Women Working in Football - Doncaster Rovers Belles Chair and Marketing Director Faye Lygo (Part Two)
Whilst coverage of women’s football has increased in recent years, what often goes unnoticed are the hundreds of women who play a vital role in the day-to-day functions of professional clubs and organisations.
In a new feature series, Kick It Out has been speaking to women who work within football – in a number of roles including coaching, club executives, photographers, administrators, matchday staff and more – to celebrate and gain an insight into their contributions to the professional game.
The feature discusses their experiences of the game, how they reached where they are today and any challenges they may have faced along the way.
Ahead of a number of FA Women’s Super League (WSL) fixtures being dedicated to Kick It Out this weekend in the Spring Series, the organisation spoke to Faye Lygo, Chair and Marketing Director of Doncaster Rovers Belles.
In part two, Faye reflects on the importance of building relationships with other women in football, raising the profile of the women’s game and the FA WSL’s dedicated Kick It Out weekend.
In just four years working in football, Faye Lygo has become one of its most impressive figures, recently graduating from The FA’s inaugural Women in Leadership programme alongside various women from across the football industry, including former England manager Hope Powell.
“The idea was to give us a framework about being a director, to help those who were already in that position and those not yet in that position. It also gave us the opportunity to see other people within the game – to actually make connections with other women trying to make a difference in football was powerful.”
“It’s really important to make those connections because football is male-dominated. There is a strength in numbers and constructive power in making your voice heard by working together.
“Negative attitudes need challenging but we’re not trying to attack people, we’re trying to make the game move constructively forward in an inclusive way.”
Raising the profile of women’s football continues to be a key challenge for those who work in the game and as both the Chair and Marketing Director of an FA WSL club, Faye is uniquely placed to offer an insight as to how that can be achieved.
“One thing is opportunity, and the other is media. Our Director of Football Julie Chipchase, who is now one of the most qualified coaches in the country, has started a mentoring scheme for female coaches and managers.
“The aim is to give them the experience and opportunity to actually put what you learn on coaching programmes or at university into practice with a real-life professional squad.
“What is difficult for women is breaking in and getting the experience. If you’re a woman applying to a men’s club, you may have less experience on your CV than a male coach and they’ll go for him, but he’s only got that experience because he’s been given more openings.”
She continued: “The other thing is media. Without the media putting us out there we’re not going to be seen or heard. I challenged the BBC on this a couple of years ago and I said ‘why can’t you put us out there?’ Putting us on World Service is not mainstream television. They’d tell me there was no demand, but how do you know if you don’t put it out there?
“Can’t we have one minute on Match of the Day? If you knew at 11.10pm on a Saturday evening there was going to be a small piece on women’s football, then people would know it as a regular feature, and it wouldn’t be intrusive, it would just be a little update.”
Faye believes more regular coverage is vital to engage the younger audience of the women’s game.
“Sometimes you need to watch a full game, but quite often football programmes that provide snippets can be more attractive to the fans. If you look at a child learning to read, they do a little bit every day.
“By doing it more frequently, even if it’s only a small amount, I think that’s more likely to stick in your mind than if you have one big programme every few months, because if you miss it, it’s gone.
“It needs to be in mainstream coverage – I think that would be so powerful. At first people might dismiss it, but if it comes on all the time, people will start going beyond their prejudices and take an interest.”
At an institutional level, Faye is optimistic about the recent reforms proposed by The FA to ensure 30% of the board members are women, as well as plans to diversify the FA Council.
“I know it’s only a start but I think it’s a signal change can happen. I would like to see more women thinking of football as a career and seeing that they can progress. There needs to be a shake-up not just on the board, but right through to the councils.
“At County FA level, the stagnation of people that can be stifling, so once you open the boards and councils and make them more diverse, you will see more change. I hope the reforms mean more than just a few token women in key places. I think once you see that shake-up, you will see a real change of attitude towards the women’s game.”
Looking ahead to the FA WSL’s Spring Series dedicated Kick It Out weekend, she praised the move and encouraged the organisation to be a constant presence in the women’s game to ensure it remains an inclusive environment as it expands.
“You have a positive brand and a really good presence in the game so I think it would be very powerful if you emphasise that you do stand for women as well, because it’s easy to think of Kick It Out as an organisation dealing with racism – but actually it’s more than that.
“If you see a name repeatedly, you associate with it and I think it’s really important in the women’s game to make them feel that they are part of wider football and that of course Kick It Out applies to them. That goes for other organisations as well.”
Faye concluded: “The women’s game is known to be family friendly and accessible which ties in really nicely with Kick It Out’s work. It’s great to be there with a strong message whilst the game is taking off – it sets everything up in the right direction from the start. It’s easier to learn to do things correctly the first time, than trying to change behaviour further down the line.”