Stormzy is launching a football programme with Adidas to improve diversity in the sport by helping young Black people secure roles off the pitch.
Merky FC aims to address the lack of diversity in positions such as team managers and coaches, but also behind the scenes, by providing access to multi-year, paid professional placements. The collaboration also brings together 10 leading brands including Manchester United, Fulham and Sky Sports to form part of the careers programme, which will start in January 2023.
The British grime star, 29, said: “Just 6.7% of senior roles in football are taken by someone who identifies as Black or mixed-Black heritage. We barely see any Black team managers, coaches, sports presenters, assistants, ops managers, sales managers, accountants, marketing managers or physiotherapists – the list goes on, nor are many of us even aware of the vast roles available within the football industry.
“Through the Merky FC initiative we hope to inspire real change within this field as part of my wider commitment to support racial equality in the UK. With the support of Adidas and the additional 10 partners, we will be in a position to aid the people who may have experienced disadvantages during their football career pathway. We strongly encourage other companies to join us in our mission.”
Research commissioned by Adidas with the Fare (Football Against Racism in Europe) Network says 6.7% of senior roles in football are taken by someone who identifies as having Black or mixed-Black heritage. It says though the sport may appear diverse on the field, with 39% of Premier League players identifying as having Black or mixed-Black heritage, it is a different story off the pitch.
The 10 brands involved in the Merky FC initiative will each provide work placements, from operations and community to creative and marketing, within their businesses in an effort to change the game. The programme will be available to young people of Black heritage aged 18 to 24.
Adidas said: “We are passionate about providing inclusive opportunities to young talent in the UK. We are proud to be working in partnership with Stormzy to introduce Merky FC, an initiative that directly tackles some of the biggest barriers facing UK youth in football today, by creating a legacy of career opportunities off the pitch alongside the other partners.
“Along with the support of our network of Adidas partners, we are committed to fighting for equal representation in football, and this launch is only the beginning for Merky FC. Watch this space.”
Stormzy has been active throughout his career in helping to improve diversity in the music industry and beyond, through his charity Merky Foundation and Merky Books, a collaboration with the publisher Penguin Random House. Since 2018, the Croydon-born rapper has been providing scholarships for Black students at Cambridge University in an effort to address the relatively low number of Black students who attend Oxbridge institutions.
The reported data comes from research conducted by Censuswide, surveying 1,000 respondents aged 16-25 who identify as Black or mixed (with Black heritage), in October 2022.