English Football Should Learn From The Story Of Corinne Diacre

English Football Should Learn From The Story Of Corinne Diacre
Aug 10, 2017

Featured Women's Football

To many, the idea of a woman managing a men’s football team is a totally alien concept, there are currently no women working as a full-time coach, or scout in any EFL club. Despite this, Wenger recently told the press at a Football Writers’ Association fundraiser: “I’m personally convinced that [a female manager in the Premier League] will happen soon. I’m convinced [that it will happen] in 10 or 15 years.”

In terms of women in other, high-ranking roles at men’s clubs, there is currently only one female CEO in the men’s game, Mansfield’s Carolyn Radford; the youngest CEO in the football league at the age of 35. The woman with the highest profile in England’s top 4 leagues is probably West Ham co-owner Karen Brady who came under fire last season for her handling of fans as the club moved into London’s Olympic Stadium.

Patrizia Panico recently became the first female head coach of a men’s national team – albeit Italy’s U16 side. In her playing days, she was the women’s sides all-time leading goal scorer and most-capped player but she hopes her appointment will help pave the way for a new wave of female coaches.

“I think we still have to knock down plenty more walls and this is a decision which could help make them fall down,” she said ahead of her first game in charge of the side against Germany.

In Germany, Bibiana Steinhaus has made history by becoming the first female referee in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues. Additionally, Helena Costa has become the Bundesliga’s first scout; filling the role for Eintracht Frankfurt.

Costa was previously subject to controversy when she was appointed manager of Ligue 2 side, Clermont Foot 63 in 2014 but left before the season started. She claimed the club showed her a “total lack of respect as well as amateurism.” and accused them of arranging friendlies and signing players without first informing her, she later said that she suspected her appointment was a publicity stunt.

The chairman, Claude Michy later gave reason to believe Costa’s suspicion with his response. He claimed it could be down to a number of things simply because “She is a woman”. Despite this, she was replaced by another woman; Corinne Diacre. Diacre was up against it, she was the league’s youngest manager in 14/15 and Clermont had the smallest budget.

Amid the obvious media attention, she remained level-headed. When asked about her salary she said that she was paid as much as her male counterparts. When the elephant-in-the-room was pointed out regarding the privacy of the dressing room, she replied: “I obviously won’t go into the dressing room while they are getting changed, I wait until they are ready. There are currently 11 men in charge of women’s teams and that is what they do, they are never asked about it.”

She got off to a bad start and when asked about the pressure of her media-awarded pioneer status, she replied: “The first! The first! The first! Yes, okay now let’s talk about football. People are talking too much about me, it’s annoying.” Despite that, Clermont – whose goal was to avoid relegation – finished 12th in her first season.

She put it down to – in her own words: “Purifying the dressing room”, getting rid of players whose attitude wasn’t good enough “either because I [Diacre] came from the amateur world – or maybe because they thought they could get away with things with a woman manager that they would not have tried with a man in charge” or because they “thought of their own ego, rather than the collective.”

In her second season; 15/16, Michy decided not appoint a new Director of Football, instead trusting Diacre with those roles. She was able to take the club into a promotion fight despite the budget still being Ligue 2’s smallest. Finishing 7th, the club finished with the third highest number of goals but the third worst defensive record.

That was particularly down to her recruitment, the signing of Sochaux’s Famara Diedhiou was inspired, he finished as top scorer wth 21 goals and was voted player of the season. The Senegalese won his first cap at Clermont and was effusive in his praise of Diacre: “I admire her courage and her commitment. She has helped me get the best out of myself.” He was sold to top-flight Angers in the Summer.

In May 2016, she revealed she had rejected a job offer in Ligue 1 to finish the job at Clermont. She also accused the FFF of harassing her into accepting a job as manager of France’s women’s national side. Last season was not as glamourous but the stability of 12th despite the financial restraints of the club is still a credit to Diacre’s ability.

One of the primary issues for female members of backroom staff is sexist abuse, following her controversial departure from Chelsea, physiotherapist Eva Carneiro revealed the extent to which she has experienced this type of abuse online.

In an interview with the Telegraph in 2016, the Gibraltarian said; “Even though I don’t have a presence on social media – I think I have made one post ever in my life – some of the threats of sexual violence and death threats make it through, [the abusers] just seem to be faceless cowards and they should be answerable to legislation.”

She was also critical of the way sexist abuse is handled by the FA, calling it: “The least challenges form of discrimination,” adding that Anti-Semitism and racism are condemned more than sexism within the sport.

After Arsène Wenger’s recent comments and the story of Corinne Diacre, perhaps it is time for English football to give female managers a chance, whether that be in the lowest professional leagues or reaching towards the Premier League.

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