In this exclusive Soccerex Spotlight, we interview Nick Gates, Founder and Global Strategist for Coaches Across Continents, a global collaboration focused on promoting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which has improved the lives of over 16 million young people in more than 110 countries and Official Charity Partner of Soccerex.

Hi Nick, thank you for being with us today. Before founding Coaches Across Continents (CAC), you graduated at Harvard University and founded Play Soccer, a soccer coaching company in New England, USA. How were those experiences and which are the key learnings that you gained back then have proved most valuable in your current role?

I’ve been lucky to have been involved in soccer my whole life.  My father played for Middlesbrough for 13 years, I played for the U18 England National team before playing at Harvard, and all my businesses have been soccer based. 

At Play Soccer we were at the start of the soccer boom in the USA before World Cup 1994, and Coaches Across Continents was one of the world’s first charities to use soccer for social impact.  My biggest learning was to understand the power of soccer, both on and off the field.

You also worked as a successful consultant for football organisations such as Middlesbrough FC, the club your father played for. What did you learn working with this Premier League club and how can the professional football industry have a positive impact in social development?

It was an interesting time at Middlesbrough FC working with the football department and the business department.  The Middlesbrough Foundation was starting their great work with the local community and the players were a key part of the success.

Players like Gareth Southgate were fantastic role models.  It was around that time that Premier League clubs first started looking at using their brands to have social impacts around the world and aligned themselves with charities. 

Now in 2019, there is an incredible opportunity for the football industry to develop Corporate Social Responsibility projects with leading charities and have sustainable social development.

You founded Coaches Across Continents in July 2007, over 10 years ago. Which motivated you to do this and how was the set-up process?

Between 2001-2003 I travelled to around 50 countries to see how soccer could impact the world.  And in 2006, I spent a year travelling in Africa and developed the Coaches Across Continents model that partnered with local community programs to build sustainable initiatives. 

Brazilian Legend and FIFA World Cup Winner Pele (left) with US Soccer hall of famer and Coaches Across Continents board member Seamus Malin (right)

We ran our first program in Kigoma, Tanzania and I was back filming from there in 2018 to celebrate our ten year anniversary.  The motivation was quite simple, soccer has the greatest power to educate and engage communities so it was a logical choice to build our charity around the sport.

In your own words, what makes CAC unique? Could you tell us what are the most important values shared by all the members of your organisation?

We run three main areas within Coaches Across Continents.

Our Corporate and Foundation legacy team help clubs, businesses and foundations to design, develop and implement sustainable projects. We have great partnerships with the likes of Nike and Chevrolet and have partnered on projects with Manchester United, Liverpool and LA Galaxy.

Nick Gates (left) with LA Galaxy star Gyasi Zardes

Our Community and Government legacy team implement our programs in over 60 countries and on 6 continents using our Education Outside the Classroom and Purposeful Play concept alongside our Self-Directed Learning methodology.

And our Curriculum Legacy team design play-based curriculum that address UN Sustainable Goals and corporate goals.

On International Women’s Day, our curriculum will be used in 110 countries and supported by Soccerex.  At our recent Global Staff meeting we adopted our newest set of Core Values that will allow us to be successful for the next strategic plan.

Today, CAC is present in six continents and has positively impacted the lives of millions of children and teenagers. How has the organisation evolved in terms of structure over the past decade and what do you consider to be CAC’s biggest achievement to date?  

We began as a simple Train the Trainer program in 2007 but now offer 28 resources to our program partners that help them become better at what they want to achieve. And we offer a full service to our corporate partners that help them design really strong CSR and Cause Marketing initiatives. 

CAC works closely with AFC promoting social development programmes through football in Asia

We are particularly proud of our community partners because every one of our partners is impacting the lives of young people in their community every single day.  In terms of achievements, we’re proud that 98% of our programs are impacting more young people after three years of partnership.

In 2018, to commemorate CAC’s 10-year anniversary, you launched a report called #CAC10: A Decade in Review to showcase the work that you do. The report highlights your legacy programmes under an umbrella campaign named #WhatsYourLegacy. What can you tell us about this campaign, the way these programmes work and the organisations that you work with in different regions? 

We want to help corporations and communities to build sustainable impacts rather than run one off events so we designed the #WhatsYourLegacy campaign to help everyone look at longer term impacts.  Chevrolet were a great example of designing ways to create safe spaces for young people to play and then work with CAC to design curriculum, educate teachers ad coaches and create long term legacies. 

Manchester United's Silvestre visits Chevrolet-CAC Slum project in Kolkata, India

Together, Chevrolet and CAC won the Beyond Sport Corporate of the Year Award. The campaign has allowed corporations to work with CAC and in turn we work with our partners in local communities to build legacies.

