The last survey of coaching qualifications across Europe indicated that there are only 2,769 English coaches holding Uefa’s B, A and Pro badges, its top qualifications in England. Spain has 23,995, Italy 29,420, Germany 34,970 and France 17,588. These four nations have provided eight of the 12 finalists at all the World Cups and European Championships since 1998. England of course last appeared in a major final in 1966.
The paucity of UEFA licensed coaches in England is in complete contrast to the number of participants of the game; 2.25 million players which give a Uefa-qualified coach for every 812 people playing the game. Spain, the World Cup holders, has 408,134 players, giving a ratio of 1:17. In Italy, the ratio is 1:48, 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. Is this due to a lack of interest in coaching, absolutely not. It is difficult to get The F.A. To provide absolute figures on success rate of UEFA assessed coaches but anecdotally the figure ranges between 25-40% of all coaches who enter the UEFA programme actually pass. When you consider it costs approximately £1000 and 150 hours on site training plus a similar number at club the commitment from coaches to improve and gain the license is unquestioned. What should come under scrutiny is why so many fail first time. Are our coaches really not very good? Perhaps the tutors should be reviewed as this low success rate doesn’t put their coach education methods in good light. If the current success rate is maintained, it will take 123 years to match Spain’s UEFA licensed coach numbers.
I have been lucky enough to spend three years as an undergraduate (as a mature student) and witnessed first-hand the young, motivated and knowledgeable ‘new wave’ of coaches, the likes of which I could only have dreamed about as a child. Yet when I attend F.A. Courses the educators seem to be predominately middle aged ex-pros with a slanted view on how the game should be played and coached. Whilst this generalisation doesn’t allow for the many excellent coach educators out there, what remains beyond doubt is that there is a large population of willing committed coaches not able to pass a course which has a large personal cost in both money and time and yet our European cousins seem to have an abundance.
It could be an embarrassment that despite the wealth of the English game there is such a poor resource of qualified coaches. Indeed the PFA grew so frustrated at the lack of leadership shown by the football authorities that it has introduced its own coaching department.
An independent review and overhaul of UEFA licensed courses is required before St Georges Park opens which will inevitably drive up costs still further and potentially put off even more coaches and slow the progress of increasing numbers and forever keep us behind our rivals.
Richard Lewis – the Rugby Football League chairman who was commissioned to lead a joint youth-development study for the Football Association, Premier League and Football League – concluded: “It is no coincidence that sports achieving success on the international stage place great store on quality coaching – not just at the highest level but right throughout the athlete and player development pathway.”