More female coaches than ever, long way still to go

Posted on 09 September, 2021 by Danny McLoughlin

We analyzed the head coaches of women’s football teams between 2011 and 2021 to understand what opportunities are available for female head coaches and who really controls the women’s game.

The report includes the teams that participated in the most recent season of the English FA WSL, Women’s Champions League, USA NWSL, German Frauen-Bundesliga, French Division 1 Feminine and Spanish Primera Division. It also included the top-25 ranked teams in The FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

Key findings:

  • There are more female head coaches than ever before
  • 72.06% of head coaches in women’s football are male
  • Opportunities for female head coaches hard to come by in USA, and Europe:
    • Currently, less than 25% of head coaches are female in each of the NWSL, Frauen-Bundesliga, Division 1 Féminine, and Primera División Femenina de España
  • But in England, the FA WSL is leading the way:
    • 56.26% of permanent head coaches in 2021 have been female
    • This has transformed from 25% female in 2015

Men dominate head coach positions in women’s football

In 2021, 72.06% (98 of 136) of the head coaches in women’s football have been filled by men.

This has decreased since 2015 when 83.96% of head coaches were male but there are still more than 2 male coaches for every female head coach in women’s football.

Opportunities hard to come by across the leagues

England (in the FA Women’s Super League) is the only place where there have been more female than male head coaches in 2021. In the calendar year, there have been a total of 19 head coaches, 9 of which have been female.

There is a severe lack of opportunities for female head coaches in all other major leagues, excluding international football where 44% of national team head coaches are female.

In Germany, 1 of 14 head coaches has been female. In France, it’s 3 of 18 and in the USA it is 1 of 10 -- although this will increase to 2/12 with Casey Stoney becoming the head coach of the San Diego soccer team.

Teams with no female head coaches in the last 10 years

From the 111 clubs and national teams that have been analyzed in this research, there have been 320 unique head coaches identified. Of these, 251 (78.44%) were male and 69 (21.56%) were female.

Only 61 of the 111 teams have had both a male and a female head coach over the last 10 years. A further 3 teams have only had a female head coach for the last 10 years.

This leaves 47 clubs and international teams in the major US and European leagues plus the top 25 of the FIFA rankings that have not had a single female head coach at all in the past 10 years.

This either speaks to a lack of qualified female head coaches, or that decision-makers do not believe in female leadership, even in women’s football. Either way, there are systemic issues that need to be addressed to see more female head coaches in the game.

England is leading the way

Despite a lack of opportunities elsewhere, the FA WSL in England is leading the way in promoting female head coaches. In 2021, 56.26% of the permanent head coaches in the league have been female.

However, things can change very quickly. Currently, the split has regressed back to 50% male 50% female. In 2020, two thirds of the league’s head coaches were female.

Looking back to 2016, when as many as 75% of head coaches in the Women’s Super League were male, the WSL looked a lot like the rest of women’s football.

The rest of women’s football can look to England as a place to learn how to make sure more female coaches are encouraged to and qualified to become head coaches.

Conclusion

In a world where women are almost completely excluded from the men’s game, it doesn’t seem fair that men dominate such an important position in women’s football.

The FA WSL shows that it doesn’t have to be that way.

For women’s football to continue to grow, it’s important to have women in key management positions - both in the boardroom and the dugout.

This data shows there is still a long way to go before women are given the respect they deserve, even in their own game.

Author
Danny McLoughlin
Danny McLoughlin

Danny is a sports nut with a particular interest in football and running. He loves to watch sports as much as he loves to play. Danny was lead researcher on RunRepeat and The PFA’s report into Racial Bias in Football Commentary. His football and running research has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, New York Times and Washington Post.