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Battle for female coaches to progress remains very real

30 January 2018

Battle for female coaches to progress remains very real

Ellie Beagley is one of 50 coaches selected for Betfair and Women in Football's Fairer Game campaign © Pitch

Confirmation of Phil Neville as the new England women’s team national manager vividly highlighted the lack of transparency shown by The FA in the appointment process – and the lack of opportunities for women and BAME candidates.

Highly respected coaches Vera Pauw and Carolina Morace have publically stated their concerns about a ‘flawed’ recruitment process. The duo also refuted The FA’s claim that there was a severe lack of suitably qualified female candidates for the position, suggesting instead that the criteria for women applicants was set much higher.

For promising coaches such as Ellie Beagley, that battle to even get the opportunity to progress as a coach remains very real.

Ellie, along with 49 other young aspiring female coaches, was hand-picked by Betfair and Women in Football to take part in ‘Fairer Game’, an initiative to support and fund female coaches acquire their UEFA B licence.

Yet despite having accrued 15 years’ of coaching experience already and having a huge amount to offer, her path to further progress remains littered with obstacles.

“It is so frustrating,” said Ellie. “When I got chosen to be one of the 50 coaches by Betfair and WiF I was on cloud nine. As a woman you are always fighting to get heard, always have to be strong so much so that you end up not even knowing that’s what you are doing because you have to do it all the time.

“To get an opportunity like this, have a coaching session with Rachel Yankey and then go to the House of Commons last year and speak to MPs about areas of improvement that can be made, it was really quite emotional and felt that our voice was being heard.

“The reality on a day to day basis for women, remains so tough to make any headway.”

Whilst Ellie has got the funding and support from Betfair and WiF in place to kick on and take her UEFA B badge, she has hit a brick wall of bureaucracy trying to move forward.

“At the moment I am slightly stuck in limbo,” she said. “I am under the catchment area of the Surrey FA, who had 150 applicants for their last course with only 24 places available.

“If you have that many people willing to not only pay £1k to go on the course, but who are also ready, willing and able, why aren’t more courses offered?

“The criteria now also set that applicants have to be coaching 11-a-side teams, aged 15 and over, yet how many women get the opportunity to coach Academy teams of that age? It always tends to be the real youngsters.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love coaching the U6s and U7s at my club, but in order to even have a chance of getting accepted on the Surrey FA course, I have to be working with older players.

“As a female you are only allowed to play in the same team as men until the age of 18, yet are then expected to play football for 6/7 hours a day on courses in order to meet the set criteria.

“The FA say that they want to improve opportunities for women to progress as coaches – well why not do something about it and have female only courses as a starting point? That in itself would take away some of the obstacles that are already there, and obvious to everyone.

“At times it does feel like a losing battle, but having worked so hard to get where I am – I got my Level 2 aged just 18 – I’m still a positive person and am not giving up.”

There could, however, be some welcome light at the end of the tunnel for Ellie, according to Caroline McRoyall, Chief Executive of the Surrey FA.

“In essence this is the first year we, and other Counties, were permitted to run the UEFA B course locally as it had been run centrally by The FA,” she explained.

“As such, we were limited to running just one course this time which was massively oversubscribed. We knew the demand would be very high.

“Candidates on the course, which had 24 places, included four females and 4 BAME candidates.

“We are hoping to be in a position to run two more courses next year as we definitely want to provide an opportunity for the next generation of coaches to continue their progression.”

In the light of Phil Neville’s appointment, and the parachute approach shown by the FA, what now for the country’s most promising young female coaches?

“In every other industry women have progressed,” added Ellie. “The whole Phil Neville/England situation knocks not just women coaches, but those men who have also got years of coaching behind them too. We have seen someone given a job on the basis of their name, not suitability and experience, and that shows how little respect those at the top of the pyramid appear to have.

“It does seem that if you are good enough in coaching, your progress is still determined by your gender.”

“People (like the FA recruiters) don’t do it on purpose,” added former South Africa, Dutch, Scotland and Russia team coach Vera Pauw. “They just have not experienced the system from our side. That’s why we have to speak up for ourselves now. No one else is doing it.”

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