How pancakes inspired Ken Monkou to get On The Board

Friday 20 Mar 2015
Ken Monkou is one of the candidates of the On The Board course
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Ken Monkou is used to working under pressure – first as a centre-back for Southampton and Chelsea and then as a pancake shop proprietor flipping to order for 150 people.

Now the Dutchman is looking to step out from behind the frying pan and into the fire of a football boardroom, and is honing his skills on The FA and PFA-run On The Board course.

The campaign aims to help equip black and Asian former players with the skills to sit on football boards and to ensure players get the best possible opportunities with the ongoing support.

It forms an important part of English football’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan.

But the 50-year-old Dutchman has already had a taste of making big business decisions. 

Several years after hanging up his boots following a spell at Huddersfield Town, Monkou bought a pancake house in the city of Delft in his native Holland.

“The pancake story is true, although I’m not doing it at the moment,” he told after sitting his latest exam during the On The Board course at St. George’s Park this week.

“We started it in 2007 and finished in 2009, we couldn’t sustain it as I was travelling between the UK and Holland – but it was quite good though.

“It was the closest I got since I stopped playing to feeling the pressure, excitement and feeling like I was doing something worthwhile was the pancake house.”

Monkou tussles with Dion Dublin back in his Saints playing days

Ken Monkou tussles with Dion Dublin back in his Saints playing days

He continued: “I had an open kitchen, and between midday and 2pm we had something like 150 customers, who would all watch me making these pancakes.

“People didn’t believe it at first that an ex-professional footballer was in the kitchen. I only had six burners, so I was working like a trooper, but it was fantastic. It was family run so it was great to spend so much time with me.

“It was up for sale, and the lady owner said ‘What do you reckon?’. I came back home to discuss it with the guys, and all the figures stacked up, so I thought ‘Why not,’ and I gave it a go.”

Monkou maintained his involvement in the game as a pundit for TV and radio in his homeland, but he is hoping the On Board initiative will give him the tools to take on a much more active role in the game at board room level.

And he and his class-mates are using another graduate of the scheme as inspiration.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work at Chelsea in the corporate hospitality, a bit of TV and radio and I’m also an ambassador for the PFA," he said.

Les Ferdinand and Roy Hodgson at a recent QPR match

Les Ferdinand and Roy Hodgson at a recent QPR match

"I’m one of the nine people they have that goes around to all 92 league clubs and talks to them about diversity and equality.

“The PFA actually recommended this course to me, and I have to say it is fantastic and it’s been a great journey."

During his heyday Monkou enjoyed several battles with striker Les Ferdinand, and the former England striker’s appointment as director of football at Queens Park Rangers has given him hope that a change is happening within the game.

“The example is Les Ferdinand. From him being on board with QPR, when he has to choose between candidates for jobs.

"He will be able to pick someone on who is the most qualified for the job and it won’t be based on race, colour or sex – it will be based on who is the right person for the job and that’s the way it should be.”

Holland has a quota system in place to ensure that BAME groups are represented at all levels within football, but bringing in similar a system in England would not necessarily be the answer according to Monkou.

“I think you have to adapt to what country you are in. I don’t think you can just say we have to have a certain quota, I think you should employ people on the quality and the character of the person. 

"By putting quotas in place, straight away you start working with numbers, and it should be about people making things happen.”

England and Arsenal forward Rachel Yankey

England and Arsenal forward Rachel Yankey is also on the course

Walsall defender Ben Purkiss, former Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle and England Women’s forward Rachel Yankey are just some of the names participating on the 2015 On Board programme, and Monkou is delighted to see such a diverse group – although it is competitive.

“It’s very diverse. You have Kelly Sotherton and Rachel Yankey, and it reflects really well on the social picture at the moment,” he said.

“The next step after this exam will be the graduation next month at Wembley Stadium, which should be a good thing.

“Everyone should then get the thumbs up because we have been on the course, we will have the certificate, but that doesn’t mean you will just be able to step straight onto the board.

“As I’ve said this is all about equality. It should be about the right person with the right knowledge, and that’s why I joined this group.

“People talk about sport being competitive, well just sitting in that exam room, flipping heck! 

"It’s all good though, and when you look around at these guys, even though the majority are from a footballing background, they all bring character, knowledge and personality which most people don’t associate with sports people.”

To find out more about the On The Board programme, visit

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer At St. George's Park