Back in June, online bookmaker Betfair launched their ‘Fairer Game’ campaign. The aim is to promote better training opportunities for female football coaches and to fund 50 female coaches who want to complete their UEFA B licenses.
Ex-England and Arsenal star, Rachel Yankey, has partnered with Betfair to front their campaign. Last week, she and the 50 candidates were in Parliament to talk to MPs about addressing the gender imbalance in football. We spoke to Rachel after her speech to find out more about the campaign.
GOTB: Rachel, you were in Parliament recently to talk about the campaign. How did your speech go?
RY: I think it went well. We were there last Tuesday and there were lots of MPs there looking at the figures and what we’re trying to do with the “Fairer Game” campaign and speaking to some of the 50 candidates who are going on the coaching course. I think they were inspired by them and really want to try and help them and us get more females into coaching positions and make it a fairer game for all.
GOTB: What was it about this initiative that attracted you to get behind it?
RY: I think that there are not enough female role models out there. When I was growing up, my role models were male; my first coaches and people I played with and managers were all men; that was the norm. Now I work in schools and people still say that girls shouldn’t play football and that it’s a boy’s game. I think that it’s been so many years and surely people’s opinions should be changing by now.
It’s not that the kids have a problem with girls playing football. If I think back to when I was at school, none of the boys had a problem with me playing because I was good enough. It’s because of what you see and what you’ve been told. The norm is that football is a man’s game because all we see is men playing it and coaching it and we need to change that. On the playing side, there is more recognition and children can now name female players but what aspirations have these girls got if they want to become coaches and who are their role models? Diversity in your life, on the coaching side and in your school life, is something that is beneficial to people, so why in football clubs do we only have men working there. I think that needs to be addressed!
GOTB: The game has changed a lot over the last few years both on and off the pitch. What for you are the biggest highlights and what do you think needs more work?
RY: On the pitch, the players nowadays have got the education and structure behind them. When I was a kid, I played with some fantastic players but they didn’t have that knowledge. Now you can go and find out what you should be eating, how you should be training and about recovery. You have physios and managers working full-time and doing the video analysis. The whole game in that way has changed for the better. As a player now, you can become a better player through the backroom staff behind you.
However, off the pitch, even in FAWSL 1, there are only three female coaches out of the 10 teams. I am not saying that I would like to see every team managed by a female because I think it should be the best person for the job. However, there might be coaches out there that are good enough but they just need to have those role models and see that there is a place that you can get to. If you don’t see that pathway where you can get a job out of it, then what’s the point of doing the qualifications.
RY: I think it would be to be brave enough to take the knockbacks and to follow what you believe is right because there will be people saying that you can’t or shouldn’t do that. On the playing side, I can understand why once we are over our teenage years, men and women shouldn’t play together – the differences in strength and power is clear to see. But journalism, media, coaching – there’s no difference between a female being able to do a job just as well as a man.
GOTB: You have had a glittering career to date. From the outside, it’s hard to pick one moment but what would you say has been the best moment so far?
RY: That’s a difficult one! I have so many fond memories – winning my 100th cap for England and all that represents; the quadruple at Arsenal and being the first team to be able to do that; becoming a professional at Fulham and do the treble there. Seeing 70,000 people coming to cheer on Team GB at the Olympics was amazing. I never thought that in my lifetime I would see 70,000 people pay for tickets and come and watch women’s football. It’s hard to pick one moment. I think I’ll look back at it and be very proud of certain things that I’ve done and been involved with.
To follow the women on their Betfair Fairer Game journey visit fairergame.com