Lou McGrath OBE
Chief Executive Officer, Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation
Lou has over thirty years experience working with vulnerable people whose lives have been affected by conflict.
Following a short career in the military and then the commercial sector Lou began travelling in Africa and Asia where he experienced the long term impact that conflict had on people’s lives, working in a variety of roles as a volunteer in the humanitarian aid sector.
In 1992 following the first Gulf war, as part of the landmine clearance charity, Mines Advisory Group, Lou played a leading role developing the first humanitarian landmine clearance and bomb disposal programmes in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Later in the same year he was involved in the creation of the first landmine clearance programmes in Cambodia and in the two subsequent years in Laos and Angola.
Lou spent two years conducting research into the global arms trade and exposing companies and individuals involved in the trade in arms to countries that had been embargoed, such as Iran and Iraq and providing evidence for the UK parliamentary groups and assisting UN and national campaign groups advocating a global ban on landmines.
At the beginning of 1997 Lou took on the role of CEO of Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which at that time was struggling as an organisation. He remained as the CEO until 2011 and during that period the organisation went from strength to strength, building on its success with a respected and professional reputation. Lou encouraged innovation within the charity and it led the way in its field of expertise creating much more responsive and multi skilled mine action and explosive ordnance disposal teams, able to be adaptable to the different threats communities faced. Other innovations followed, including the first female demining engineers, and providing training and jobs for amputees to become deminers. Expanding the organisations role to deal with the destruction of small arms and light weapons, as well as stockpiled munitions. By 2011 MAG had been operational in more than forty conflict countries and had developed a large international donor base that has secured the future success of the organisation.
Lou was a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) as well as the UK campaign, in which he played an active part leading up to the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. In 1997 the ICBL received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1999 Lou was invited to watch the destruction of the last stockpile of anti-personnel mines held in the UK when the then British Secretary for Defence presented him with the last anti – personnel mine held by British Forces.
After leaving MAG, Lou went on to assist a number of national and international humanitarian organisations in a variety of ways, from restructuring to building new international projects. In 2016 Lou was pleased to be accepted for the role of CEO for The Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation. Lou had met Sir Bobby on several occasions following his walk in a MAG minefield in Cambodia in 2008 and wanted to support his commitment to assist those whose lives had been affected by conflict.
In 2008 Lou was awarded an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen for his work on clearing landmines.