A lot has happened since Andy Gray and Richard Key’s infamous off-air remarks six years ago.
“The game’s gone mad,” they decried, remarking on the presence of female officials in the men’s game.
Unfortunately for them, like the following loss of both their jobs, neither saw what kind of future was coming.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s comments are more indicative of what is next for women’s football. When asked at the Football Writer’s Association Gala about the prospect of female managers in the men’s game, Wenger pointed towards the success of his fellow compatriot Corinne Diacre.
Diacre, the manager of the second division French club Clermont Foot 63, is the only female manager in the higher leagues of Europe. Her club finished 12th in the league last year, but the previous year were close to promotion.
Diacre also recently revealed that she had been approached by a Ligue 1 team, but turned them down as she wanted to continue her work at Clermont Foot till her contract ends.
Wenger went on to say that he was “convinced” that there would be a female manager in the Premier league “soon”.
Felicia Pennant, the editor-in-chief of the women’s football and fashion zine SEASON is similarly optimistic. She likes to think that there’ll be a female manager in the Premier league “in the next ten years”.
The optimism is a large part due to the success of England’s Lionesses this summer. Their semi-final exit to Holland in this year’s Euros were watched by over four million people on Channel 4 and received widespread coverage in the press.
Pennant does however note that “the hype and euphoria of the Women’s Euro 2017 seems to have already died down as the men’s football season is restarting”.
A report published by the FA in March on the future of the women’s game states that the organisation aims to double both the number of registered women’s teams from 6,000 to 12,000 and increase the average attendance of international matches from 11,000 to 22,000.
Greg Clarke, the chairman of the FA, believes that “women’s football is the biggest single opportunity for us to grow the game”.
Clarke is putting his money where his mouth is.
More money has been allocated to the women’s game in England than other country since the last women’s European championship, and England has the fastest growing numbers of female football players in Europe. It is the currently the fourth largest team sport in the country, behind men’s football, cricket and rugby.
The FA has grand ambitions for it to overtake both men’s rugby and cricket soon.
These ambitions led to the announcement this week that England will bid to hold Euro 2021.
Baroness Sue Campbell, the head of women’s football in the FA, added that “This is another wonderful opportunity to maintain the momentum around women’s football and the feel-good factor generated by the Lionesses in the Netherlands. I’m right behind the bid.”
While there is certainly much momentum surrounding the women’s game at the moment, it should be noted that only five managers in last season’s Women’s Super League were women and only 1 per cent of the people who hold a UEFA Pro coaching license are female.
Aubrey Cooper, FA’s recent hire for the newly created position of Head of Women’s Coach Development, helped launch Women’s High Performance Centres in partnership with 10 universities last month, which she hopes “will help to get more female coaches qualified”.
Cooper also noted that in order to promote more women in the professional game, the 37,000 female coaches that are currently qualified must be “given the oppurtunity to progress in the game” and that “clubs need to be open minded to considering women’s managers”.
When asked when she believes there will a female manager in the Premier League, Cooper seems confident: “There are women capable to make that step now.”
Perhaps, the future is closer than we imagined.