We are delighted to have the support of Rachel Yankey on our new Fairer Game initiative, which aims to increase the number of female football coaches. In the first of a series of articles she will be writing as part of the campaign, the former England international reflects on some of her key influences...
"I hope Betfair's 'Fairer Game' scheme will benefit the next generation of coaches and players by breaking the norm of coaching stereotypes, while at the same time providing role models for future generations of female coaches."
Sometimes a project comes along that you just have to be a part of. As a woman who is trying to make her way in coaching I understand the challenges but also how positive the experience can be. So, when Betfair approached me to help support the 'Fairer Game' campaign, I couldn't wait to get started and help support to reduce the gender gap in football.
I'm delighted to be part of something that could potentially have such a positive effect for women in football, a sport I have been in love with since the moment I started my professional playing career all that time ago with Fulham and Arsenal.
The stark reality of the disparity between men and women at the top level of coaching is made apparent with the statistic that there are only 29 UEFA A qualified female coaches in the UK compared to 1,484 men. I've had challenges myself getting into coaching and want to be part of a positive change within the game. Through the Fairer Game campaign we want to increase this number, so if you want to progress your coaching career and make a change in the game sign up at the Fairer Game website.
One of the reasons I think it's so important to have more women in the game is it's important for any player to have talented and diverse coaching teams supporting them. I've been lucky enough to play the game at the highest level, and I take great pride in my 129 caps for England. Despite this experience it wasn't guaranteed that I would progress easily into coaching and I took a lot of inspiration from coaches I had worked with in my career.
Vic Ackers really stood out, he was strict and expected professionalism every day on and off the pitch, but also had a funny side to him , it's important to have that balance in order to get the best out of people.
Hope Powell achieved some amazing things with the Lionesses and has taken her skills to the Professional Footballers' Association where she is passing her knowledge onto coaches of the future as the organisation's coach educator (and the first female to undertake the role). I love seeing things like this as it's so important to keep the best talent in the game and to see a woman leading from the front.
For any coaches looking to get into the game or join the 'Fairer Game' campaign it doesn't matter your age, if you are willing to learn and develop the skills of others you will become a respected coach at any level.
I've worked with and supported some truly motivational individuals, the best of whom was a school teacher who wanted to steer her efforts towards coaching. She took her badges alongside her day job and very quickly transitioned into an accomplished football coach who is now working at Queens Park Rangers. It goes to show that at any stage in their careers people can make the decision to work in football and learn and develop in a sport they love.
I hope Betfair's 'Fairer Game' scheme will benefit the next generation of coaches and players by breaking the norm of coaching stereotypes, while at the same time providing role models for future generations of female coaches.
As a result I urge all female coaches out there to back the scheme, and if you qualify for Betfair's support, then sign up!
For more from Rachel, check out our exclusive video...