Where will 2022 take you? We don’t know when the world will be open completely again. News changes every day. With the new omicron variant looking to be less lethal, and many countries getting to grips with their vaccine rollout, we’re hoping that there will be a lot more options for coaches to explore, that perhaps weren’t available in 2020 and 2021.
Some coaches did manage to strive forward with their careers abroad. Many were abroad already and were allowed to stay in the countries in which they were working. Others weren’t so lucky, and either had to come home, or cancelled trips they were looking forward to. It’s hard to say what will happen next, so here are my predictions based on the trends I’m seeing. We’ll be covering some of the more popular locations, and a few others to look out for.
The move in the USA in the last few years has been more towards hiring citizens and green card holders. The football coaching sphere has become saturated with qualified Americans and foreigners alike, that there are now enough qualified candidates to a sufficient level, that the country is largely self-sufficient in that regard. Brits still make the move across for high level jobs, but they are typically being head-hunted. The application process for MLS, USL, and college positions has almost become exclusive for those already with the right to work within the country.
The big visa staff recruiting companies have had a massively reduced operation the last couple of years. For many, it was limited to returning staff, who had long term visas. The stream of coaches that fly out each year to man the summer camps and take club training positions has been reduced to a trickle. I anticipate this will be changing soon, and we’ll have a return to maybe three-quarters of what it was pre-pandemic.
Recruitment for the camp provider companies typically begins around this time of year. There still appears to be some hesitancy, due to the virus and changing travel requirements across the globe. But if your ambition is head to the USA for some temporary work this year, I think you’ll be alright.
Opportunities in Mexico are scarce, and most have been on halt for the last couple years. Soccer schools shut in 2020, and it has taken a long time for many to reopen. A lot of the foreign coaches who staffed them went home because the schools were no longer making money and could not afford to pay the staff. With much of Mexico locked down, and no money coming in, staying there was really on the cards.
The professional league in Mexico has continued. Those jobs are hard to find, unless head-hunted. Cronyism is rife, which is why networking is important there, which is hard to do without having your boots on the ground.
China will likely open towards the end of 2022 (I bloody well hope. Anyone who knows me will have heard me whine about my delayed honeymoon to Shanghai). As a result, I have regularly been checking China entry requirements, trends, and predictions. The country has been closed for all intents and purposes, for most travellers. Even residents and citizens have had to quarantine upon entry for two or three weeks to stop the spread. China requires visas before entering, even for tourists, which have not been granted since the start of the pandemic.
The football industry in China relies heavily on foreign imports. China is the largest English speaking country on Earth, with around 600,000,000 citizens speaking English as a foreign language. English being the de facto world language has been a massive advantage for British and Irish coaches. We can do our jobs in foreign countries, who speak different languages, because people want their children to learn English as well as football. Football is often secondary to English. When the borders open again, English speaking coaches will flood in once more.
Lots of soccer school companies operate out of China, and many of the world’s biggest clubs (and Tranmere Rovers, funnily enough) have a presence over there. The government takes football seriously, and as such, some schools even hire football specific teachers. These roles require coaching qualifications, and not teacher qualifications.
One potential change from 2019 to 2022 is that before coaches would need a level two (C licence) but now that looks to be changing to a B licence in the future. Visa regulations are supposed to be becoming stricter for coaches, so if you’re considering China, you’ll most likely need a B licence and a bachelor’s degree. Other routes into China will be PE teaching, or via teaching English as a foreign language.
The Gulf states are gearing up for a first World Cup to be held in the region, with Qatar as the host. With most of those nations being in competition with each other, the World Cup hype will certainly be rubbing off them. A few of them have still been recruiting British coaches in drips and drabs, such as Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, while the UAE has been steadily maintaining an influx of Brits to fill vacant coaching positions. Due to the adherence to restrictions from the UAE population, and the efficient vaccine rollout, they have been able to maintain something resembling normal life in the Emirates. Masks everywhere, with some conditions upon entry, the daily schedule suffered little interruption. Several coaches have been able to escape the UK and begin coaching in the sun.
Qatar was an example that went more in the other direction. Qatar was, for all intents and purposes, shut. They have opened and closed several times to tourists in the last couple of years. Fewer positions have opened up compared to previous years, but my feeling is that towards the second half of 2022, and going forward in 2023 there will be a large growth in opportunities for Brits. As the country that is about to host the World Cup, all attention has been on the small nation, but the pandemic has limited the growth. When academies would be built and soccer schools expanded, often staffed by foreign coaches, they haven’t been.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman are small countries, yet there can be found some opportunities to work there. They pop up now and again throughout the career, as does a couple of Saudi Arabia opportunities, which are greatly sought after due to the generous compensation packages. UAE will continue to be a popular destination, especially Dubai, with some opportunities in Abu Dhabi.
Scandinavia and Baltic nations
We’ve seen a decent amount of jobs pop up in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Lithuania in recent months. Probably an under-appreciated area for football that really shouldn’t be sniffed at. High standard of living, decent pay, and a good level of English in this part of the world. These jobs are all within pro or semi-pro clubs, working in academies or first-team environments. The application process may be very competitive as the jobs are open to all, not just British coaches.
European summer camps
Jobs working on holiday camps throughout the Mediterranean for a summer were once a very attractive option for British coaches looking for temporary work, especially students. A few months staying in a holiday resort, playing football with kids in the sun, it looked like tons of fun. Brexit has made those jobs harder to obtain due to losing the right to work in those countries. The advantage we had was that the holiday companies wanted English speaking staff. Any of you reading this that have an EU passport will still be fine. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
Especially now with the scarcity of holiday makers, and an ever-changing landscape of travel restrictions across Europe, these operations have been severely limited. I’m hoping that European travel explodes this summer, and as such, holiday camps will need more staff, providing more opportunity for non-EU English speaking coaches to go work on their tans.
Perhaps left-field, but there have been a few opportunities posted in Uzbekistan. It may not be the most highly-thought of location, although I am guessing that is largely lack of knowledge. The coaches out there swear by it, and it looks to be a football nation with lots of potential. It’s not a famous destination, but I would urge you to try it. Do your research, talk to those who are there currently, and try stepping outside of your comfort zone. Nothing great was ever achieved from within the comfort zone.
USA camp and club trainer jobs will likely be open for the second half of the year. Occasional opportunities will pop up in Mexico, Uzbekistan, with a decent amount coming through for Scandinavia and the Baltics. Expect there to be lots of opportunities in the Middle East, especially Dubai. Singapore may provide the odd opportunity. They've had one of the harshest entry restrictions throughout the pandemic, and are now slowly starting to open up. China is hard to predict for 2022 due to their hard stance on entry, and we'll get a clearer idea towards the end of the year, and job requirements will likely be looking for higher level coaches. Other countries will likely have opportunities too. It's really hard to predict, and BFCN members will be the first to know when the opportunities come up.
If you’re thinking about your next move and need a little guidance, get in contact. We can have a chat and see what avenues you’d like to take. Make sure to keep your membership up to date so you can view all these opportunities as they are posted.