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Opinion It’s time to appoint a woman to manage a men’s club

BELLA KATZ discusses how the assignment of a female coach at a men’s football club is well overdue

IN A WORLD of football previously dominated by men, women have fought their way in to firmly establish their place as successful players, referees, pundits, journalists and coaches. Is now not the time to shatter the boundaries put in place by appointing a woman to coach a men’s Premier League team or EFL squad?

Yesterday, the chair of Women In Football Ebru Koksal spoke out on the matter: “I think that would have a significant impact, because of the visibility of the role and having a role model there to aspire to.”

“It would shatter a prejudice and a belief that there cannot be a female head coach for one of these clubs – why not?

“We have an incoming FA chair who is female (Debbie Hewitt), she has had an amazing career, and I really look forward to hopefully interacting with her. I believe she will make a great change to the industry as well. So why not a female head coach?”

A WIF members’ survey last month found almost four in five (78 per cent) would like to see more gender diverse representation on boards at clubs and other bodies.

The sport industry is becoming increasingly inclusive of its female counterparts, but the area that continues to go unaffected by the ongoing gender equality battle is one of the most influential and well-respected roles — head coach. 

Earlier this year, League Two side Forest Green revealed that they had shortlisted a female candidate to become their next gaffer, but it turned out her CV was handed in without her or her agent’s knowledge.

The Gloucestershire club’s owner and chairman Dale Vince said that they had been open to appointing a female head coach to succeed the outgoing Mark Cooper, and insisted football was “in need of evolution.”

“The woman that we really liked for the job dropped out, or in fact was never quite in,” Vince told the PA news agency.

“She was in the Women’s Super League, I can’t say that much. She was definitely shortlist material, no doubt about it.”

Arguments against appointing a female manager struggle to hold up in this day and age, particularly when numerous male coaches lead women’s teams out on to the pitch every week. In fact, more than half of the managers in the Women’s Super League are male. It seems hypocritical that the roles have yet to be reversed. 

Koksal said one factor which might delay that first appointment is the continued success of the women’s professional game in England.

“A number of coaches will feel it’s worth staying with it, and riding that big wave as well,” Koksal said.

The person that comes to mind who could make the ground-breaking move to a men’s side is Chelsea Women’s coach Emma Hayes. Her ability, experience and unmatched success would make her the perfect candidate. 

Hayes won four league titles with Chelsea between 2015 and 2021, and led them to a Champion’s League final against Barcelona, which they ultimately lost 4-0.

Her knowledge of the game is displayed in all aspects of her work, and she received particularly strong praise recently for her coverage of Euro 2020 as a co-commentator. 

Twitter was flooded with messages from men saying they’d wish she’d become a regular, including former Arsenal player Ian Wright tweeting: “Just listen to Emma Hayes feeding us insight and knowledge. Elite.”

Tactically, she could also offer something really different to the men’s game.

The first weekend of the Barclays Women’s Super League season attracted 1.5 million viewers watching the live games on Sky Sports and the BBC. That’s what happens when women’s football is given equal exposure and opportunities. Those numbers speak for themselves.

I’m optimistic that such a bold move would change a lot of football supporters’ attitudes towards women and their abilities, in the same way that we have seen the support of the Lionesses and the women’s game skyrocket in recent years.

I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

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