Sunday, 31 August 2014

Publicity stunts in the wrong direction...

Article originally wrote for

Early in August, it was briefly reported in the media that Italian Serie A side, Sampdoria FC, had replaced their matchday ball boys with 'ball women'. Club president, Massimo Ferrero, initiated the move in an attempt to combat sexism within the game. 

The new 'ball women' were introduced during Sampdoria's pre-season friendly win against German Bundesliga side, Eintracht Frankfurt. The club, like most other clubs currently do, had been using young boys from the city or the local academy on match days to retrieve balls. 

Sampdoria's club website stated: "Massimo Ferrero wants to be a promoter of positive messages, of fair play, sport and social sensitivity."

Ferrero took over ownership of the club this summer and has already expressed his determination to take the team into European qualification, saying he would do "anything and everything" to get them there. Which begs me to ask the question: Is this all just a publicity stunt?

Let's not forget the Clermont Foot media shock which saw Helena Costa become the first female to coach a professional men's side in France, only to be replaced by Corinne Diacre shortly after quitting her role. Many said the original appointment of Costa was a publicity stunt, whether it was or not, the club certainly got the attention from the football world.

More evidence in the sports media becomes apparent of how women have been used for the wrong reasons, in order to gain public attention. For example, in 2013, thirty models were selected to join a team of 160 ball boys at The Mutua Madrid Open. More recently, English newspaper The Sun, which is renowned for intensive football coverage, fail to relate to their female audience. They run a fantasy football league in which one prize is a date with a page 3 model.

Overall, I can slightly understand Ferrero's intention to reduce sexism within an Italian league which is never far from controversy. It is great to see more women getting involved in football, no doubt about it. But for young girls in Italy, seeing 'ball women' at these matches, might have a negative influence. From a wider angle, it comes across that women are only there to be a pretty face on the sidelines of a male dominated sport. The club does not have a women's side, let alone junior girls' teams, so unless they are also part of Ferrero's longer term plans, it goes to show that the new 'ball woman' incentive is merely a gimmick. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

All about Jazz...

This year we have seen stories about Helena Costa, Corinne Diacre and more recently, Shelley Kerr. All who have been appointed to coach professional men's team and have hit the media headlines with mixed reactions. Of course, there is no reason why women and men shouldn't be allowed to coach teams of opposite genders, in fact there is no reason they shouldn't be able play together. Yet, still we see women being overlooked in all areas of football, even if their CV is full to the brim of the appropriate qualifications.

So isn't it refreshing when people like Jazz Hervin come along? You may not recognise that name, it hasn't quite made the back pages of the national newspapers or the scrolling news feed on Sky Sports just yet.  But at only 19 years of age, Hervin is certainly on target to be one of England's most promising and successful coaches. Even some of the world's finest and most experienced coaches didn't start their managerial careers until their playing careers had ended, so she is well ahead of the mark.

Hervin has been a part of the Football Futures Leadership Programme for three and a half years and has attended all leadership camps from County and Regional through to National Levels. In 2011, she began volunteering and coaching at a grassroots club with an U8’s team. She spent a year picking up cones and watching other coaches, whilst also completing her FA Level 1 coaching and FA Youth Award Module 1 courses. 

From there, she spent the next couple of years devoting her time to coaching multiple teams of boys and girls, of varied ages at her club. Hervin attended FA National Leadership Camps and completed further coaching badges and modules along the way. 

She was selected to be a part of the National Coach Scholarship Programme and represent The FA at The National Coaches Academy at Loughborough University. Towards the end of 2013, she was offered a position on The FA National Game Youth Council for the second year running, as Head of Administration, where she is part of the senior management team, a mentor and the lead on a national research project. Around this time, she was also appointed as the ISFA (Independant Schools Football Association) England Women’s U18 Squad Head Coach on a one year deal, at only 18 years of age herself. 

Hervin has a real passion for coaching and assisting others, she says: "I currently coach many grassroots level teams, in both school and club settings, two academy teams and the ISFA England Women’s U16 Squad. As well as coaching, I enjoy helping others, so I mentor other coaches within my local area and across the south west region."

This year, Hervin was appointed as an FA National Coach Development Programme Mentor, where she presents at CPD events for coaches. She adds: "My duty requires me to support and deliver best practice, high quality coaching sessions to the candidates on the national programme."

Inspire Football recently held a National Coaching Conference, in which she attended as a special guest and they highlighted Hervin as 1 of 10 top young coaches from across England. Hervin expressed her delight: "Inspire Football have also chosen myself as the coach, within England, whose coaching journey they wish to support, follow and share with others on a international level, to continue my dream of inspiring others the best I can."

Hervin has a busy year ahead: "I have been asked to deliver coaching workshops at two major conferences within England, run by Kick It Out. This will be one conference in 2014, at a women's only event. And the other in 2015, at a national event, bringing the best of the best within football in England, together on one day." She has recently been chosen by The FA to travel to South Korea this month, to deliver both theory workshops and practical coaching sessions as part of an International Programme run by the UN. On top of that she has a UEFA B license course to look forward too.

Her latest appointement has been as Head Coach of the Stoke Gabriel Senior Men's First Team, who are competing in the South West Peninsula Football League, Premier Division. Hervin tells us that in the history of the South West Peninsula Football League, no team has ever had a female coach.

Hervin expresses her ambition in this latest role: "As a 19 year old girl, coaching a senior men's team, I hope that this will be another opportunity for me to inspire as many women and young people to challenge themselves and break the mould of what is seen as the 'norm'. As well as develop the belief from more people within the game, that women and young people can achieve what they set out to."

With an abundance of awards and qualifications to her name and many more to come, there are already so many chapters in Hervin's coaching career, her passion and drive are so admirable at such a young age. She is unique and ambitious, which hopefully will be acknowledged throughout her future career.

It is great to see women making incredible achievements in the modern world of football, especially when they make headline news for the right reasons. But we also need to remember, that football begins at the grassroots level. If we can change the culture of football, erase the stereotypes and relay the message that football IS for all, then hopefully more young girls like Jazz Hervin can achieve anything.