In 2009, Coaches Across Continents were awarded the Beyond Sport ‘Best New Project’ and last year CAC won the ‘Global Impact of the Year Award’, in addition to multiple projects managed by CAC which have recognised with the FIFA Diversity Award. What do these achievements mean for the organisation and for you personally? 

The awards reflect the incredible work of the CAC staff around the world and of the community partners.

In 2007, we couldn't have imagined that we would have full partnerships in over 60 countries and have 50 more countries on our wait list. I think that we have won 26 Awards in our first ten years. We are lucky that our success is based upon our partners’ success so we get to live through them. 

Nick Gates in a coaching session in Japan

For me personally, I get to smile a lot seeing how CAC is changing the world using soccer as the tool. 

Coaches Across Continents is actively supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal #4 which is focused on Quality Education and making it accessible and inclusive for everyone, as well as Goal #5 which is Gender Equality. In what ways can NGOs use sports such as football to encourage social development in regions where primary education is not at all granted for children and even less if you are born a girl?

We decided two years ago to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals and our partners now address more than 10 of them. Our monitoring and evaluation shows us that soccer and sport, when done correctly, can be used to educate and talk about the most sensitive issues. NGOs are learning that soccer and sport are unique in engaging communities. 

In 2019, we have designed a new campaign in Tanzania, alongside Pathfinder, to use soccer to educate teenagers and young families around sexual and reproductive health and rights.  We are very proud that over 32% of the people that we were work with are female, a number that we are working to build and encourage all our partners to design programs that do more work towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality.

UN estimates that 617 million youth worldwide lack basic maths and literary skills and an estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas. NGOs work hard to create safe spaces and to promote female empowerment, two concepts that CAC must be familiar with. How would you explain to football business leaders how these work and the impact these can have on the lives of children and their communities with real examples?  

For World Cup 2010, FIFA designed a campaign 20 for 2010 to create 20 long-term projects that included development of football, health care and educational facilities.  Over the past nine years we have partnered with about ten of these facilities to help them build a sustainable safe space.  With all the facilities we provided education on working to promote female empowerment.

Chevrolet built safe spaces with CAC in 8 countries and all included female empowerment.  We have also built two safe spaces with Connor Sport Court and Beyond Sport. 

But safe spaces don't have to be purpose built. We work with UNICEF on their Child Safeguarding through Sport and 100% of our programs design a Child Rights Policy. In most of the places that we work, men have the advantage in playing sport so we work with every program to help them educate their coaches and their community to develop female empowerment.

Since 2018, CAC has been an Official Charity Partner of Soccerex, something we are delighted about, and your list of partners includes world-renowned organisations such AFC and Nike, to name a few. How have these partnerships benefitted CAC’s projects so far?

We work with very proactive partners who recognise the business opportunities by developing strong CSR programs.

In November 2018 we were with AFC at the worlds’ largest refugee camp (900,000 people), located in Bangladesh and we have implemented AFC programs following the earthquake in Nepal and the Tsunami in the Philippines. 

AFC members showcasing Dream Asia projects that CAC have helped to implement

With Nike, we work all over the world with their incredible NCA program that engages Nike staff.  I was in Japan with Nike late last year and their staff are making a huge difference. 

Corporate partnerships allow CAC to impact more places, and for the corporates, they get to design, develop and implement sustainable programs, rather than just running one off events.

As part of the partnership between Soccerex and CAC, we are committed to supporting the CAC’s ASK For Choice campaign. For this reason, a member of our team will be travelling to Colombia to learn about your on-site projects in the region alongside Nora Dooley, CAC’s Community and Government Legacy Manager as well as an event organised by your global partners, Nike, on International Women’s Day. What can you tell us about the ASK For Choice campaign and your projects in Latin America where football is such a powerful tool for social change?

Our ASK for Choice team have been working hard to provide our resources for programs in 110 countries and our logic model is projecting that more than 3 million young people will play games designed by CAC on International Women’s Day. We are delighted to be partnering with Soccerex to make our resources available around the world.

CAC Community and Government Legacy Manager Nora is in Colombia and we are watching today that players like Falcao and Rodriquez have spoken out on the differences between men’s and women’s soccer in Colombia and the obvious inequality. 

Nora will be working in community partnerships that will impact over 500,000 young people in Colombia and a member of Soccerex will work with her on International Women’s Day and at our community programs.

What key message would you like to give to Soccerex’s global football community and particularly to the female business leaders, coaches and players that follow us for International Women’s Day? 

There is such an exciting opportunity for business leaders to work with experts in the social development industry to design, develop and implement sustainable programs that both impact the communities but also impact your business. 

All studies are showing that consumers are more likely to work with brands with a social responsibility cause.  While it’s great to run a one off clinic or event, brands are learning that year round stories are having the biggest impact.

And it’s fun. Having worked at all levels in the soccer world for 35 years, the past 10 years have been the most fun as we see how soccer has the real power to change the world. 

For more information contact: and reference Soccerex.

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