The Zesh Rehman Foundation (ZRF) is pleased to announce the start of its unique 'Sidelined-to-Sidelines' programme which is being funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA).
There are currently no suitably qualified coaches working in the Premier League or Football League originating from South Asian (Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan) backgrounds. Given that South Asians make up over 50% of the UK's non-European population there is a clear under-representation of this population within British football.
Gordon Taylor, Chief Executive at the PFA and Chairman of the Premier League and PFA Charitable Fund said: "We at the PFA will be working closely with the ZRF and the associated clubs to ensure that the coaches on this project will get the best possible support to become elite coaches.
"The lack of Asians involved in all areas of the game is something which we are striving to increase and we anticipate this programme to be rolled out with more clubs after the initial pilot.
"Zesh is an excellent role model for many young people from all communities and since he was awarded the PFA Player in the Community Award in 2010 by fellow professionals he has continued his commitment to give back to the community via his own Foundation and supporting other charitable causes".
The 'Sidelined-to-Sidelines' is a coach education and mentoring programme which will see the ZRF work closely with the Chelsea FC Foundation and QPR in the Community Trust to give 50 young participants the opportunity to gain football related qualifications, learn from professional club coaches, acquire the necessary skills to act as role models and help develop provision in predominantly Asian areas.
Simon Morgan, Head of the Premier League Charitable Trust said: "The Premier League is fully aware of the under-representation of British Asians at all levels of the game.
"We have worked closely with the ZRF to develop Sidelined-to-Sidelines and are confident this programme will offer viable coaching pathways for young people from minority communities.
"The ZRF have proven through their work that they have the skill sets and expertise to access a community where clubs have previously had little connection.
"With Zesh's notable achievements both on and off the pitch and the high regards he is held amongst all stakeholders of the game, I'm sure Zesh's involvement with the project will certainly inspire the cohort of coaches to develop and enter the world of professional coaching".
The ZRF was launched by former Fulham defender and PFA Management Committee Member Zesh Rehman in May 2010. Zesh became the first British Asian to play in the English Premier League and in all three divisions of the Football League representing Fulham, QPR, Norwich, Brighton, Blackpool and Bradford City, whilst also appearing for England Under 17's and Under 20's.
Zesh said: "I am delighted that both the Premier League and PFA are funding this programme and committed to developing football within communities which are under-represented.
"All the staff at the Premier League, PFA, QPR and Chelsea have worked tirelessly to ensure we develop a programme which will leave a legacy in the communities it is delivered in.
"With the Premier League being biggest followed brand in the world and the PFA having the world's largest sporting union, to be working in partnership with both will only further inspire others to get involved.
If you are Asian, aged 16-25 years of age and would like to get involved please click here to request more information.