The (Frauen-)Bundesliga’s Coaching Problem

On Tuesday, Frauen-Bundesliga minnows SC Sand fired their head coach Nora Häuptle. Under the 37-year-old’s stewardship, Sand only picked up a measly eight points from 18 games all while boasting the joint-worst goal difference in the league (-40!) and languishing second from bottom. It was a decision that came as a surprise to absolutely no one.

However, her sacking once again shone the spotlight on an issue that plagues football leagues all over the globe: a worrying lack of women’s and non-binary representation and diversity in general. Häuptle, who was hired at the start of the season, was the only woman coaching in the Frauen-Bundesliga; all twelve teams are now headed by men. Out of the 18 teams playing in the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga, only five are coached by women; one of those five, Andernach’s Isabelle Hawel, shares that role with a man.

It’s a topic that has recently made the rounds in the German media. Andrea Schürmann, who was the first person to recognize Marco Reus’ special talent, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur last month that she has fallen out of love with football – “as a woman, I wouldn’t have stood a chance anyway”. DPA referred to the progress made in terms of female representation in professional football as “non-existent”.

The reasons for this are manifold: the burgeoning commercialization of the game leaves little room for error for club bosses, so that ‘taking a risk’ or making an ‘unconventional’ hire seems unwise. Furthermore, German women’s national team head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg claims that there is a lack of interest among former players to become coaches. Kim Kulig, currently in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt’s women’s reserve side, posits that coaching gigs in women’s football aren’t lucrative enough to attract the needed applicants.

Back in January, Wettbasis scoured the staff rosters of clubs in the three fully professional German men’s divisions and found that only three percent of employees don’t identify as male. Half of the Bundesliga’s 18 sides solely employ men. While the share of female staff operating in the Frauen-Bundesliga is significantly higher, the overwhelming majority of workers are still male. Perhaps more damning is how few women partake in the DFB’s famed Fußball-Lehrer course. Since 2018, only four of the 72 participants have been women. Not a single woman was involved in 2017.

In 2019, two-time European champion Inka Grings made history by becoming the first woman to coach in one of German men’s football’s top four divisions after taking over at semi-professional Regionalliga side SV Straelen. She left after two seasons and now coaches FC Zürich’s women. Imke Wübbenhorst’s tenure at fellow Regionalliga side Sportfreunde Lotte was even shorter; she was fired after eight months in charge. Women coaching in German men’s football are a rare sight; the more worrying prospect is that it’s almost equally as rare to see women coaching in women’s football.

Since the Frauen-Bundesliga’s inception in 1990, Monika Staab is the only woman to have led a team to the championship. Staab hasn’t coached in the league in almost two decades now. Despite being around since the DFB lifted its ban of women’s football in 1970 – some 50 years ago! – only four women have been in charge of Bayern. Turbine Potsdam, founded in 1971 in the GDR where women’s football was never banned, have had one female head coach in their history. Wolfsburg have had none in their 18-year existence.

It is imperative that more funds are distributed to the Frauen-Bundesliga. Professionalizing the German game would go a long way towards incentivizing more people to make the move into coaching. In 2017 – admittedly, a long time ago – Welt asserted that the entire budget of Bayern’s women’s side is roughly the same as what Robert Lewandowski earns in a month. It’s ridiculous, but not surprising. Instead of constantly stating their commitment, the DFB should actually step up and step in for once and let their actions speak. You can’t expect a club of the minuscule stature of SC Sand to be able to maintain world-class facilities, so why not support them? Equally, clubs that have the means should be forced to invest and be held to certain standards.

It should not be tolerated that a club like Borussia Mönchengladbach – objectively one of the best-run teams in all of men’s football – leaves its women’s side to rot. While the men of Arminia Bielefeld celebrated promotion to the Bundesliga last season, the women would have been relegated from the second tier had it not been for the pandemic. Arguably the biggest team in East Germany, Dynamo Dresden, doesn’t even have a women’s department. There is no justification for that, especially when you consider that the club recently announced that it has capital reserves of up to €10m. I could go on and on.

How are we still having discussions about a lack of professional structure in a country that prides itself on its football culture? Perhaps if the powers that be took women’s football seriously, more women would be interested in coaching and we wouldn’t have to have these conversations seemingly every week.

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