IRISH GAME PAYING THE PRICE OF HIGH COST OF COACHING
The Dave Hannigan column
WATCHING Chelsea versus Manchester City the other week, somebody pointed out that there were more Serbs than Englishmen on the field.
That there were four representatives of the Balkan nation and just three from the host country wasn’t shocking given the new realities of the world game.
By the end of the match, six players from the former Yugoslav republics had featured. An impressive statistic that prompted more than one commentator on Twitter to ask if Ireland will ever have that many of our best and brightest featuring in a major game in England again.
It’s a fair question. The answer we are told to this conundrum lies in the coaching. We need to produce better coaches and more of them.
To this end then, I spent the other day imagining if I was a twentysomething coach who fancied climbing the coaching ladder in Ireland.
I started to figure out the steps I’d need to take to learn the skills necessary to turn our fortunes around and to produce better quality players.
Presuming I already had the FAI’s youth certificate, the most basic qualification, I would then need to enrol in the course to get a UEFA B licence.
To do this, I’d need to send a cheque for 1,250 to secure my place (pending approval of my application) and another 250 for the assessment.
The course is held in Dublin so that money doesn’t factor in the cost of six or seven nights in a hotel in the city. So, basically, a coach from Cork is looking at investing at least 2,000 in getting the B licence.
If that’s not a sum to be sniffed at, here’s something odd. The very same course costs 430 in Germany. An ambitious coach in Bavaria can get this badge for almost a third of what it will cost somebody from Ballydehob.
No wonder the Germans are doing so well.
But, let’s just say our coaching prospect from Cork forks over the money, takes the course and passes the assessment. He’s spent around 2,000 but he’s got the bug now and is on his way. Next up, the UEFA A licence.
Thankfully, the FAI offer this course too at a cost of 2,100 plus 250 more for assessment and whatever you are going to pay for 14 nights hotel accommodation in Dublin.
Suddenly, deciding to climb the coaching ladder seems like quite an expensive business. Closing in on six grand and counting.
Of course, it should be pointed out that the Germans, one of the genuine leaders in the sport, are offering the A course to their members for 530. That’s quite a bargain compared to what the FAI are charging.
So, what do other nations ask of their coaches in order to get this qualification?
Well, the Belgians (count how many of their players have made you gasp recently) are charging just over 500 and the Spanish, the reigning World and European champions, are charging 1.200 for this very same licence.
It seems more than a little odd that there is such a huge disparity between the cost of a course run by the FAI as compared to their counterparts in other countries.
The questions don’t stop at the pricing either. A quick review of the FAI brochure for the B licence course reveals that it involves 120 course contact hours plus an additional 80 hours that will be spent on match analysis, compilation of a logbook and various other assignments and tasks.
That seems like a fair commitment until measured against the Spanish syllabus. The nation that gave us Xavi and Iniesta and that has dominated underage football for the past decade require candidates to spent 150 course contact hours followed by another 305 logged hours in the field.
That’s more than twice what the FAI demand.
It’s a similar story with the A licence. The FAI course is made up of 170 course contact hours plus an additional 100 hours for a total of 270 hours. The Spanish demand 565 hours from every coach before they graduate with the A badge.
Now, given what the Spaniards have achieved in world football over the past decade, it seems fair to ask why and how they expect twice as much from prospective coaches as the FAI.
Not to mention that they offer these much longer courses at half the prices that are being charged in Dublin.
A couple of years back, the FAI told me they had 166 coaches with A licences. Presuming that figure is now nearer 200, that works out at one per every 22,500 people in the country.
According to statistics calculated by Paul O’Sullivan at Sportseconomics.org, the Spanish have one A licence holder for every 3,670 people, the Germans have one A licence per every 14,640 people.
If the two nations who are reckoned Europe’s best bets in Brazil this summer are working off those kind of numbers, surely that’s what Ireland should be aspiring too. To get more coaches though, it might help if the costs weren’t so prohibitive.
For instance, let’s just say our imaginary coaching candidate from Cork decides he wants to go all the way and get a UEFA Pro Licence, the highest qualification of all.
Then it hits him. He will need 7,550 to secure a place on the FAI’s most illustrious course. And he will need to devote 250 course contact hours before he has reached the top of ladder.
Over in Spain, as you might have guessed by now, anybody wishing to get the Pro Licence must take a course that costs much less and which includes 525 course contact hours and another 350 hours on top of that.
If coaching really is the key to future success, the fact that the best nations in Europe make it so much cheaper for would-be Jose Mourinhos to gain qualifications, and offer courses that require many more hours work suggests Ireland has a long way to go yet.