Hope for Equality in Football

For any comments from charisma-bereft Andy Murray to have any impact, you can pretty much guarantee that they must carry some substance. His latest monotone efforts regarding his current coach Amelie Mauresmo certainly shone a light on a problem that refuses to be quelled.

The finest tennis star from these shores in a generation revealed in an interview with BBC Sport that since hiring Mauresmo – multiple Grand Slam winner – he has found to his chagrin that fellow pro’s in the fabled ‘Locker Room’ have questioned his decision and even believed it was a hoax that Murray was playing along with!

Aussie tennis star Marinko Matosevic went so far as to declare his disregard for the woman’s game and stating that he ‘ would never hire a female coach ‘.


To add another few spices to the mix, Dani Vallverdu and Jez Green – former members of Andy Murray’s coaching entourage – left him in the lurch when the Frenchwoman started as they didn’t agree with the appointment. Since Murray became the first male professional tennis player to utilise a female as coach and mentor, he has said that he cannot comprehend the negativity that is aimed at Mauresmo whenever the Scot is beaten on court. In the interview, he goes on to say that he wasn’t aiming to be groundbreaking, but because the furore and the spotlight hasn’t dimmed with time, he is very much behind an equal footing for women in sport.

While a refreshing view and one that is shared with the general public – the people in power and the consensus is still firmly an antiquated approach. The Scot has expressed that he finds it a lot easier to get across his opinion with Mauresmo and females in general as opposed to a group of males who normally don’t react well to differing viewpoints. Will this raise awareness within his profession and others, showing sportsmen that women have just as much to offer as their male counterparts?

Sadly, no.

With a plethora of legendary female players currently retired, of the ilk of Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis, surely one of them is more than tooled up to become a coach to a player who needs the boost only an experienced former player could give them? So why is Mauresmo the sole representative?

The answer is down to one repugnant reason. It is simply ignorance. Male players will have ample opportunity to hire any person of their choosing but insist upon sticking with tradition and overlooking talent. There is no doubt that there are retired female players who have so much more to offer than the coach they are currently paying.

At least in tennis though, the tide shows signs of being stemmed, even if a little. In football, the powermongers still  hold all the keys to all the doors.

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A thought-provoking article by @EvaMcL3 on Twitter centred on current Chelsea physio, Eva Carneiro, and the battles she faced on a regular basis to get the esteemed position and to be regarded on the same level as her professional colleagues. It highlighted the blinkered view of the people who simply disregarded her position and achievements because of her sex. There is no question that if she was born a man then she would melt into the Chelsea background – just another member of the backroom staff that sit surrounding the Manager. It resonates that she garners lines in newspapers when headline-hogger Jose Mourinho is her Manager.

The fact that she is female and aesthetically pleasing should bear no weight. If looks mattered, then why doesn’t Steve Bruce – who himself is more than aware of his broken visage – have the word ‘ugly’ before any mention of his name? Why does Carneiro have to be stunning? Can’t she just be an effective physio? Let’s be honest, Chelsea’s injury record is rather excellent, keeping the majority of their power players fit to see them over the line to win the Premiership title means kudos to her.

If Chelsea have the sole female representative in backroom staff, then is the leap to female management a bridge too far? In 2014, the furore over Helena Costa taking the helm at French second tier team Clermont was tangible. Forty-nine days later, she had left the club before the season had started, stating that matches had been arranged without her go-ahead, players had been hired to raise mutiny and contact with the board had been ignored. The club president commented on her departure, saying this; ” She takes her secret with her. She is a woman,” he said. “They are capable of leading us to believe in certain thing

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Shelley Kerr, former Arsenal Ladies Manager, is the only woman currently flying the female flag in football management – she is managing Stirling University in the Scottish Lowland League, the fifth tier of Scottish football. Just as in tennis though, there are other candidates that are primed for the hotbed of football management, if given a chance and the shackles of ignorance are unloc

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Hope Powell passed the Football Association Preliminary Coaching Award at the tender age of 19. She has worked with every age group and has been a leading force in fighting for respect in the women’s game. She has also worked closely with Crystal Palace and as a player, received domestic and international honours. A glittering career – spanning thirty years – with so much experience to pass on. She has the backing of the F.A and would have a fantastic range of contacts. Her name was bandied around to replace sacked Mike Newell at now non-league Grimsby Town, at the time in 2009 they were languishing in League Two, but it never came to fruition. Only the Board Members of Grimsby and Powell herself can say how close she was to becoming the first female League Manager.

Her qualifications and knowledge that others could glean from is surely too valuable a resource to leave on the shelf? Amongst the 92 League teams, there must be one who would benefit from what Hope Powell has to offer, be it First Team Manager or Youth Team? She isn’t the only one who could be a valuable asset. Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey of Arsenal Ladies have a raft of international caps and years of exposure to glean from. They haven’t yet retired, but when they hang up their boots and the roars from the crowd have died away, a career in management should be a viable avenue for such footballing luminaries. What hope do they have when only eight out of the twenty four countries who competed at the last Ladies World Cup were managed by females? They can’t get a sniff in a sport meant to be showcasing females – so how on earth will they force their way into the men’s game?

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Who remembers Sian Massey’s debut in the Premier League? The point is, you shouldn’t. I do remember the surprise from a select few in the media when she performed admirably under an intense spotlight. Why shouldn’t she? She has achieved the same qualifications that all the other line officials have met and she has eyes. Case closed. I will still swear at her if she makes a mistake, but that is how it should be. If she ever is allowed to make the jump to match referee, will she receive more barracking than a male referee? From the crowd perhaps, but the players will respond how they normally do, with ample whining when decisions go against them.

Some would credit the F.A with forward thinking if they chose to put Massey in the firing line. It isn’t evolution, it would merely be putting women on an even keel with men. It is called equality. Some would say that a woman in charge of a football team is a gamble. Not as much as putting Mark Warburton – a former City Trader – in charge of Brentford.

He left his job and gave himself a limit of ten years to make it in football. He spent his own money travelling to European football clubs to watch training sessions and eventually took up a youthteam position at Watford. He worked his way up through the age groups and eventually became Assistant Manager to Nicky Forster at Brentford. When Forster left, Warburton took his mantle. No one is saying that Warburton isn’t qualified, nor that he was the wrong man. Surely though, with women who have far more to offer in terms of experience, there must be a position out there and a Board willing to shun the media’s sneers?

Until the first female is brave enough to throw her name in a vacant hat and we have Board Members and Chairmen that are open to change, then Hope Powell, Helena Costa et al will be spurned and left to waste the valuable memories and tools at their disposal. If it ever does happen though, these ladies will have to exhibit the iron chin they had in their previous employment, because if Amelie Mauresmo’s hiring is anything to go by, the focus will be intense.

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