SCOTT Burnett, who grew up in West Somerset, has been mixing it with several Premier League stars on a course sponsored by the Professional Football Association (PFA).

Burnett played football as a youngster at Old Cleeve School, Washford, before embarking on a journey which saw him learn four languages (Danish, French, German and Spanish) and work as translator at Fifa from 2001 to 2008.

He was assistant to Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke (2008-10), before leaving an organisation which has since been dogged by corruption allegations.

Since then he’s worked as a freelance translator and writer, and has also helped at Minehead AFC, following their failure to win promotion to the Western League – despite coming second in the Somerset County League’s top tier – in 2013.

Burnett said: “There were issues around ground inspection, and there was a lot of discord and upset about it.

“So I thought, ‘I have connections at the FA I can speak to’, and that was the first connection I had with Minehead.

“I then spoke to the leadership of the club and I thought I’d like to get involved in some way, and after some discussions I became the general secretary there [August 2013-June 2015].

"When the club merged the first team and youth section two or three years ago, there was new leadership put in place at the club, and I was asked if I wanted to become an executive committee member.

“It’s not a very hands-on role, but just being involved as and when I can support the club in any way.”

Burnett is also an inclusion advisory group member at the Somerset FA, explaining: “That’s about breaking down barriers to football, for whoever it might be, to make it more accessible to all.

“Of course that focuses on particular characteristics – for example, race, gender, sexuality, disability – but it’s also about generally trying to help anyone who wants to try and play football, or wants to be a referee or coach, to make it more accessible for them.”

A meeting with Ben Purkiss, who has played for Port Vale, Swindon Town and Walsall – and is now PFA chairman – alerted Burnett to the ‘On the Board’ programme.

Burnett explained: “It’s run by the PFA, with support from the FA, and the aim is to give former footballers the skills and knowledge to allow them to become directors, board members or trustees of charities... it’s about empowering footballers to make a difference.”

Realising it wasn’t exclusively for professional footballers, Burnett took on the six-month course, meeting once a month, and culminating in an exam in March 2019.

He admits that he was initially daunted by sharing a learning environment with the likes of Olivier Bernard (Newcastle United), Pascal Chimbonda (Tottenham), Chris Iwelumo (Stoke City/Wolves) and Wes Morgan (Leicester City’s Premier League-winning captain), but that quickly changed in what was a “fantastic experience”.

Burnett added: “It’s about giving skills and the key elements of good corporate governance, which I found to be really important, particularly after my experiences at Fifa, where I felt those weren’t really being followed.

“I felt it was part of my development, to get to where I’d like to go in the future, with the feeling that I have a solid basis in place, that I can build on.”

See next week’s County Gazette for part two of the interview

For more information on the 'On the Board' programme, visit the website or follow @TheBoardEffect on Twitter