Show Hide image

When will there be female managers in the English Premier League?

Wenger said he was “convinced” that there would be a female manager in the Premier league “soon”.

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. 




Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Cambridge Analytica and the digital war in Africa

Across the continent, UK expertise is being deployed online to sway elections and target dissidents.

Cambridge Analytica, the British political consultancy caught up in a huge scandal over its use of Facebook data, has boasted that they ran the successful campaigns of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 Kenyan elections. In a secretly filmed video, Mark Turnbull, a managing director for Cambridge Analytica and sister company SCL Elections, told a Channel 4 News’ undercover investigative reporting team that his firm secretly stage-managed Kenyatta’s hotly contested campaigns.

“We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing – so just about every element of this candidate,” Turnbull said of his firm’s work for Kenyatta’s party.

Cambridge Analytica boasts of manipulating voters’ deepest fears and worries. Last year’s Kenyan election was dogged by vicious online propaganda targeting opposition leader Raila Odinga, with images and films playing on people’s concerns about everything from terrorism to spiralling disease. No-one knows who produced the material. Cambridge Analytica denies involvement with these toxic videos – a claim that is hard to square with the company’s boast that they “staged the whole thing.” 

In any event, Kenyatta came to power in 2013 and won a second and final term last August, defeating Odinga by 1.4 million votes.

The work of this British company is only the tip of the iceberg. Another company, the public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, has apologised for stirring up racial hostility in South Africa on behalf of former President Jacob Zuma’s alleged financiers – the Gupta family. Bell Pottinger has since gone out of business.

Some electoral manipulation has been home grown. During the 2016 South African municipal elections the African National Congress established its own media manipulations operation.

Called the “war room” it was the ANC’s own “black ops” centre. The operation ranged from producing fake posters, apparently on behalf of opposition parties, to establishing 200 fake social media “influencers”. The team launched a news site, The New South African, which claimed to be a “platform for new voices offering a different perspective of South Africa”. The propaganda branded opposition parties as vehicles for the rich and not caring for the poor.

While the ANC denied any involvement, the matter became public when the public relations consultant hired by the party went to court for the non-payment of her bill. Among the court papers was an agreement between the claimant and the ANC general manager, Ignatius Jacobs. According to the email, the war room “will require input from the GM [ANC general manager Jacobs] and Cde Nkadimeng [an ANC linked businessman] on a daily basis. The ANC must appoint a political champion who has access to approval, as this is one of the key objectives of the war room.”

Such home-grown digital dirty wars appear to be the exception, rather than the rule, in the rest of Africa. Most activities are run by foreign firms.

Ethiopia, which is now in a political ferment, has turned to an Israeli software company to attack opponents of the government. A Canadian research group, Citizens Lab, reported that Ethiopian dissidents in the US, UK, and other countries were targeted with emails containing sophisticated commercial spyware posing as Adobe Flash updates and PDF plugins.

Citizens Lab says it identified the spyware as a product known as “PC Surveillance System (PSS)”. This is a described as a “commercial spyware product offered by Cyberbit —  an Israel-based cyber security company— and marketed to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

This is not the first time Ethiopia has been accused of turning to foreign companies for its cyber-operations. According to Human Rights Watch, this is at least the third spyware vendor that Ethiopia has used to target dissidents, journalists and activists since 2013.

Much of the early surveillance work was reportedly carried out by the Chinese telecom giant, ZTE. More recently it has turned for more advanced surveillance technology from British, German and Italian companies. “Ethiopia appears to have acquired and used United Kingdom and Germany-based Gamma International’s FinFisher and Italy-based Hacking Team’s Remote Control System,” wrote Human Rights Watch in 2014.

Britain’s international development ministry – DFID – boasts that it not only supports good governance but provides funding to back it up. In 2017 the good governance programme had £20 million at its disposal, with an aim is to “help countries as they carry out political and economic reforms.” Perhaps the government should direct some of this funding to investigate just what British companies are up to in Africa, and the wider developing world.

Martin Plaut is a fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He is the author of Understanding Eritrea and, with Paul Holden, the author of Who Rules South Africa?