And, from the start of next year, all volunteers who want to work in club football will first have to have undergone Garda vetting and complete a child welfare course.
“It wasn’t always mandatory,” said FAI coach education manager Niall O’Regan at yesterday’s launch of the Coach Education Pathway 2017-2020. “What you would have had up until now is a situation where if someone was engaging in the pathway, they would have to do it. As of 2017, every volunteer working with a club, it’s mandatory for them.
“We have a strategic plan to introduce a coaching ID card so that, by 2020, every coach in association football will have an ID card and on the ID they will have their image, their club, their coaching qualification, if they have one, and on the back of it, their Garda vetting number and child welfare number. Prior to a game, a coach will have to show their coaching ID card (to the referee) and if they don’t have it then they won’t be allowed to officiate from the sideline.”
Currently, the FAI say that 26,000 coaches have completed Garda vetting and child welfare courses and it is hoped that the current rolling out of a new database will help facilitate 100% compliance.
O’Regan said: “We’ve moved to a new system called FAInet, the first time in the history of football where we will be physically able to identify how many players and coaches we have in the country because at the moment it would be a rough estimate.”
O’Regan said that the tougher child protection measures were planned before the recent abuse revelations in England.
“We’re not just reactional to something that’s happened,” he said. “This is something we’re leading. I don’t think the other national governing bodies will have a process where they have ID cards. I think it’s sad what has happened and what’s come to the fore but thankfully we have already identified good strategies and are making sure we know exactly who is coaching in our game and making sure that every player that’s playing the game of football in Ireland is doing so in a safe environment.”
The revamped Coach Education Pathway, launched yesterday at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, has been tailored to suit the requirements of coaches with ambitions to work at different levels in the game, from grassroots through to elite.
Defending the various course fees involved, O’Regan said: “The profit we would make from coach education would be returned to coach education because it’s invested in the staff that we have. People would see a Uefa Pro Licence that costs €8,000 and think we make a lot of money from it, 95% of what we take in on a Pro Licence goes out on expenditure.
“The real value for us is the grassroots courses. People see the cost of it and think ‘it’s a money racket’ and ‘they’re trying to make money’. It’s completely not, it’s completely inaccurate. Genuinely, I believe the costs associated with the courses are fair and reasonable and for somebody who has come through all the way up the pathway I believe it’s an investment similar to an education.”
It was also confirmed yesterday that, as part of the club licencing process, the target is for every Airtricity League club to have an Elite Youth A licence holder in place by the start of the 2018/19 season.
Summing up the ultimate goal of the Coach Education Pathway, FAI high performance director Ruud Doktor said: “Our focus is to improve football in Ireland. And if you want to improve football you have to improve the coaches. Better coaches, better players, better football, that’s the aim.”
And, as an example of what Irish football can achieve on the international stage, he paid tribute to the Cork City U19 side which competed with such distinction this year in the Uefa Youth League.
“Look at Cork City,” he said. “Would you have expected the Cork City U19s to have competed at that level? Nobody would have believed that, but they did it. They played against Roma, they played against professional players. They could have even won the game at home — they performed well there and in Rome. That’s a sign that Irish football can do well.”
For more information on the 2017-2020 Coach Education Pathway see www.fai.ie