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Equity in women coaches and leadership roles is the key to advancing women in football

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Roar Guru
22nd July, 2021

A 2019 participation survey found that only 20 per cent of registered coaches in Australian football were women.

Aish Ravi, the co founder of the Women’s Coaching Association and a member of the Executive Committee of Football Coaches Australia, is hopeful this number increases in the lead up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Ravi, who is completing a PHD at Monash University on Women in Football, has long advocated for women to be given more opportunities in leadership roles in sport, especially in senior coaching positions.

With 916,000 Australians tuning in to watch the Matildas on Wednesday night in their Olympics opener against New Zealand, there is clearly increased interest in the women’s game.

Ravi believes this needs to be matched by a commitment from authorities to increase the role women play off the field.

“We need more women in positions like Mel Andreatta in the national team set up, for our women and girls to see that a future exists for them outside of playing the game,” said Ravi, who coaches Cobras FC in State League Two in Victoria.

“At the moment, there are very few women coaches at all levels and this needs to change. We need to see more women in the W-League and Matildas set-ups.”

Generic football

(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

The 2021/22 W-League season will see three women coaches. Vicki Linton will be in charge at Canberra United, Ash Wilson returns for Newcastle while Catherine Cannuli will make her senior coaching debut at Western Sydney.


“The increase in numbers is encouraging in the W-League and football in general, but we need to ensure these women are supported to succeed in their positions and there is a visible pathway for others to follow,” said Ravi. “Vicki, Ash and Cath are all fantastic and deserve their chance.

“The key is to improve the pathways for women by investing in women’s coaching programs, complemented by providing opportunities and roles for them. We need investment in women coaches at all levels starting at grassroots/community and NPLW level.

“There are some excellent women coaches coming through the NPLW, and we need to give them every chance to learn their craft and importantly, be given an opportunity to then perform at a higher level.

“Football Australia’s legacy program can hopefully change the landscape for women coaches by investing in their development.

“We have a huge interest in women’s football and in sports in general, it’s great to see more players participating, but we need more women in coaching positions to show women there is more to sport than playing.”


A comparison between football and Australian sport in general is interesting.

The 2021 Australian Olympic team will see 254 women (53per cent) out of 482 athletes. However, the lack of women coaches stands out in proportion to the number of women athletes. Less than 10per cent of the coaches in the Australian Olympic team are women.

At the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, only 9per cent of Australia’s coaches were women, with a similar number in Tokyo. When looking at all countries, only 11per cent of coaches were women over the last four Olympics.

When comparing other domestic sports Down Under, in the AFLW in 2021, only one of the 14 senior coaches – Peta Searle at St Kilda – was female. She quit her post last month.

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In cricket’s WBBL, only two of eight coaches are women, including Perth Scorchers coach Lisa Keightley, who is also coaching England at the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup. In basketball’s WNBL, it’s three out of eight.

“We need to improve these numbers to show we value women leaders in sport,” said Ravi.

“We invest a lot of money in sport in Australia, so there is every chance now and going forward to invest in women’s coaching programs. Just striving for success on a playing field is not good enough.

“With the 2023 World Cup and 2032 Olympics coming to Australia, we have a wonderful platform to show women have a voice and are visible as leaders.”