CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE REPORTING — Moya Dodd has expanded on the vision which she addressed at the FIFA Women’s Football Symposium earlier this month in Vancouver. One particular issue of concern for her is the ‘invisible barrier’ faced by women in rising up the coaching ladder. She addressed the theme in a wide-ranging interview at the end of the most dramatic Women’s World Cup yet, in Canada last month.

A number of teams in Canada had male coaches and the challenge appears to be ongoing in bringing through more female coaches to top jobs in international football. How do you change this?

I think there are challenges that are both visible and invisible for female coaches.

Because women were not allowed to play or not encouraged to play for so many decades, the pipeline of ex-players is much thinner than in men’s football and often those ex-players are not given the same level of credibility in their football credentials as the male players because the competitions they played in or the teams they played in were not as well known.

Moya Dodd . . . positive views on the road ahead

Then there’s the challenge of getting into the coach education system – and then there’s the challenge of getting a job on the other side of it. This is where you can draw some parallels from the corporate sphere where women have long complained about the glass ceiling and I think that those challenges on top of everything else apply to women coaches in the game.

When you look at the makeup of the selection panels, when you look at the fact that women are generally only considered coaching women – they’re not considered for jobs coaching men’s teams – that’s a huge disadvantage because actually most of the jobs are coaching men.

So 90pc plus of the job market is closed to them yet it’s considered normal for men to coach women’s teams so even then the jobs that are available to them are contested by male applicants and increasingly so the higher the profile of women’s football grows because those jobs become seen as more attractive.

So actually they’re being squeezed on every side I think. Yet when they do take top jobs you see an exceptional level of performance. If you look at the last four World Cups and the last three Olympics, I think you’ll find that every one of those women’s tournaments – apart from one won by Japan in Germany 2011 – edach one of those winning teams was coached by a woman.

Do you think there is still a problem with perception and perhaps an underlying sexism aspect looking at female coaches?

I would call this one of the invisible barriers. I think because there are few women in those top positions they are highly scrutinised and easily criticised.

It’s a bit like being the first woman Prime Minister; if you are a rarity as a woman in public life in a particular position then you are going to get more attention on your performance than otherwise because it hasn’t yet been normalised that women hold such positions.

I think women coaches also have to challenge the invisible biases and gender stereotypes that are just part of everyday life in society. There is a saying that ‘men take charge and women take care’, but to be a coach you’ve got to take charge, you’ve got to take absolute charge of a situation.

Just seeing women exercise that level of authority is unusual and I think can be challenging for people to accept sometimes. But I think when you look at the outstanding teams, the teams that did outstandingly well in this tournament and surprised people, you’d have to acknowledge Hope Powell’s work with England over many, many years.

She built the system which is now yielding players who have succeeded at this tournament and she deserves a lot of credit for that because she did so long before the game was as popular or well-resourced as it is now.

Probably she never had the resources that are now available to the team. And she took the team to a European final, she took the team to the last eight in major tournaments more than once and she built a system that is now yielding results.

If you look at any of the teams that got to the final four, they have built systems. They have a product of systems that have yielded results; Germany, USA, Japan, England have invested over a long period of time and those investments paid off.

That level of scrutiny on female coaches – is that something you’ve felt in your role at the AFC or in FIFA?

I don’t really think about it for myself to be honest. I know that I bring in a perspective that others don’t and I try to make sure that that perspective is able to be factored in on discussions around resource development and around the priority that the governing bodies give to different parts of the game.

Because I think that over many years women’s football was one of the neglected constituencies and it’s very clear the future needs to be different to the past. It’s no secret that football has some challenges in governance and lessons from the corporate world, that when you have diversity in decision making including gender diversity, you get better decisions.

Companies are more profitable, less profitable to fraud, etc., when they have a diversity of leadership at board and at management level and football is no different.

So as football reforms are discussed and agreed in the coming months and years (probably) I would hope that that’s very much part of the discussion. Certainly the symposium speakers and outcomes are in line with that.

What did you make of the Asian teams’ contributions at the Women’s World Cup in Canada?


It was really encouraging. The AFC granted for the first time a preparation subsidy to the Asian teams which qualified so a million dollars was made available and shared equally across five teams; Japan, China, Korea Republic, Australia and Thailand, and I think that made a real difference. It enabled those teams to have solid months of preparation time, certainly in the case of Australia there was almost five months of virtually full-time preparation for the team.

Only one Asian team failed to make the knockout stage so . . .?

True and Thailand was a debutant team. It was one of the lower ranked teams and they were eliminated only on goal difference in the end. They got three points and they only failed on goal difference to progress to the round of 16.

So I think you’d have to say it was a good tournament for Asia, obviously Japan went all the way to the final. Other teams lost out in the round of 16 and the round of eight. But football’s a work in progress everywhere and it’s really encouraging to see some results like that.

Returning to the theme of women in football, do you think it’s possible that a female candidate will run for FIFA president one day?


I wouldn’t want to put any time frame on it but you would hope at some point where football governance gets to the point where that’s not even a matter for speculation or comment. Where the discussion around presidential candidates is only on qualities rather than the gender of the candidate; I’d like to think football will get to that point in my lifetime.