup gets you excited about coaching next season – or if England get knocked out and you feel that gut-wrenching bewilderment at their repeated failure – then look at the numbers and take heart that you can be somebody who makes a real difference; there are around 100,000 coaches in organised football in England (whether qualified or not) and so taking the initiative, saving up for a few months and paying for your own UEFA ‘B’ licence, will instantly put you above 97% of your peers. (And, if it is your aim, there are genuine opportunities to work full-time in football if you have a UEFA coaching badge.)

“There is a link between coaching and quality. The timing of this is really important: the World Cup will bring this to a head, particularly if England do badly. How you do internationally is a proper reflection of your nation’s youth development.” – PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor

For your country’s future yes, but more importantly for your players today, let’s make a commitment. Let’s get a higher qualification than the one we currently hold by this time next year.

Photo Credit: Johnny Vulkan
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