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Opinion

The FFA must invest more in women's coaches

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Roar Guru
1st October, 2020
17

The excitement around Tony Gustavsson’s appointment is more than just about winning the 2023 World Cup.

The FFA have made it clear they want a coach who will rebuild our women’s football infrastructure. This means the senior Matildas but also the youth players coming through. However, an important point that shouldn’t be missed is the need to develop our next generation of coaches.

The pathway for coaches in Australia is poor. Many juggle other jobs while trying to learn a specialised craft. It is an area that should be of grave concern to the FFA, who need to nurture the talent available or run the risk of losing coaches well before they have a chance to succeed.

The funding and money generated for 2023 needs to be invested in a proper coaching pathway. After all, the better coaches we have, the better players we will develop.

The key area is our youth and development leagues. Australia hasn’t qualified for the last seven Women’s Youth World Cups and the NPLW system is struggling at times to produce footballers who can compete in the W-League with international stars. This is partly due to the lack of development in our coaching stocks.

The W-League has a number of talented up-and-coming coaches. However they are paid peanuts and expected to live off that for six months. The average coach would get $25-35,000 whereas an assistant would get around $10,000. That is hardly enough to pay the bills.

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The median salary in Australia is $48,000 and the poverty line sits at $22,000 for a single adult and $47,000 for the average family, according to The Smith Family.

During a W-League season, coaching staff work five or six days on average for a total of 25 to 30 hours, which doesn’t include interstate trips. This leaves precious little time to juggle another job that can help make ends meet.

So essentially W-League assistant coaches, who are the next generation coming through, don’t even scrape together enough to meet the poverty line. A senior coach with all that responsibility isn’t that much better off. This is a ridiculous and unacceptable scenario that shouldn’t happen in 2020.

A proper pathway includes remunerating coaches a fair wage so they can focus on developing their capabilities and experience without the pressure of having to find employment elsewhere.

Football generic

(Tony Feder/Getty Images)

The benefit of having the 2023 World Cup is the extra money that inevitably comes into the game from FIFA, the government and sponsors. FIFA has $1 billion to invest in the women’s game, and logically a big chunk of that should go to the countries hosting the next World Cup.

The federal government has lots of money to spend on women’s sport. Football should put its hand out for its fair share.

While player remuneration at the international and W-League level is important, so is the pay given to the people who work just as hard: the support staff. Much of the money coming in also needs to be set aside for coaches.

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There has been a big push for more female coaches to come into the system. But a number simply cannot afford to stay too long in the game. Their livelihoods and family needs won’t allow it. Many are forced out after a few years. That is hardly enough time to build their capability and reach their potential.

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There are some great young female coaches coming through the system. Leah Blayney is touted by many as a future Matildas coach. Catherine Cannuli, Jessine Bonzas and Ashley Wilson are all highly regarded in the W-League. Former W-League coach Belinda Wilson just won a men’s NPL title in northern Queensland. There are a number of others coming through, including many in the NPLW.

While the next three years is about winning the 2023 World Cup, it has to also be about building a professional and fully functional system that invests in everyone from players, coaches, medical staff and administrators. We need every part of the pyramid to work properly and efficiently.

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There has been much talk of leaving a legacy after 2023. That should include ensuring people involved in women’s football don’t have to live in poverty.