Premier League clubs Manchester United and Fulham are among the organizations that are partnering with rapper Stormzy’s Merky FC to improve diversity and representation at all levels of the football industry.
The program was announced following a report commissioned by Adidas and the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) Network which found only 6.7% of senior roles in football are taken by someone who identifies as having Black or mixed-Black heritage.
“That statistic is embarrassing,” said the Croydon-born rapper who is set to launch the program next year.
“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.”
The announcement comes shortly after Patrick Vieira, speaking to CNN, questioned how little change has taken place over the years in minority representation off the pitch in football.
Earlier this year, the Szymanski Report, commissioned by the Black Footballers Partnership (BFP), found that only 14% of coaches with the highest coaching qualifications in England are Black, despite 43% of players being Black.
Merky FC will see clubs, as well as organizations like Adidas and Sky Sports partnering to provide multi-year, paid professional opportunities in the football industry for people of Black heritage between the ages 18 to 24.
“If you can see that representation on the pitch with all the players, then it should at least be backed up by people in positions of power, positions of influence outside of being an actual footballer,” said Stormzy.
“Hopefully with what we’re doing we can drive a change.”
This isn’t the first time that Stormzy has worked within an industry to improve representation.
Through his Merky Foundation and Merky Books that collaborates with Penguin Random House publishers, he has helped to amplify marginalized voices in the publishing industry.
The rapper has also provided scholarships for black students attending Cambridge University to improve the number of who attend the university.
Adidas, who have partnered with Stormzy before, said: “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.”