Phil Neville tells Coutts clients about “explosion of opportunities” in women’s football
Coutts gender equality event celebrates great summer of sport for women and asks men to “get off the side lines”
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Women’s England football manager Phil Neville told Coutts clients that creating “an explosion of opportunities” for female footballers was as much part of his job as winning matches.
Speaking at an event on gender equality at our London headquarters, the former Manchester United and Everton player said there were two very clear sides to his role.
“Normally when you’re a football manager, you live and die by your results,” he said. “But the first thing I noticed when I got this opportunity was that there were two branches to it. Yes, we had to do well on the field, but it was also about the growth of the sport, inspiring the next generation.
“We had to get it right on the field, but ultimately what happened off the field was this explosion of opportunities for the girl growing up, with better coaches and better facilities.”
England cricketer Tammy Beaumont, who was also on the panel at the event, agreed that a focus on the future was a key part of women’s sport.
She said, “As a team, we don’t just see our role as winning world cups, winning ashes, we see it as taking the game forward; taking the cap forward so that when we hand it on to the next people, the game’s in a better place.
“If that means we spend 20 minutes extra doing every autograph for every young girl at a game, we do that. It’s about growing that legacy for women’s cricket and for women’s sport.”
The Coutts event – Creating a legacy for gender equality – was set up to celebrate the great summer of women’s sport in 2019, and to consider the extent to which it left a positive legacy for women and girls. The panellists also discussed the challenges of mental health on sports women and men.
Other speakers included former England and Chelsea footballer Karen Carney and Francesca Brown, CEO of award-winning football development programme Goals 4 Girls.
OK not to be ok
When the discussion turned to the immense pressure professional sports people are under, Karen talked openly and honestly about the mental health issues she had a decade ago.
She said, “I’ve gone on the record and said I’ve suffered with depression – quite bad, destructive behaviours. I was really fortunate that I was able to get the right help at the right time.
“You wouldn’t wish it on anyone, an athlete or non-athlete. It’s the worst thing in the world. I got help, got better and thought I need to speak about it. I need to get it off my chest for myself, but also, I might help someone else.
“For me, it’s OK not to be OK.”
Phil Neville added that perceptions around mental health in sport have changed hugely over the years.
“Ten years ago it was maybe seen as a weakness to admit that you were struggling, that you were nervous, that you had anxiety. The amount of pressure and expectation on top-class athletes nowadays is incredible. In my day it was ‘just get on with it’, but I don’t think that’s the right way to deal with it.
“Today, we’ve got role models admitting that they suffer from mental illness, that it’s OK to suffer from mental illness and that you can recover from mental illness.”
A business issue
Coutts chief operating officer James Clarry, who co-hosted the event alongside broadcaster and former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent, said it was time for men to “get off the side lines” when it came to gender equality.
It was primarily a call to those who work at the bank to become ‘male allies’ – an initiative across our parent company RBS which has seen over 3,000 men commit to take action to drive gender balance in the business and fight discrimination if they encounter it.
He told the audience, “Gender diversity is not only for women. It is a business issue. It is about more successful businesses.
“If you as men take anything away, it’s what are you going to do personally to change your language, your perceptions, your attitudes to support women in the workplace and help build a more successful business?”
Women’s England football manager Phil Neville, former winger Karen Carney and England cricketer Tammy Beaumont were among the speakers at a Coutts event for clients and staff about gender equality.
Among other things, they discussed how inspiring the next generation of female athletes was a key consideration for those involved in professional women’s sport today.
Coutts chief operating officer James Clarry said men should “get off the side lines” and that gender equality was “about more successful businesses”.