While you may not see many black, minority ethnic players in the top levels of Welsh football, there is a great deal of work underway to make sure that all changes.
The FAW Trust – the charitable arm of the FAW that is responsible for the development of the game in Wales – has pledged to build a better future for football in Wales – and that includes growing the numbers of people from BME communities taking part in football, whether they’re playing, coaching or volunteering.
Back in 2008, Mizan Rahman joined the FAW Trust as a BME Football Inclusion Officer
At that time, there were:
- six BME five-a-side teams playing recreational football
- a further five football teams where more than half of the players were from BME communities
- 20-25 BME coaches
- activities that were neither focussed nor targeted at BME communities.
A lot has changed.
Today, there are:
- football festivals for juniors
- futsal opportunities
- 5 a-side leagues and competitions for seniors
- 5 new teams integrated into the existing mainstream leagues in Swansea, Newport and Cardiff
- 407 qualified BME football coaches and 65 futsal coaches
- and 3 BME Ambassadors covering Swansea, Cardiff & Newport
Of course, there’s always more to do but the Trust can point to clubs such as the Bengal Dragons FC as success stories:
“The Dragons are a Cardiff based team,” says Mizan. “We have supported them in accessing grant funding and in connecting the team to key contacts in order to join the Cardiff and District football league. They were set up earlier this year, with players predominantly from the Bangladeshi communities of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. Recently they travelled to Bangladesh on tour, competing in front of crowds of around 7000.”
“Then there’s the Swansea Stars – they were set up in 2009 on the back of our BME work and about 12 months after my appointment. We signposted them into the Swansea Pic Up Spares League and I’m pleased to say they’ve been playing ever since. In fact, they’re the longest established team from our BME programme still playing in a mainstream league.”
And while the football festivals and futsal leagues are seeing increased numbers of BME participants, there are also examples of talented players signposted to clubs or, in one case, to the national futsal team. They, of course, may have otherwise flown under the radar.
“We have also had great success in increasing the numbers of coaches which is a huge step forward. At the FAW Trust, our business is to build a better future for Welsh football – and we believe that more BME coaches means more BME role models which will lead to more BME players.”
Meanwhile, Mizan has been promoted to the role of Partnership Manager at the Trust with a role that covers the South Wales region. While it is a position with a wider remit, he remains committed to growing football within BME communities. He is not only the ‘go to’ person for BME communities, he is also on hand to advise colleagues right across Wales.
Neil Ward, CEO of the FAW Trust, explains:
“We’re very proud of our success within BME communities which has been made possible by Mizan’s commitment but also to the many partners and community leaders with whom we have worked closely. And we remain ambitious. If we are to realise our target of 50% of all Welsh children playing football at least once a week by 2024, we need to increase the numbers of BME players. Our success so far drives us forward.”
If the Trust can continue to achieve their ambitions, they will be supporting the Welsh Government to deliver improvements in public health and social inequality.
“Football clubs are hubs of the community and they support community cohesion and social regeneration. 23% of FAW affiliated clubs are located in the most deprived communities in Wales which means we are providing opportunities for the most disadvantaged people in Wales. We are keen to work with Welsh Government as well as Local Health Board to help achieve Wales’ targets for physical activity, health and wellbeing.”
If you are involved in a BME football project and would like to find out what support is available, please contact the FAW Trust on 01633 282 911 or visit www.welshfootballtrust.org.uk/FootballInclusion.