adidas & Stormzy announce expansion of #Merky FC with new report



Today, adidas and Stormzy launch the next chapter of the #Merky Football Careers partnership, the national programme created to enhance and protect diverse representation in football, will broaden its scope and impact by tripling the number of roles available. To inspire the entire football industry and community to make the assist, they have published a new report that uncovers the barriers faced by young Black people and the #Merky FC approach to changing the game.

First established in 2022, with an ambition to affect change across the football community by addressing the lack of diversity off the pitch in football, the initiative provided 15 people with roles within the industry. This year sees #Merky FC increase the number of off pitch roles from 15 to 50, with both adidas and Stormzy bringing together a collective of allies – 25 leading brands, from Manchester United and Arsenal, to Sky Sports, IMG, LADbible and Electronic Arts (full list of partners below) to form part of the careers programme kick-starting in January 2024. Each placement will provide work opportunities spanning operations and community to creative and marketing, in a bid to change the game for Black and Black mixed heritage youth.

Fuelled by data that 56% of young Black and mixed-Black heritage people aspire to work in the industry, yet only 6.7% of senior roles in the football industry are taken by someone from this community, adidas and Stormzy recognised the need to identify the barriers to entry. With the ambition to encourage both the industry and fans alike to make the assist, the report models the potential impact of allyship and how initiatives like #Merky FC can help to increase representation in the football industry.

Developed through an expert team of behavioural scientist and data analysts, the research found 72% of people from Black or mixed Black heritage are more likely to apply for a #Merky FC role if it’s recommended by friend, using this insight in combination with existing data on representation in the football industry, application bias and job openings, plus the impact of adding #Merky FC roles, the report models a projection of a 40% increase in Black representation over 5 years.

adidas and Stormzy understand that allyship alone cannot tackle the disparities within the industry, however by using the #Merky FC approach – referring candidates, mentorship programmes and establishing role models, believe this can be replicated across the industry to help boost representation.

Stormzy at the IMG Summit 2023
Stormzy at the IMG Summit 2023

Stormzy said: “We launched #Merky FC last year to help level the playing field off-the pitch by providing career opportunities for young Black people. I am so pleased that we’re back this year with the same focus but with an increased recognition that there is still a lot of work to be done. This requires a collective effort from the whole football community and it’s the reason we published this report – we want to show how everyone can do their bit.”

Tobi Ogundipe, founder of DIVERSE. and #Merky FC partner said: “As someone who has witnessed how the small acts of allyship can truly help to change the game, it’s important that we all recognise the need for more programs that support this across the industry. Initiatives designed to increase diversity, such as #Merky FC, can truly unlock more opportunities for young people from marginalised communities, it’s important that we all recognise the need for more programs like this to create lasting change for the next generation of future leaders.”

Steve Marks, Senior Director Brand Communications, adidas said: “We’re extremely proud to launch the next iteration of #Merky FC with Stormzy. We commissioned this report to demonstrate the tangible power of allyship – in a model projecting how we together can boost representation by 40% over five years through a simple act of allyship. Since its inception our goal for #Merky FC has been to not only cultivate new opportunities for young Black people, but to inspire an industrywide movement to create a more diverse and representative world of football.”

Sagina Shabaya, Senior Director, Impact, Inclusion & Advocacy, EMEA at Endeavor, said: “IMG and WME are proud partners of #Merky FC – a joint venture between adidas and Stormzy, and support its mission to identify and create opportunities for more diverse talent to break into the business of football. We know that having a diversity of voices and experiences makes for better, more creative storytelling in our coverage, events and services and we’re excited to meet the next generation of young talent. Endeavor has built a strong relationship with Stormzy, including global representation through WME and facilitating a platform for #Merky FC to speak to 100 of the world’s top sporting executives at last month’s inaugural IMG Summit.”

Stormzy at the IMG Summit highlighting #Merky FC
Stormzy presenting #Merky FC at the IMG Summit 2023

The collaboration between adidas and Stormzy remains steadfast in its ambition to help enhance ethnic diversity in the football industry. As part of adidas’ global ambition to help make sport equal, the brand is committed to creating a lasting-legacy of career opportunities off the pitch for young people of Black and mixed Black heritage.