Open up to black coaches and managers, FA urged

Andrew Paul Palmer: Qualified black coaches are passed over for management jobs in favour of white people

Considering all he has done and continues to do, Andrew Paul Palmer is a person who should be well known throughout the UK. Yet, like many other unsung heroes, not many know him and his work in promoting sports in the country.

This is a man who at this stage should be able to easily land a job with the FA or in a managerial post within the football industry, yet he is still struggling to find a job in the UK as a grassroots coach.

Who is Andrew Paul Palmer? Born 39 years ago in Nottingham, Andrew holds BA (Hons) Business Management – Graphic Design from De Montfort University; BTEC First Diploma in Business and Finance from South Nottingham College of Further Education; and EMFEC Diploma in Business and Design from Arnold and Carlton College of Tertiary Education. He has also taken FA Level 1 and 2 Coaching Courses.

Andrew became the first black coach and manager for the Nottingham City Schools Football Association in their 117 year history (2005).

He ran the u13s and has coached all age groups starting from u11s up to the u15s culminating in playing the English Schools Football Association (E.S.F.A) Cup.

Andrew has guided various age groups, won numerous trophies and cup finals every year since 2005 and became the first black manager to lead the team to a cup final at the Nottingham Forest F.C Academy and also at Meadow Lane home of Notts County F.C (oldest football club in the world).

He was invited by the Nottingham City Schools Football Association as part of the committee and coaching staff to take the Nottingham under 14s team on a trip to Karlsruhe Germany. “We played against two club sides Siemens Football Club and former Bundesliga Champions Karlsruhe SC,” he says.

Andrew became a member of the Nottingham City Schools Football Association Management Committee, the first black man in 123 year history and by the end of the coming season will be enrolled on the English Schools Football Association’s roll of honour for eight years service.

He became the first black manager of the Nottinghamshire Football Association Youth u18s in 100 year history playing against numerous counties all over England in the FA County Youth Championship and FA County Youth Cup.

In the last season Andrew became a member of Nottinghamshire Football Association Representative Youth Committee. In 2005 he became a scout and coach for Leicester City FC (who play in the Coca Cola Championships) and directed the first Development Centre for u9s for them in the city of Nottingham.  

He coached the u13s and u12s academy side that played against English premiership and Coca Cola Championships opponents.

Andrew successfully scouted and mentored youngsters who are currently at Leicester City FC, three of whom are scholars at the Academy. Two are currently scholars at Notts County FC one of whom made his first team debut this year. He also scouted and mentored three scholars at Burton Albion FC amongst others.

Andrew developed and established a social enterprise and was Director of ‘Football For Fun’ for three years where he applied and received funding to co-ordinate and deliver Football camps to children aged seven to 15 from Nottingham and the surrounding area. He delivered and coached The F.A After Schools Development programme over two years for five to 11 year old boys and girls in numerous primary schools in Nottingham.

Andrew was a Futsal Coach who developed Nottinghamshire’s first Futsal team from 2008 to 2009. Nottinghamshire Futsal u19s and Nottinghamshire u14s played matches all over England against various counties. The u14s won a trophy at a Midlands Futsal Festival.

He set up and coached teams for primary schools (girls and boys) that currently play in the Nottingham Schools Football Association Area League. He also set up Radford Primary school’s first girls’ football team that currently competes against other primary schools in and around Nottingham.

Andrew was nominated for Nottinghamshire Coach of the Year Award in 2005-2006.

Apart from supporting PE coordination in schools, Andrew refereed at The Victoria Trophy (u13s), the UK’s largest girls and women’s five-a-side football tournament.

From July to August this year, he was Camp Director for Premier Soccer Camps in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and Cornwall on Hudson, New York. Here’s an exclusive interview Andrew granted The AfroNews.

Andrew, what are the main challenges you faced as a black coach and manager?

Racism at all levels including within the Football Associations (FAs). If you look at most FAs in England there are not many black people employed within them. I worked for the Nottinghamshire FA as their u18 coach and assistant manager for seven seasons and during that time I never saw another black face within the organisation.

Also on the various committees. there must have been at least 60 people but not one black person. I was asked to take up my role by the manager of the time as I would be the face for the inner city youngsters to try and get them to represent the team. Unless changes are made at the top we will have these same issues arising in 20 years.

