While women’s football is growing in popularity in the U.K., opportunities for women in the men’s game remain few and far between.
That changed this week when Forest Green Rovers became the first professional football team in England to appoint a female head coach.
Hannah Dingley, who was already in charge of the fourth division club’s academy, has been made caretaker head coach following the departure of Duncan Ferguson on Tuesday.
“It’s perhaps telling for the men’s game that in making this appointment on merit, we’ll break new ground - and Hannah will be the first female head coach in English (men’s) football,” Forest Green chairman Dale Vince said.
“I’m the first, but I don’t want to be the only”Hannah DingleyInterim coach, Forest Green Rovers men’s football team
Dingley was already the only woman in charge of a men’s English Football League academy. And while no timeframe has been put on her interim appointment, it is a chance for her to make her mark as a manager.
“I’m really excited for this next step of my career,” she said. “Pre-season has just begun and the full season kicks off very soon. It’s an exciting time in football. I am grateful for the opportunity to step up and to lead such a progressive and forward-thinking club.”
England’s women’s national team won the European Championship last year and goes to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this month as one of the favorites to win the tournament.
Domestically, women’s football is also on the rise in the U.K. with a record crowd of 77,390 watching the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium in May.
But there has been little in the way of women getting prominent jobs in the men’s game.
Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes is seen as one of leading coaches in the sport.
In 2021 she described reports that she could take over at third division men’s team Wimbledon as an “insult.”
Forest Green has a reputation for breaking down barriers, having been officially recognized by the United Nations as the greenest football club in the world due to its drive to be carbon neutral.
The team, based in Gloucestershire, England, uses solar power, an electric team bus, only eats vegan food and avoids single-use packaging. It also has an organic playing field that uses recycled rain water for irrigation.
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