Should a man coach England's women?
Saturday 29 August 2009
There are 12 teams in the Uefa Women's Championship which is taking place in Finland, nine have male managers. Identical figures apply in the FA Women's Premier League.
A lack of female role models is a prime reason Hope Powell was made England coach 11 years ago despite little coaching experience. Opinions vary on whether she has been a success. It is hard to envisage a male appointment surviving the disastrous 2005 European Championship campaign when England, the hosts, came bottom of their group. On the credit side England are ninth in the world, their highest rank, and routinely qualify for finals.
It could, and has been, argued that they ought to, given the FA's investment, but as Powell points out, "everyone else has moved on as well".
Few dispute that Powell has been influential off the field. Fara Williams, the England midfielder, said: "What she has done is massive: central contracts, development teams. It's had an impact on how we think, train and play."
There is also a case for affirmative action. Powell's presence encourages women to take up coaching, boosting the sport's growth. Around 1,000 have passed FA level two, the first serious qualification. Yet women's football may be best promoted by success, and England are again struggling to escape their group after a loss to Italy in which Powell's tactical response to Casey Stoney's early dismissal was questioned.
However England do in Finland, Powell is likely to step aside, or move upstairs, soon afterwards. Mo Marley, who led the under-19s to the European title this year, is favourite to succeed but there are well-qualified male candidates. The choice may not be as scrutinised as Fabio Capello's successor, but it is just as tricky.
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