FIFA Fights for Female Footballing Coaches

By | March 31, 2015

In a recent decision, FIFA has approved for quotas for female coaches at the U-17 Women’s World Cup that will take place in Jordan in 2016. The quotas require that all competing teams include at least one female coach and one female medic among their staff. These decisions are in response to a growing trend of diminishing numbers of females on coaching staffs. In the upcoming senior 2015 World Cup in Canada, only 8 of the 24 countries will be led by female coaches. This move shifts the focus of the female footballing world to increasing women’s involvement in all aspects of the game, particularly the coaching, in future World Cups. Moya Dodd, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, had this to say about the decision:

“There are many high-quality women candidates to choose from,” Dodd said. “We continue to invest in training women coaches, and they are disproportionately successful when given top jobs, but most of the job market is virtually foreclosed to them because they aren’t considered to coach men’s teams. So, when we see such low numbers appearing as coaches even of junior women’s teams, then it’s clearly time to do more.”

Hope Powell, a former England manager, expressed concerns that the increased visibility of the women’s game has attracted less qualified male coaches who are usurping the positions of more qualified female coaches:

“I can tell you of a number of female coaches who have been coaching at the highest level and are now no longer in the game,” said the 48-year-old, including herself as an example after she was replaced as England’s head coach in 2013 by the then 31-year-old Mark Sampson, who had no international experience. “When we talk about getting ex-players – the Faye Whites and Casey Stoneys – qualified and involved, if you haven’t got the opportunity to give them [as coaches] they’re going to leave the game. I know one, a good friend of mine, who has just decided that football, the game she’s developed the last 20 years, she’s had to step back and that’s expertise and knowledge you can never ever replace. A challenge in leadership on and off the pitch [throughout my career] has been my norm. But my norm should not be the norm for the next generation. It’s wrong, and we need to address it.”

Hope Powell, coach of the England women’s national football team, recently spoke out about the diminishing role of the female coach at the inaugural Women’s Football and Leadership Conference.

Powell’s description of the current affairs of female coaches in football is not unique to the sport. The number of women coaches in collegiate sports in the United States has also drastically fallen since the introduction of Title IX. Furthermore, highly qualified female coaches have also been displaced by less qualified male counterparts for inexplicable of reasons in collegiate sports as well. While the arguments of physicality of sports once were widely-held to impede the progress of females on the pitch, there is little justification for prejudice against females in coaching positions, a job where the majority of the work is mental and relational.

With these disturbing trends and our recent  discussions in class regarding roles of femininity, we must ask ourselves the motivators behind this regressive pattern and how we can address them to foster an environment conducive to female coaches.



5 thoughts on “FIFA Fights for Female Footballing Coaches

  1. Muthoka Muthoka

    This is a very interesting topic of course but I ma one of those people who believe that if it is women’s wolrd cup, one which should be used as ground to show that women can be as good as men and to inspire the many women who are faced with the challenge of getting dominated by male counterparts everywhere, then everybody calling the shots on the sidelines should be a woman. The few men who should be seen on the sidelines should be only on reduced supportive roles like is the case for women in men’s soccer. If the decision was mine to make, all the teams in Canada for this year’s women’s world cup would have women head coaches just like was the case last year in Brazil for men’s wolrd cup where all the coaches were men.

  2. Frannie Sensenbrenner

    This is a really interesting topic, Justin, and I’m glad you brought it up in conjunction with our class discussions of the past week. I’m personally in favor of having more female coaches in the game. When I played soccer, only two out of the ten coaches I had were females. Both of them had played college soccer, and served as role models for the girls on my teams that wanted to play soccer at a higher level. Some of my male coaches had also played in college, but it was easier to relate to the experiences of the female coaches. Aside from relatability, there wasn’t that much of a difference between my male and female coaches; that is to say, females do as good if not a better job coaching at the youth level.
    It would be great to see the changes FIFA is making in regards to female coaches translated to the professional level. In 2014, Helena Costa became the first woman to be named manager of a professional men’s team in France. Unfortunately, she quit before the team’s first practice, citing communication issues with the management and mistreatment via email as the reasons for her departure. Costa’s exit served as a reversal of a big step in women’s involvement in soccer. Many thought that with her arrival at Clermont Foot 63, a new era of participation of women in soccer had begun. Clearly, this was not the case. Hopefully the FIFA ruling will help bring and keep more women in the game, and make female coaches more of a mainstay in professional soccer.


    Justin, I really loved this post because it shed light on an issue that I hadn’t thought about before. The most interesting and problematic part of the female coach “deficit” is, in my opinion, the fact that it causes successful players to leave the game. Of course, some of the best coaches in soccer and every sport are not former professional players. However, may top coaches did play their sports at a high level and are able to continue their involvement and leverage their expertise by joining coaching staffs and teaching developing players. The fact that there are so few women on coaching staffs at high levels is likely discouraging for successful players who might like to stay in the game post retirement but cannot because of a lack of perceived opportunity. I appreciate FIFA’s attempt to take legitimate action to resolve this dynamic, but I wonder how effective it will be. If the opportunities that FIFA can provide to ex-players are forced or the result of arbitrary placement, the effort might be futile; in a team environment, it is so important that coaching staffs and players mesh, and this can only be achieved by mutual selection. It seems to me that there should be a more natural and fluid way to encourage female involvement in coaching staffs without implementing “quotas”, but I’m really not sure what that would be.

  4. Connie Cai

    Thanks for bringing attention to this issue, Justin. While I’m definitely glad that FIFA has created a quota for female coaches in the U-17 division, I also agree with Brigid that this action needs to be echoed throughout other divisions. But on a side note, aside from Hope Powell’s powerful speech and the decision to create a quota for female coaches, something else also resulted from the first FIFA Women’s Football and Leadership Conference: “FIFA has introduced one full, voting position for a female representative on its top Executive Committee, which guides and decides policy for the global football community, along with two positions for co-opted female members of the committee (source:” I think that FIFA’s decision to create female positions at the senior level is extremely meaningful and will hopefully encourage more women to participate and provide their perspective on key FIFA decisions.

  5. Brigid Larkin

    This is a great post, Justin, thanks for sharing! I think it’s wonderful that FIFA is making a push for more female coaches in its U-17 division. I am wondering, however, whether it will be enough to change the sport on a grand scale. While there’s a coaching quota in place for youth leagues, there doesn’t seem to be one for the national teams. If FIFA’s decision only makes a difference to teenage players, who then move up into a male-dominated national program, will it really have the intended impact? I think that’s particularly concerning because, unlike the concerns that Cindy expressed about female referees in the late 90s when she visited our class, this push for women wouldn’t be allowing untrained women onto the pitch. Rather, less-than-talented male coaches are leading teams simply by virtue of being male, and they’re usurping the place of more qualified female coaches. Clearly, FIFA should be making a push like this in ALL of its divisions.


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