This week saw the start of the UEFA European Women’s Football Championships, hosted in the Netherlands. There is a huge amount of excitement around this tournament, with all the progress women’s football has made around the world in recent years, this seems to be the tournament to test the water and see just how far it has indeed progressed.
TV rights holders have made huge efforts in promotion and in the UK alone two TV channels have ensured to show every single game and have taken big strides in increasing viewing figures of matches. Eurosport and Channel 4 are showing every minute of every match.
Check out this commercial by UK channel ‘Channel 4’…
The last big women’s football tournament was the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, in which we saw 16 teams battle it out for the Gold medal. The attention around the women’s home team was incredible and turned relatively well known faces into superstars and household names. Brazilian footballer Marta was the poster girl of the Games with 9 out of every 10 people who owned a TV in Brazil watching the tournament.
From a coaching point of view however, only 4 teams out of the 16 had female Head Coaches, South Africa (Vera Pauw), Germany (Sylvia Neid), Sweden (Pia Sundhage), USA (Jill Ellis). Whilst you would think that the low number of women head coaches would dictate that a male coach would win the Gold Medal, in fact, the final two teams Sweden and Germany were both coached by women, guaranteeing a female coach came home with the Gold (Sylvia Need and Germany).
The European Championships 2017 see’s another 16 teams take to the challenge, this time 6 of them are headed by female coaches: Germany (Steffi Jones), Sweden (Pia Sundhage), Scotland (Anna Signeul), Switzerland (Martina Voss-Tecklenburg), Russia (Elana Fomina) and the Netherlands (Sarina Wiegman). An increase of 50% from last years major tournament.
Realising that this is a European Championship and perhaps some of these teams would not make it to the Global stage of a World Cup or Olympic Tournament, it is fantastic to see an increase of female coaches at an international level. When analysing these numbers further, it appears that Europe as a whole, has had a considerable increase in the overall number of women qualified in football.
These number increases are proven again at lower levels of coaching as UEFA recently produced their annual report into the state of women’s football in Europe. As it stands, there are 17,553 qualified female football coaches in Europe, with the numbers broken down as follows:
As with all sports, the number of female coaches dwindles considerably the higher up the levels you go, however, if you convert the 2014 numbers into percentage increase of 2016, you will see that they all correlate to the National Coach numbers. For example: the % increase of the UEFA Pro licence in 2014 – 2016 is 57% , in 2017, there was a 50% increase in female Head National Coaches from 2016.
Another factor of this increase in national coaches has to be credited to the coaches who have gone before them. Many previous or current coaches have been vocal in their support of future female coaches and ensured they have mentored women to take their position.
Steffi Jones for example has long been an apprentice of Germany’s most successful football coach Sylvia Neid who has worked with Steffi to ensure that when she retired, Steffi would have all the tools to step into her shoes. Steffi now heads her first major tournament at this years Euro’s.
Anna Signeul, Scotlands head coach annouced back in February that once this Euro Championships were over, she would be returning to her home country of Finland, but not before she oversaw the appointment of her predecessor Shelley Kerr.
It is essential now that UEFA and it’s national team coaches keep the momentum of the success of women’s football, not just in the form of viewing figures, but in mentoring and supporting its 101 Pro licensed coaches. If we increase each major tournament by 2 female head coaches each year, it will only be 5 more years until we see the major of teams headed by women.