This is contrary to the Norwegian Football Association’s plan to “facilitate that our players can be the best possible, regardless of address, club and gender”.
– I think it is very stupid, sad and painful that it is like that, says Helle Stenersen to NRK.
The 15-year-old is part of Arna-Bjørnar’s “professional path”, the club’s academy, and trains six times a week.
529 kilometers east, Isak (15) trains seven times a week at Sarpsborg 08’s development group.
– I feel that we should have equal opportunities. I understand that sponsors and such at a higher level prioritize men’s football, but I think everyone should have the same starting point, says Isak Bahtijaragic.
But the truth is that it is far from the reality in Norway today.
In kroner and øre, Norwegian top clubs actually spend ten times as much money on talent development of boys compared to girls in the age group 13-19 years.
It emerges from the clubs’ budget that NRK has collected.
Arna-Bjørnar spends NOK 50,000 on Helle’s development, while Sarpsborg 08 spends NOK 128,750 on the development of Isak. Both clubs use slightly above the average of Norwegian top clubs.
Photo: Mark Tonkin / Elisabeth Nielsen / NRK
On average, Norwegian top clubs spend 2.7 times as much on each boy as on each girl. The sum is 42,000 kroner for each girl, and 112,000 kroner for each boy.
Photo: Mark Tonkin / Elisabeth Nielsen / NRK
At the same time, NFF will facilitate an equal offer for both sexes in clubs, districts and national teams.
Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB
Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB
Where the skewed distribution is most evident is in the training field.
When each girl is training, they must, on average, share their trainer with 16 other girls.
On average, the boys only have to share their coach with seven other boys.
The coaching problem
NRK’s count shows that both Arna-Bjørnar and Sarpsborg 08 have a budget right in the middle of the tree on player development.
With six training sessions a week at Arna Stadium, Helle thinks it is very important that they have good coaches. For good trainers often means good and fun workouts.
But how many coaches are present on the training field varies from one to four for the 20 girls in the academy. The number varies depending on how many people in and around the club help.
– There is quite a big difference. You are much more seen when there are more coaches and I also think the quality is much better, says Helle after a training session in the rain.
Everyone NRK has spoken to in connection with this case says that personal follow-up is crucial for the development.
– It is important to get some personal feedback and know what you have to work with yourself, and not just what the whole team has to work with. And it’s nice to get proper feedback, that you not only hear it from the side, but that they come over and talk to you in person. You learn a lot from that, the 15-year-old thinks.
Despite varying numbers of coaches on the field, Helle points out that she is satisfied with the plan she gets in Arna-Bjørnar.
In Sarpsborg, Isak and his 59 teammates on the development group have a total of seven man-years in the support staff. Sarpingen feels that he receives very good follow-up from all the team’s coaches.
– Every time I ask about something, I get a good answer that I manage to reflect on a bit and then I get better every time. After each match, we analyze the matches and then I can check what I can get better at and improve it, says the 15-year-old.
– Has made us get better players
Sarpsborg 08 is one of the clubs in NFF and NTF’s (Norwegian Top Football) academy classification. A tool that establishes clear standards for the work with top player development in men’s football and where approximately 300 million of the media money is invested in the development of young players.
– It has probably made us even more structured. We have a better plan for the coaches which they transfer to the players. We have good weekly plans and annual plans for each individual player, individual follow-up on the physical, mental, football professional. It has probably made us have better players. It has helped us, says Erland Johnsen.
The former Chelsea stopper is development manager at Sarpsborg 08. He says that the money they receive from the academy classification accounts for about a third of the budget in the development department and is directly decisive for the club to have full-time coaches.
– How important are coaches to produce the best possible players?
– It is the biggest impact that players get. It is the alpha and omega to bring out good players in Norway, Johnsen believes and elaborates:
– It is very time consuming to follow up each individual player and the most important thing is what the player contributes himself. That they take responsibility for their own development. We impose this on the player. We are an elite club and expect the players to also be elite athletes while they are here.
The case continues below the table.
– Does not cover the needs of each player
In Arna-Bjørnar, former Brann player Erik Mjelde is sports manager and development manager. Unlike Johnsen, his club does not receive money from NFF and Toppfotball Kvinner for more than one position.
He is also present on the training field where he is responsible for between 16 and 18 girls. In addition to him, there are some parents who help.
– It is challenging. There will be a lot of players to deal with when we are so many and you often feel that you do not get the needs of each player covered. You often feel that some players are forgotten and that you are often too little present, says Mjelde.
He believes the optimal would have been if each coach had been responsible for eight players each, ie the same as it is on the boys’ side according to NRK’s survey.
– I’m not så concerned with å talk about equality, but equal opportunities and that they should få equal opportunities to å be good as guys. Then it had vært an advantage with more resources around them, believes the former top player.
Mjelde himself has over 300 matches at the top level in Norway and knows well how important the coach is for the players’ development. He is aware that for Arna-Bjørnar’s part, it is the finances that stand between them and several coaching resources for each player.
– We are dependent on skilled coaches, but skilled coaches also cost money and that is not what we have much of. It would have been possible to get more good coaches, but then you have to give them something too. We can not do it voluntarily, it is completely impossible, says the development manager.
Norway has long been seen as a pioneer in women’s football, but in the last 15 years, Norwegian club teams have fallen from fourth to twelfth place in the UEFA rankings.
At the same time, Norwegian men’s clubs have in recent years climbed the same ranking and developed several young players who have taken the step up on the largest international stage.
But despite the fact that big stars such as Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen have emerged through the current development system, several countries have regained the Norwegian lead and produced more good women players than Norway.
– Everyone should have the same opportunities
– We see in Europe in general that girls’ and women’s football is on the way up and it is important that we are not left on the platform when the train leaves, points out Erland Johnsen in Sarpsborg 08.
In his club, they have the same big budget for younger boys ‘and girls’ teams. But on average, it is spent almost three times as much on each boy player as on the girl players in the top clubs’ academies.
– I think it is very stupid and I think it is very strange that boys should get better opportunities than girls should get, especially when we are so young. We will all develop, so we should all have the same opportunities, says Helle in Arna-Bjørnar.
Like at school. Where there are no financial differences between the boys and the girls. But just imagine that the differences had been the same in school.
– I think people had thought that was completely unacceptable, says Helle about exactly that thought experiment.
And why should one accept it in football?