by Andy Robinson
I got involved in a heated argument a couple of weeks ago with some other football supporters on the website that I go on. They took the view that women had no place in football. Well everyone is entitled to their own opinion but sometimes the facts speak clearly for themselves. Here are a few Statistics for those of you with that mindset in the hope that you change your opinion.
253,600 Women play football each month.
There are 5,143 girls teams and 1,437 women’s teams currently registered with the FA
Football is the most popular participation sport for women in Britain
The attendance of Team GB’s pre-Olympic friendly against Brazil was 70,584 – that’s more than six times bigger than the attendance for the FA Cup Quarter Final between Blackburn Rovers and Millwall.
Whilst looking around the internet I came across a similar themed article from a few months back by a well known football website. In their article of the 20 most renowned women in football they managed to feature a photo of Clare Tomlinson in what looked like a maids outfit and described her as having a sense of humour on the basis that she was a former lover of Brian Robson. The article also featured Coleen Rooney and an assortment of Wags and several of the Sky Sports Girls. It wasn’t really what I was looking for. So here is a brief “Daisy Cutter” guide to just some of the Women who are making waves in the world of football.
Kelly Simmons MBE
During 2012 Kelly played a major role in the organisation of the Olympic Football tournaments both for women and for the disability competitions. Also, as one of the principal movers and shakers behind the Football Association’s “Game Changer” strategy she is in the process of developing the amateur game over the next 5 years. Her current position is Director of the National Game and the Women’s Game.
Back in 1990 she stood for election as the Sports Officer with the Students Union at Warwick University and during a speech in her election campaign she got all her teammates from the University football team to jump up and sing “I should be so Lucky” by Kylie. It was a vote winner.
She went on to gain her FA Coaching badges and did community sports work around Manchester and was then head-hunted by the FA. She now has a budget of £200M to invest in football at the grass roots level and she is within two years of putting women’s football ahead of rugby as the nation’s second biggest participation sport. A former defender for Brighton Ladies she is still in her early thirties and from what I can make out of the Senior Management structure on the FA’s Website she looks a good bet one day to become FA Secretary.
My only reservation in all this is that she is a Liverpool supporter and her favourite player was Dalglish.
Married to (currently not working) football manager Paul Peschisolido and daughter of a former chairman of Swindon Town, mother of two, columnist, TV personality, directorships at “Sport England”, Channel 4 and Arcadia Group it isn’t suprising that the lady always features highly on any “Woman of the Year” Poll. Her current regular day job is as vice chairman of West Ham where she has been the prime mover behind the club’s successful bid to move from Upton Park to the new Olympic Stadium in three season’s time. It was a murky business with some investigators from Spurs charged with phone tapping against Brady.
Her career began when she lied about being a graduate to get in as a trainee with Saatchi and Saatchi. Looking every inch the girl next door she has a head for figures and is known as a ruthless negotiator in some of the murkier aspects of the football business and isn’t afraid to sack those that don’t measure up. I do worry though that after twenty years in the high echelons of football ownership and turning a profit she has just made her first serious error. Come on, who in their right minds would offer Big Sam “Long Ball” Alladyce a contract extension?
Jacqui Oatley’s career at the moment seems to have come to something of a crossroads. With stints recently at the Beeb covering the snooker, the golf Open, the Olympics and Tennis it’s as if they don’t really know what to do with her. Let’s not forget though the reason why she is on the list. This is the first female to commentate on “Match of the Day”. She also regularly features on Football Focus and 5 Live. Oatley first came to the attention of the football public with a controversial 2005 interview with the EUFA President Lennart Johannsson where his reactionary, sexist comments about women in the game said more about him than it did her.
After graduating from Leeds University with a degree in German she went travelling for a year before working in journalism. A year working in hospital radio and sleeping on floors eventually paved the way for a job at Radio Leeds and her first gig as a football reporter was on a Unibond Game between Wakefield & Emley versus Worksop Town.
A fully qualified FA Coach and a former amateur player with Chiswick Ladies she knows the downside of the game as much as any man: ruptured ligaments and a dislocated knee cap ended her playing days. At this stage it looks like she isn’t going to be the next Motty or Brian Moore but the fact that she has done the local reporting bit and got herself carried off the pitch on a stretcher means to me that at the very least she has been a trailblazer for the next group of female commentators and reporters and the current “Sky” Girls.
Perhaps the most celebrated woman in football, Hope Powell has been England manager for an incredible 15 years and led the country to the final of the European Championships in 2009. She was manager of Team GB at the Olympics and is the first woman to hold the EUFA Pro License – the games top coaching qualification where she studied alongside Stuart Pearce, now a close friend. As a player she had a distinguished career at the highest level of the game winning 66 caps in an injury hit career and won FA Cup winners medals and Championship medals whilst playing for Millwall and Croyden.
With England in with a decent chance at the forthcoming 2013 European Championships she is another who is at a career crossroads. She was linked with the managers position at Grimsby Town a couple of seasons ago and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a career in the men’s game but far more likely would be a new role in coaching management at the new St George’s Park. Especially since she comes across on TV as far more Howard Wilkinson than Jose Mourinho. She does have a great story about Capello though who often used to phone her up and discuss his tactical ideas with her for Englands next match.
With the FA literally throwing money at the sport of women’s Football and the BBC helping in the best way it can with a commitment to showing all of Englands competitive games live all it needs now is for Sky to jump on board. The game has a massive future. It has the finance, it has the players and I have shown it has the role models. Last night Sky Sports showed some golf, darts, speedway, NFL and motocross. I am certain if they had shown a ladies football Premiership match live – and don’t forget the teams play when Sky tell them – the viewing figures would have been acceptable. As Kevin Costner said “Build it and they will come”.