UEFA report: Women’s football on the rise but England can do more to close the gender gap

The last five years have seen a rise in numbers of professional players, match officials and qualified coaches in European women’s football, a UEFA report shows.

However, the same review exposes some problematic trends in football in England.

According to the publication, England is among five nations to have more than 100,000 female footballers registered, with 102,804 players. However, that’s 4,106 less than in 2016.

The total number of registered players in Europe is 1,365, 534, of which 3,572 are professional or semi-professional; rising from 1,680 in 2013.

In the past year, UEFA has given 1,921 new coaching badges to female trainees; and the total number of women with coaching qualifications in 2017 is 19,474.

However, just seven women in England are holders of the UEFA Pro license and the ratio of male to female coaches in women’s football in England is 96:4; much worse than in countries like Italy (75:25), Latvia and Kazakhstan (70:30), or Norway (68:32).

That’s an issue that rings alarm bells especially in light of the recent allegations against Mark Samspson, former England manager, who was found guilty of using discriminatory language towards Eni Aluko and Drew Spence.

Female match officials in England, of whom there are 1,301, also don’t referee football games higher than in the men’s fourth division. In contrast, women are selected to rule in top tiers in Czech Republic, Germany or Hungary.

The report also shows an increase in the total number of qualified female match officials in Europe, rising to 12,785 in 2017. In 2013, this number was significantly lower at 7,505.

Westminster women’s football team captain Shannon Ince has told the Voice of London that England can indeed do more to catch up to their European competitors, especially in terms of increasing the number of female referees in men’s divisions.

“As far as football goes in general I think England have fallen behind our European competitors on and off the field for a long time. I see no reason why a woman can’t referee at men’s professional football level in England.

“We need to do more to make the training and experience, that is needed to become a top referee, accessible to young girls. We also need to do more to promote this as the norm. Girls need to see women officials in the Premier League to know they can do it too.”

Ince, however, acknowledges that women’s football as a competition is growing, most importantly thanks to even greater accessibility young girls have to football schools and trainings.

“If you ask anyone in the women’s football environment they will tell you that the work the FA, and definitely the London FA, have put into promoting and enhancing women’s football over the past few years has been great.

“Football is so much more accessible to girls now than it ever was when I was growing up. And new rules at grass roots level, meaning girls can play alongside boys for longer, translates into better and more equal development of players.”

Words: Damian Burchardt | Subbing: Reuben Pinder

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