Hadleigh United player Jemel Fox says lack of black coaches in non-league is still worrying and needs to be further addressed
Jemel Fox is calling for more to be done to help reverse ‘a scary reality’ of under-representation of black and ethnic minority (BAME) coaches across semi-professional and grassroots football in the region.
Following the death of George Floyd and Premier League players’ support for Black Lives Matter, the Hadleigh United full-back and University of Suffolk team manager feels now is the perfect time to highlight what he sees as a huge problem.
Despite including Whitton United, AFC Sudbury, Needham Market, Diss Town, Mildenhall Town, Stowmarket Town and Haverhill Rovers among his former clubs, the 28-year-old UEFA B-qualified coach says he can count all the BAME managers he has come across on the local circuit on just over one hand.
“In a 13-year period, since starting at Whitton United at 15, I can only think of seven names that are BAME coaches that have managed in non-league football and that is a scary reality,” said the player who started out under one of those, Ian Brown.
“If you go down to grassroots football I would be scared to think how many you would find.
“There is not enough and this has been going on for years.”
He pointed to the fact that in the now coronavirus-abandoned 2019/20 Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division campaign there was only one team, Woodbridge Town with former professional Carlos Edwards, that included a BAME coach.
“There is only one team out of 20,” he said. “If that is not enough evidence for people I don’t know what would be.”
The nephew of former Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur winger Ruel Fox added: “It is scary, obviously for myself being a black coach, I don’t know what it is whether it’s a lack of interest, people being put off from previous experiences, Idon’t know.
“When you go on football courses they bang on about doing this safeguarding etc but there is nothing on there in terms of equality and diversity and challenging (under-representation of) ethnic backgrounds.
“The government have got to do something about this.
“When you look at school lessons, like when I did RE, there is nothing to do with BAME and educating young people on different backgrounds and different skin colours and that is a cultural thing that needs to change.”
He accepted the FA have made strides forward with a package of measures – including its inclusion advisory board and national specialist development coaches’ programme – but feels more needs to be done through specific county associations.
“Why can’t we have an inclusion advisory board at Suffolk FA and giving talks to clubs about the issues and what they can do?”
He would also like to see county FAs join together to put on BAME-only coaching courses and up the amount that receive covered funding.
“If they are doing this once a year why is it not more, why is it not twice a year?,” he added.
Suffolk FA chief executive Richard Neal explained the issue is one they have been and will continue to working to rectify at a local level.
“Aligned with The FA’s National Game Strategy, we have annual targets to increase the number of BAME coaches qualified to various levels, contributing to our own ambition for all aspects of Suffolk football to be representative of our communities.
“During the curtailed 2019/20 season, 16 BAME coaches achieved a Level 1 coaching qualification through Suffolk FA, with 7 BAME coaches achieving the Level 2 qualification*.
“As we endeavour to ensure every youth team has an FA qualified coach, bursaries are made available to ensure coaches access qualifications, especially new coaches.”
* Comparison figures for non-BAME coaches for 2019/20 were asked for but not received at the time of going to press.