Another challenge I faced was having to work for myself due to a lack of support and opportunities. I was helped to become a scout and coach by Bill Wall at Leicester City FC and also Jim Hargreaves and the Notts Schools FA. Otherwise I have struggled to find work and be recognised or valued for what I do. In Nottinghamshire where I have done most of my coaching I was overlooked on numerous occasions for the FA Coach of the Year Award for people more suited for FA promotional material.

I have worked with youth on various projects using sports and football to help them gain confidence in other areas of their lives. I ran a project for three years in conjunction with Nottingham Police and Catch22, to help with the gang culture, encouraging 14 to 21 year olds through use of Football and Futsal to help them write CVs and get jobs. This was visited by the Government Child Minister who was appreciative of the work I had done.

I consistently read about youth turning to selling drugs and committing crime.  It’s time positive things where written and said.

How did you manage to overcome these challenges?

By being strong and determined to achieve what I set out to do. By presenting myself well despite people’s expectations of me as a black man and not taking no for an answer. Also smiling, being a gentleman, working hard, shaking hands but most of all walking with my head held up high and my chest out, hahaha!

We hardly hear of black coaches and managers in the UK. Why is it so?

If you look at football all over England the people at the top are white, there are no people of colour. Chairmen are white, board of directors white and majority of coaching staff white. So it is hardly surprising that black coaches are finding it hard to break through. There are a lot of black coaches in the UK with various qualifications but they are not being promoted within clubs and quite often they are not given interviews particularly at professional clubs. Unless you work for yourself and search for ways in there are not many opportunities for black coaches to gain recognition.

Football is a profession that works on the basis of who you know and in England it has always been the case that black men play but they don’t coach or manage.
 
Why do you think the FA hardly chooses anyone who is black as a role model?
 
The FA is about making money. Football has historically been seen as a white working class profession and the FA is quite elitist at the top despite the popularity amongst black kids. This filters down and to have a black face promoting the association might not be seen to be the best way to sell the product. Black footballers are promoted as role models from a sporting perspective but this is not the case when they want to become managers and coaches. The image of a black manager or coach does not seem to be as appealing.

What do you do now?

I have recently worked as a learning mentor in a primary school and within my short time there they achieved their best ever Ofsted. I am currently seeking full time coaching opportunities in the USA and away from the UK so as to further enhance my career.

You were recently invited to direct a football coaching camp in New York and New Jersey, which you did successfully, working with almost 200 kids from all over the world.  You have been invited again to do the same next year in addition to being asked to write a coaching manual/book. It’s very strange that your work is getting appreciated abroad yet this is not happening in the UK where you’ve done so much. What do you have to say on this?

Andrew Paul Palmer and his wife Carla Palmer

Being a black Englishman gives me a unique selling point in the USA since there are not many black English coaches. The children know a lot about the game but are still willing to learn. My knowledge of the game, experience working with children and the way I interact with people was recognized and appreciated in the USA. Football has become very popular over there and recent developments mean there are wider opportunities for coaches. There is a culture of rewarding those who work hard and those who overcome obstacles to achieve are respected and recognized regardless of their race.

What’s your advice to young people aspiring to become successful footballers?

My mother brought up five of us by herself in Radford which is seen as one of the worst inner city areas of Nottingham. She brought me up to hold my head up high, be strong and be determined. If it wasn’t for her I would not have had the skills or attributes to have achieved the things I have done. If you want to get anywhere in life you got to work hard; be confident; never give up on your dreams; and most of all believe and you will achieve.
 
Any other comment?

I think it is about time that the FA gave black people an opportunity and a chance to pursue a wider range of opportunities within the loved game. They should not have to kick down doors to look for opportunities that are so readily available to their white counterparts. More often than not black coaches are passed over for management jobs in favour of white people. There have been numerous examples of this at the professional level such as in the case of Paul Davis who was passed over at Arsenal 10 years ago. More recently Michael Johnson at Notts County.

There are a couple of black ex footballers in the FA who for years have been the face of conferences to recruit black coaches and despite this there has been no progress. Additionally these faces themselves realize that things have not changed within the association.
 

By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a

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