The National Football Centre, St Georges Park – White Elephant?

This link will take you to a fine article by Gerry Cox on the future of the F.A National Football Centre. As Gerry points out the F.A. is of course bidding for a world cup and appears to have done a ‘U’ turn when they have had little interest since 2005. David Sheepshanks, has always been a supporter and the centre played a big part in his manifesto to become Chairman of the F.A. Time has seen Sir Trevor’s view change from skeptic to champion, he was not in favour when the project was mothballed. Having been one of the originators of the project and member of the National Football Centre Ltd Board and succeeding Howard Wilkinson as project leader I am of course delighted at this turnaround.

It was Howard who coined the phrase ‘University of Football’ we had also visited Coverciano, Clairefontaine and the Centres in Portugal, Spain, Holland, the US and others. It has pained me to have been able to work at the centre outside Madrid, the Turkish Centre, Aspire Academy in Qatar, Home Depot and Latvia and know that we were being left behind when once we were pathfinders (Lilleshall National School). Buildings do not develop players, Sir Trevor is quite right to be concerned about the quality of coaching but isn’t that his job? The F.A. is responsible for training and qualifying coaches in this country…or are they?

The counties or licensed, approved coach education centres governed by a company called First 4 sport deliver coaching courses from level 1 to level three. They employ (at the candidates expense) Tutors, Assessors, Internal and external verifiers who monitor the courses. The majority of these do not coach players or teams or have not done so for many years. It is financially more rewarding not to. Other than courses for professional players, delivered by the PFA, all of these courses are delivered by part time tutors. It is these courses that aspiring Academy Coaches have to attend before being allowed to take the Youth Coaches Awards or Academy Directors License. The coaches being trained to coach our elite kids are being trained by tutors who never do and assessed by examiners who never have! This is all done in the name of quality control!! How can that be? The truth is it makes money!

Approved Centres draw down funding from Further Education through partnerships with colleges and add this to the candidate’s fees. The more courses, the more funding. The F.A. does not train coaches at levels 1-3 but they train tutors and it is part time tutor trainers who do this, they too rarely; if ever coach teams.

Tutors have to go through so many hoops to get qualified that they have to spend a small fortune to get there, and then they have to attend Continuous Professional Development Courses to retain the qualifications it’s no wonder they never have time to coach players!

Is it surprising that highly skilled, high quality or even high potential coaches from all levels of the game do not want to get involved? A year ago I attended a two day get together at the Beckham Academy at what was described as in service training for ‘elite coach educators’. This was for coaches selected as potential level four (UEFA’A’ ) tutors. Apart from myself and Martin Hunter ( Norwich, Bradford, Watford, Stoke and England Youth) only Guy Whittingham (Portsmouth) and John McDermott (Spurs Academy) were employed at Professional level. The level 4 course is entry level for Academy Directors and Youth Coaches, there were 35 coaches in the room, were they going to deliver the courses aimed at those who are destined to coach our elite youth? I believe the entire cadre of candidates for one ‘A’ License last year failed the course; make your own conclusions. I hold the world’s highest qualifications and have, of course, not been invited to deliver a course in England since 2004. There are many in the professional game like me. My question then is, erect the buildings yes, but who coaches the coaches?

to be continued…..

About author

Les Reed
Les Reed 3 posts

Les is former manager of Charlton Athletic FC, Technical Director at the FA and Technical Director at Fulham FC. Now works around the world with his company, Sports Associated Solutions Ltd.

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