It’s a man’s world? Former Arsenal manager crosses the gender divide

by Dan Mobbs

“It has been a little bit of a distraction from the media and so on, but hopefully it calms down,” said Shelley Kerr, after she became the first woman to take charge of a senior men’s team in Britain following her appointment as manager of Lowland League side, Stirling University, in August.

The former Arsenal Ladies boss left her position in June this year after guiding the Gunners to two FA Cups and one Continental Cup during her 16-month spell in charge at the club.

But after setting up a football consultancy service and enrolling in an MSc Sports Management degree at Stirling University, Kerr made the switch across to the men’s game – a move which up until the past year had seemingly been out of bounds to women in men’s football.

“It is something that I’ve always had aspirations of being involved in the men’s game and I knew it would be very difficult just because I’m a female,” said Kerr.

“There’s such competition out there between a lot of qualified coaches all looking for the same jobs, so I knew it would be difficult.

“But it’s always where my aspirations have lain and that’s to be involved in the men’s game and thankfully for me the opportunity came along with Stirling University and I’m delighted with the opportunity.”

Despite Kerr’s strong ambition to manage in the men’s game, the move across the gender divide to the fifth tier of Scottish football was initially not an intentional career move, but instead something of a happy coincidence.

“I had applied to study to go and do a master’s degree at Stirling University a couple of months ago and I received a conditional offer,” Kerr added. “I planned to go to study as well as set up my own football consultancy business offering various football services such as mentoring, scouting, deciding training content and a little bit of media work.

“I got my own website up and running and I was going to combine my own academic studies with doing a little bit of work through the business and then I heard that the Stirling University were looking for a new coach, after their previous head coach had left.

“So I saw the advert and popped in my CV and then I got an interview and that’s how it came it about,” said Kerr, who has guided Stirling to two draws and a win in four games since taking over, after the Lowland side lost their opening three league fixtures.

The appointment has created a significant amount of media interest in the university and Kerr (above), who is one of just four women in the UK to hold a UEFA Pro Licence according to Sky Sports, which the former centre-back believes to be a great leveller in a game still coming to terms with the idea of gender equality.

In a still predominantly male dominated sport though, Kerr is certain that personality will also play a part in establishing her presence in the male game – and she is hopeful that more will follow her example in the future.

“Obviously, you have to have the right credentials and for it’s not just about having the accolade of that coaching licence as it’s about your experiences and a lot to do with your personality,” said the 59 cap former Scotland international.

“A huge thing as well is that for a lot of females it’s not where their aspiration lie to work in the men’s game so it’s not for everyone, but certainly for me being involved, if that paves the way for others to get involved then I’d be delighted with that.”

Kerr’s appointment follows the lead of French Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot Auvergne 63 who took the historic step in May of making Helena Costa the first female manager in Europe of a senior men’s team.

However the Portuguese manager didn’t last long, as Corinne Diacre was given the job a month later after Costa quit when she found out players were hired without her consent, before later accusing the club of “total amateurism” and a “lack of respect”.

Taking the first step can seem a daunting prospect in a sport that has yet to mirror the gender equality on show in many day-to-day professions, however Kerr remains undeterred by the social barriers that potentially could still stand in her way.

“When you talk about other professions, you’ve get female and male doctors with the same experience and they do the same job, so why not in football?

“If someone has the right credentials then you I don’t think gender should come into it, but I definitely think it’s been a stepping stone [the appointments at Clermont] and hopefully it continues.”

And if that wasn’t enough to occupy her, Kerr still intends to continue her business venture, alongside studying, managing Stirling University and also mothering a teenage daughter.

“There are 20 hours that I’ll be working as well while I do my degree, so there is some scope for me to continue the business and that’s hopefully what I’m going to do,” said Kerr.

“The plan is to continue the business, but it’s going to be quite intense to combine my academics with doing the job at Stirling University, in terms of coaching the team in the Lowlands League.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Tags: , Arsenal, Premier League

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