In an industry where winning is often everything, Gavin Makel would just as quickly be seen as a trailblazer and pioneer.
The Manchester City Women’s Football Director and his team are on a mission to develop football worldwide and introduce standards and strategies that accelerate this ambition.
The 41-year-old Makel spent his formative years between soccer fields and acting studios, rubbing himself in turns with future England internationals Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer, and starring alongside future global film stars Andy Serkis and British TV legends Ant and Dec.
Little did he know when he watched his brother Lee play for Newcastle United, coached with three teams, and be on a popular national television show called. played along Byker Grovethat he would eventually take a path that would lead him to Abu Dhabi – he helped set up City’s football schools – to teach English as a foreign language, to his coaching badges, and eventually to a seat at the top of the embryonic women’s professional game.
Makel’s story is the ultimate story from the ground floor to the top floor – and he believes it would have been highly unlikely to have happened anywhere other than Manchester City.
“That’s one of the great things about this club: they’re ready to give people a chance. I had never dealt with a player’s contract or an agent before applying, but they saw something in me and showed me real trust. I was allowed to grow in the role. Many of us were practically starting from scratch in women’s football at the time, including Nick Cushing, the manager.
“The great thing was that we brought some very experienced and talented players with us from the start and we all helped each other.
“Without the support of Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and the Board of Directors, we, as a team or as individuals, could not be where we are now. You always had the vision to be successful. You can see where the opportunities lie to develop the game and the support we’ve received is tremendous.
“We have normalized the integration of the women’s team into everyday club life. There is only football. “
The earliest seasoned players included England internationals Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Tony Duggan and Karen Bardsley. They all made a leap of faith and became the backbone of the new team and helped lay the building blocks for the club.
Houghton, Scott and Bardsley, who together have played more than 350 caps for England, have been an integral part of City’s success, helping the club win a women’s Super League title, three league cups and three FA Cups. It is just as important that they have changed perception.
“Seven years ago there was no other women’s team that did what we did to integrate the team into a football academy alongside the men’s first team and the young players and also to give them their own stadium. It certainly helped sell the dream, ”says Makel.
“People saw what we do as a club and knew that we weren’t just ticking the box, but that we had serious ambitions for our women’s team.”
Now Makel and his backroom team are making efforts to ensure that the game’s recent additions to the public consciousness are not wasted and used to add to its appeal and play billiards.
Women’s football has traditionally seen ups and downs, but has not yet seen the stratospheric, global growth its supporters have hoped for.
A new transfer agreement for the WSL in England could change this, as more than 50 live games are planned for this season, around a third of which will be free to air on the state broadcaster BBC.
“Sponsoring should follow,” says Makel. “Companies are already coming to us and we don’t have to tear down their doors. Big brands are getting more and more interested in women’s football. You want to be part of the action.
“Now consistency is the key when it comes to the fixtures – we can’t have a home game in a month from time to time like in the past.
“We also have to be careful that women’s football does not become an Olympic sport, and I do not mean that is disparaging to Olympic sports, I just mean that it is only interesting for this period in a broader area.”
Player burnout is a problem. City let 14 players take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and therefore decided against a preseason program.
The future timetable is not slowing either. The postponed European Championship will take place next summer before the Fifa World Cup in 2023 followed by the Games in Paris in 2024.
“Women players have never experienced such intensity of training over such a long period of time,” says Makel. “The games and the trip too. Plus, the game itself is faster and more intense than it was eight or ten years ago.
“We have to make sure we monitor and research this. We also need to deal with the mental health aspect and do a lot of work on post-gaming careers.
“As an association, we do a lot of research on these topics as well as the effects of the menstrual cycle and its influence on performance. These results will lead the way and help everyone. We also need to invest more resources than sport in the science of football and use more data to make decisions. “
Makel also believes that there is more to be done with academy structures and scholarships to help girls plan a career. He wants more of them to play football so that there are enough top players to support the expansion of women’s football around the world.
He is happy about the fact that young fans can now wear a replica jersey with the name of their favorite player on the back and, above all, have the dream of one day becoming a professional footballer. That’s a strong message, he argues.
If he fears, then women’s football could grow too fast as the resources to professionalize the league are exhausted. Makel says that in addition to boosting commercial growth, the media, academies, and coaching expertise, sports science, medicine, and support services are all areas that need improvement.
With all of the change and maturation of women’s football, Makel doesn’t want to lose sight of Manchester City and its employees. It’s not negotiable for him.
“Whether we win or lose, I want us to be pioneers,” he says. “How we market our players, how we market the club and talk about it. How we respect the game. How we develop young players. How we treat players after their careers.
“I want us to continue and intensify our exploration of the female body and its effects on performance. When people around the world think about women’s football and women’s sports in general, I want Manchester City to be the benchmark. For me that is success.
“We should always think about the next pioneering step. This is how I judge success in addition to winning games. “
Updated: October 5, 2021, 2:44 am