England would consider Sarina Wiegman as Gareth Southgate’s successor

Sarina Wiegman has led England to a World Cup final a year after the Euros triumph – Getty Images/Maryam Majid

Sarina Wiegman would be considered to succeed Gareth Southgate as England men’s manager if she wanted the job, as Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham admitted he is open to appointing a woman.

England Women’s manager Wiegman stands on the brink of history after leading the Lionesses to Sunday’s final, where success over Spain would end the 57-year wait to win the World Cup.

Having also led the Lionesses to European Championship glory last summer, Wiegman’s stock has never been higher and Bullingham admitted ahead of the Sydney decider that she could do “anything she wants in football” if she wanted to take the plunge into the men’s game.

“Sarina’s doing the Lionesses and we think it’s critical that she does that job, and she’s doing a brilliant job,” Bullingham said.

“Do I think football is behind other sports in terms of lack of female coaches at the top level? I do, and I think that has to change and also, do I think Sarina could do any job in football? Yes I do, I’m really happy with the job she’s doing and I hope she stays doing that job for a long time.

Wiegman has only lost one match as manager of the Lionesses and has taken the side to a new level – Getty Images/Naomi Baker

“If at some point in the future she decides she wants to move into the men’s game, I think that would be a really interesting discussion but that’s for her, right? And I don’t think we should view it as a step up. If she decides at some point in the future to go in a different direction, I think she’s perfectly capable of (it).”

Bullingham was at pains to insist Southgate will not be leaving any time soon, and that any change of role for Wiegman would not be considered a promotion.

“We don’t like suggesting the men’s team is above that,” Bullingham added. “Sarina’s doing a great job in what she’s doing. Secondly, I don’t like the language, when we say ‘should it be the best man for the job’. I think it’s the best person for the job.

“It’s the best person for the job, if that person was a woman, why not? But you analyse the candidate pool for any job at a particular time. Do I think there’s a really strong diverse pool from both men and women for any big national job? No, I think the talent pool is small for both actually, but I don’t like the mindset of it has to be a man.”

“From our point of view, Sarina’s doing a great job in what she’s doing and we want her to keep doing that. If and when we get a vacancy in either of our senior men’s or women’s manager positions, we would go for the best person for the job, which would be the best person capable of winning matches.”

The FA evidently hold Wiegman in high esteem and Bullingham said he will categorically reject any approaches from rivals for her services in order to build a Lionesses dynasty.

Wiegman has already been touted in America as a possible candidate to replace outgoing United States manager Vlatko Andonovski, who resigned on Thursday from his position after the holders’ disappointing showing at this World Cup, but Bullingham said no amount of money could persuade the FA to let her go.

The 53-year-old Dutchwoman is contracted with the FA until the summer of 2025, after the next European Championships in Switzerland, where the Lionesses will seek to defend the trophy they won last summer.

Asked if the FA would reject any request to speak to Wiegman, Bullingham said: “Yes, 100 per cent. It is not about money. We are very, very happy with her and we feel she is happy.

“We’ve seen lots of rumours, and look, she is a special talent. We know that. From our side, she’s obviously contracted through until 2025. We think she’s doing a great job. We’re obviously huge supporters of her and I think hopefully she feels the same way.

“So from our side, she’s someone we’d like to have with us for a very long time. We’re so proud of what Sarina, the squad and the support team have achieved.”

Wiegman is highly respected across the world and can finally get her hands on the World Cup trophy if England beat Spain on Sunday – Getty Images/Naomi Baker

Asked if the FA fear that Wiegman would leave in the event of victory, feeling she had ‘completed the set’ if England beat Spain on Sunday to add world glory to the European title they won in 2022, Bullingham responded: “I can’t see that. That’s not (her) as an individual.

“We’ve always said we’d get (conversations about a new contract for Wiegman) after a tournament. We’ve had good conversations after the Euros, there will be an appropriate time to do it. We’ve got a bit of time because obviously she’s contracted to 2025, and she’ll obviously want to have a decent holiday after this. But we’re massive fans of her. We believe she’s happy, and we’d love to continue working with her for a long time.”

Bullingham added that his “long-term” aim is for the FA to pay their men’s and women’s national team managers equally, but refused to commit to doing so imminently. Wiegman reportedly earns an annual salary in the region of £400,000, while Southgate is believed to be paid in the region of £6 million per year.

“Over time, I think (equal pay) is where you’ve got to get to,” Bullingham added. “We don’t talk about people’s remuneration. I would say that Sarina is, within the market she operates, well-paid. The men’s game, it’s a different market. I really want those markets to merge, over time, and I think that’s where you’ve got to go, but we’re not there yet.

“Let’s say the Premier League managers range from £4 million through to £20 million, that sort of range. It’s a different market. I think over time you have got to build the commercial market on both sides of the sport so you are getting to some kind of equality. That’s what we are doing, we are invested ahead of revenue to try and grow it. That’s got to be the aim.”

Kay Cossington, who praised Wiegman for seeing out her contract with the Netherlands prior to joining England in 2021 which she said showed the “integrity of the individual”, added: “She’s an incredible individual. She’s embraced our English culture and our England DNA for all of our teams. I don’t think she’ll ever lose the desire to win games in tournaments.”

Victory on Sunday would spark huge celebrations across the country but England’s tournament began in stark contrast after players took an unprecedented step of publicly expressing their disappointment at the FA’s refusal to commit to a bonus deal on top of the Fifa-fund prize pot, with both parties agreeing to park the matter until after the World Cup.

Questioned on the matter, Bullingham insisted the matter would reach a resolution. “We’re sorting it after the tournament. There wasn’t a lot of time before the tournament, Fifa announced the prize money very late and a completely different model that led to a different type of discussion. It’s more time being an issue rather than anything else. The players were in a strong (negotiating) position before, and in a strong position now. I think we’ll get to a good resolution.”

Bullingham also says the FA would “love” to host a men’s or women’s World Cup “one day” but he was not in a position to confirm whether England would bid for the 2031 women’s edition. “We’re obviously conscious we’ve had a lot of tournaments. We’ve put a bid in for the (men’s) Euro 2028. (For women’s tournaments), if you look at the landscape, you’ve got Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands bidding for 2027. If they’re successful, there wouldn’t be a European bidder for 2031. If they’re unsuccessful, 2031 becomes a possibility.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity for us to look at that, so potentially be the one after that, but if you’re asking us if we’d love to host a World Cup, of course we’d love to. We think we’d do a great job.”

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