Where are all the Women Coaches?

The USA won the Women’s World Cup on Sunday when they hammered Japan 5-2.

USA 2015 Women's World Cup Champions

New Zealand again failed to get past the 1st round, but they were unlucky they played very well against Netherlands before a stunning strike from Lieke Martens gave Netherlands a 1-0 win. In the second game against hosts Canada a penalty for NZ was crashed against the crossbar and the game ended 1-1. Then against China in a must win game, they suffered  the worst handball decision in NZ football since the All White’s infamous game against Kuwait at Mt Smart in 1981! The resulting 2-2 draw wasn’t enough to progress to the next round.

This was the 7th and biggest Women’s World Cup. The first was in 1991 with 12 teams, now it is up to 24 teams, but despite the growth in women’s football both in the world cup and in participation numbers, where are all the women coaches? Of the 24 teams that were at the World Cup only 6 had Women managers, while this is an improvement on the first World Cup where only 1 of the 12 teams had a Women as manager the number of teams have increased by 50% while the number of women coaches has only increased by 13%.

This isn’t just at the top level, of the 9 teams that make up the US National Women’s Soccer League, the only Woman head coach is Laura Harvey of Seattle Reign, In England there are 18 teams in the 2 divisions of the Women’s Super League but the only Woman head coaches are Emma Hayes of Chelsea, Melanie Reay of Sunderland and Jayne Ludlow of Reading. In Germany one of the older professional women’s leagues none of the 12 Bundesliga clubs have a women coach. When I have watched women’s football at a local level women coaches tend to be commented on because they are the exception rather than the rule!

The Women’s game has been around for as long as the men’s game with the first recorded women’s football game taking place in Scotland in 1892. Women’s football grew at a steady pace but was helped immensely by World War One and the most famous team of this time was an ammunition works team, Dick, Kerr’s Ladies who got crowds of up to 53 000.
Dick, Kerr's Ladies in 1921
Some claim that this popularity led to the FA’s 1921 ban on women’s teams playing on the pitches of Association members clubs, although the wording of the FA statement when they stated “…on the ground that the game (as played by women) was distasteful” probably showed that the generally sexist attitudes of the day had more to do with the decision.

Women’s football continued playing on the pitches of rugby clubs but when Dick, Kerr’s Ladies stopped playing in 1965 it was largely a social sport. The FA lifted their ban after 50 years in 1971 and the 1970’s can be seen as the re-birth of modern women’s football with many countries setting up leagues, national associations and international games beginning to be played.

With moving from a social sport to a serious competitive one, it isn’t surprising that they looked to the men’s game as they had more experience of the competitive side of the game, but after 40 or so years you would expect the World Cup Finals to have more than 6 out of 24 women coaches.

Part of the problem is numbers of qualified coaches, in 2014 UEFA reported that there were 9787 men that held UEFA PRO licenses, while only 65 women did, the flow on effect from this is that when jobs are advertised the applicants are dominated by men. When Scottish Club Dundee United recently set up a Women’s team, they received 50 applications for the job of head coach, not one came from a woman.

In a recent interview with the UK’s Guardian, April Heinrichs who was the first Woman elected to the US Soccer hall of fame and coached the USA to Olympic Gold in 2004 said “…men will apply for every job available. If there are 10 criteria and they have two they will apply…for women, if she’s missing two she will not apply”

The recruiters need to look at how they are recruiting and look harder for the women candidates, but as many of the job descriptions are written by men and the employers are men is it any surprise that advert’s seem to attract more men than women? It is telling that of the clubs mentioned earlier in the article the majority have a Woman as General Manager or CEO.

Helena Costa - described as Mourinho in a skirt
The biggest problem is still general sexism, the only woman ever to be put in charge of a professional men’s team was Helena Costa, who was in charge of French 2nd division club Clermont Foot 63 for just 49 days. She resigned after being consistently undermined and being shown a total lack of respect. The clubs president, Claude Michy response was “She takes her secrets with her, she is a woman. They are capable of leading us to believe in certain things”. Which just really underlines Costa’s claims as it is extremely doubtful if he would have had a similar response if it was a man that had just resigned on him. The media didn't help either, Costa had spent time working with Chelsea's Jose Mourinho, so rather than commenting on her achievements and potential she was described her as Mourinho in a skirt.

Things are being done to change the situation, FIFA have made it a rule that the U17 world cup head coaches must all be women. UEFA say that 10 000 women hold C Licences so there should be a lot more women coming through in the next few years. In 2013 NZ Football announced a plan that would see women head coaches in all their teams within the next 8 years.

So it is happening it’s just a shame that it has taken so long. The ultimate would be a woman working at a top job in a league like La Liga or the English Premiership without anyone batting an eyelid. I won’t hold my breath on this happening soon but I grew up in a time when Black’s were fighting for equal rights in South Africa, Gays were fighting to be legal the world over and no one ever thought a catholic would play for Rangers so it can and will happen.