The statement was issued at 10:45 PM last night and ran to just under 200 words, one for every week of Vera Pauw’s reign as the most successful manager in history of the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team.
The decision came at the end of a six hour board meeting primarily devoted to a review of the World Cup Campaign by Director of Football Marc Canham and including interviews with players and staff.
Pauw was immensely popular with the fans and sponsors, she was brilliant at two Sport for Business events that took place in the Aviva Stadium and the RDS over the past year.
We wrote in detail of the background to the events that led to this, expressing our hope that her contract would be extended but that is now not to be the case.
It is unclear but also unlikely that the review will be published as it deals with personal interviews. In days of old many parts would have leaked to the media but the FAI board of 2023 is a tighter unit and now the decision has been made the momentum will be to move forward.
For the team, the appointment of a successor will be needed with the opening two games of the UEFA Nations League, against Northern Ireland at the Aviva and Hungary are coming up within a month. It appears likely that Tom Elmes, Pauw’s number two, and Eileen Gleeson who was formerly in that role and is now Head of Women’s and Girls Football will take the reins in at least a temporary capacity.
The fans will find it hard to understand why the smiling Dutch woman who led the team to a first World Cup and danced a jig on stage at the homecoming is no longer part of the set up. Those who have always enjoyed the intimacy of playing at Tallaght Stadium will also be a little dazed by moving to the surrounds of the Aviva Stadium.
There has been no reaction from Sky or any of the other sponsors with whom she had a clearly warm relationship.
There has also been no reaction yet from Vera Pauw. The nature of elite sport is that it is brutal in the quieter corners and the shadows of defeat or failure to progress.
Women’s sport has grown up quickly to the point where it is, and needs to be treated in the same manner as the Men’s game. At the heart of the reasons behind last night’s decision were discomfort with the management style of a coach who called things as she saw them, in her time as manager of Houston Dash and in the closing stages of her time with the Republic of Ireland.
More weight has been given to the views of players while the same is rarely accorded to players in the men’s game. Perhaps that is a good thing and it should change in both but the reality is that a coach is there to coach and also to manage.
A football team consists of eleven players. Everyone in the squad will fight tooth and nail to be in that 11 and sometimes the coaches final decision is hard to accept. Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola and Jack Charlton would never be called out on how they reached a decision or communicated it, only on what it delivered as a result.
The seeds of Pauw’s intimated loss of the dressing room may have been sown in bringing in new players like Sinead Farrelly and Kyra Caruso, ahead of others that had been in the group over many years. Perhaps only qualification from the group stage was going to be enough to overcome that, or maybe it was more to do with the players having a greater belief in their ability to play a more expansive game, and maybe that will prove to be right.
Pauw was a thinker on the game and the physical condition of the players in her charge. It is likely that she will now take time and complete the book she has been writing, though the lure of a quick return to the international stage post World Cup could also be tempting if she feels there is unfinished business.
It was a remarkable four years. It feels in some way as if we as a nation have discarded her. But we may never know the internal dynamics and our feeling is not a judgement on the players power or the steadfastness of the FAI Board. It’s just a feeling.
A love of sport is a love of what we do best as people together. Breaking up what was previously a fun part of that will never be easy but that is life, that is sport at the highest level and that is what we have to face today.
Here is the statement from the FAI that brought and end to the Pauw era.
“At the meeting of the FAI Board, the Board has decided that Ireland Women’s National Team Manager Vera Pauw will not be offered a new contract after the expiry of her current contract at the end of this month.”
“Appointed in September 2019, Vera led the team to their first ever major tournament – the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – and a FIFA Women’s World Ranking of 22.”
“FAI CEO Jonathan Hill commented: “On behalf of the Football Association of Ireland, we would like to thank Vera for her hard work and commitment over the past four years and wish her well for the future. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the role she played in leading Ireland to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 where our women’s team made history and inspired a nation.”
“The future is bright for women and girls’ football and our focus now is building upon the work done by Vera and the historic achievements of our women’s team, which we see as a platform to support the next phase of the journey for the team, and more broadly the development of women and girls’ football in this country.”