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Day 24: Why is international football so much more receptive to women managers?
Sunday’s Euro 2022 final at Wembley will be won by a manager who is a woman. It means the European Championships will continue its 100% record of only having been won by women. Only 6 of the starting 16 teams were managed by women but three of the four semi-finalists were. Now Sarina Wiegman and Martina Voss-Tecklenberg will contest the trophy on Sunday.
International football continues to be a place where women coaches can thrive. The Olympic gold last summer was won by Bev Priestman and the last World Cup by Jill Ellis. You have to go back to 2011 for the last time a male manager won a women’s international tournament, when Norio Sasaki led Japan to World Cup glory.
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That is a vast difference to the Women’s Champions League where this year’s winning coach, Sonia Bompastor of Lyon, was the first woman to win the competition since Martina Voss-Tecklenberg herself won the competition with Duisburg back in 2009. Coaching within women’s club football, at the least at the very highest level, has tended to prefer male coaches.
Part of the difference likely comes from national football association’s seemingly being more able to offer women the space to develop as coaches. Sarina Wiegman learned many of the tools of her trade within the Dutch system whilst Bev Priestman who won gold with Canada came through the English Football Association. Irene Fuhrmann of Austria is another notable coach who has come through her national system to manage the senior team.
Creating these spaces matters because women need the opportunity to learn how to become coaches. With academy systems less developed in the women’s game, there are fewer opportunities to go in at a youth level. It is notable that Bompastor spent eight years within the well-developed Lyon academy before taking the senior job, whilst another high-profile coach within the women’s game, Emma Hayes, has spent a decade honing her trade at Chelsea.
The clear success of women managing at international level demonstrates that the lack of women managing within club football is a result of structural issues. Whilst often the mainstream media is keen to debate when (in England at least) a woman will make the step into managing the men’s game, it is a much more glaring problem as to how women gain the experience to allow them to be appointed at the very best club jobs with the women’s game.
Given that international management differs quite extensively from club management, it is not obvious how there is a natural transition from the programmes national associations are running into the club football. Rehanne Skinner is a good example of someone who has made the move pretty smoothly but she was appointed by a club who were willing to take a calculated risk in Tottenham. As we celebrate the women who have shone on the pitch this month, we should celebrate those off it too. Being a manager is a hell of a job and it is important we keep demanding more pathways are open to women wanting to do it.