Introducing Merky FC: Stormzy’s new football initiative aiming to boost diversity off the pitch

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Nov 4, 2022 at 12:03 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Grime artist Stormzy proves once again that he is the UK’s most valuable asset. A constant champion of black youth, the rapper and songwriter has officially announced the launch of his most recent venture: Merky FC—a scheme to help young black people secure jobs and leadership roles at all levels within the field of football.

According to The Guardian, Stormzy has partnered with Adidas and ten other major brands, including Manchester United, Fulham FC and Sky Sports, in efforts to bring greater diversity to the sporting industry.

While football may appear a diverse game on the surface, just 6.7 per cent of senior roles within the sport are held by individuals with black or mixed-black heritage. In fact, the FA’s football leadership diversity report for the 2021-2022 season showed exactly that. It reported a decrease in the number of senior management hires for both female and black, Asian and mixed heritage candidates. The recruitment of non-senior diverse coaches in the men’s game, as well as female coaches in women’s football, also fell below the targets during the season.

Speaking with Sky Sports, Stormzy stated: “I always hope that 20, 30, 40 years from now, there is some kid who has no idea who I am—I’m way too old, he don’t care about Stormzy—but there is some initiative that we started now, which allows them to have some ambition and a dream and a future.”

This is not the first time the UK-based artist has used his platform and success to champion black youth. His flagship creation—Merky Foundation—has pledged to donate $10 million 10 years to organisations, charities and movements that are committed to fighting for racial equality, justice reform and black empowerment within the UK.

Branches of that foundation have included #Merky Books, a publishing company established in 2018 in hopes to bring underrepresented voices to the forefront of the industry. He’s also seen massive success with the Stormzy scholarship, a scheme which has provided financial support to 19 black students at Cambridge University.

A lack of diversity outside of the football pitch is unfortunately a story we know all too well. In September 2022, SCREENSHOT spoke with Michaela Gooden, an ex-professional footballer turned football agent. As a black woman, Gooden is a rarity within the industry, but she’s determined her personal attributes will be the key to success.

The Merky FC initiative will provide work placements, from operations and community to creative and marketing and will be available to young people of black heritage aged 18 to 24. Considering Stormzy’s unparalleled popularity with British youth, it’s undeniable that this scheme will have an immediate cultural impact.

Speaking to The Guardian, Tony Burnett, chief executive of Kick It Out which campaigns against racism and broader discrimination in football, said that solving the problem regarding a lack of diversity within senior roles was “complex” and an “uphill battle.”

“Even the numbers that we saw Stormzy quote today are not necessarily 100 per cent accurate, because we don’t know—because clubs will not tell us—what the representation data looks like across all areas of their employee base. And until we know that we can’t even assess the extent of the problem. We need collaboration, so we are more than happy to work with Stormzy or whoever else is trying to drive this agenda.”

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