Premier League clubs Manchester United and Fulham are among the organizations 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 that only 6.7% of senior football roles are filled by someone who identifies as Black or of mixed Black-Black heritage.
“That statistic is disgraceful,” said the Croydon-born rapper, who will launch the program next year.
“Through the Merky FC initiative, we hope to drive real change in this area as part of my wider commitment to supporting race equality in the UK.”
The announcement comes shortly after Patrick Vieira spoke to CNN, questioning how little has changed over the years in the representation of minorities off the field in soccer.
Earlier this year, the Szymanski Report, commissioned by the Black Footballers Partnership (BFP), found that only 14% of top-level managers in England are black, despite 43% of players being black.
Merky FC will bring together clubs and organizations such as Adidas and Sky Sports to offer 18 to 24-year-olds professional paid opportunities in the football industry.
“If you see that representation on the field with all the players, at least people in positions of power should be protecting them, positions of influence outside of being actual football players,” Stormzy said.
“We hope to inspire a change with what we’re doing.”
This isn’t the first time Stormzy has worked with an industry to improve representation.
Through Merky Books, a collaboration with the Merky Foundation and publishers Penguin Random House, she has helped amplify marginalized voices in the publishing industry.
The rapper has also given scholarships to black students going to Cambridge University to improve the number of people going to university.
Adidas, who have previously collaborated with Stormzy, said: “We are proud to be partnering with Stormzy to introduce Merky FC, an initiative that directly tackles some of the biggest barriers facing young people in football in the UK today, creating a legacy of career opportunities off the pitch alongside our other partners.”