Sarina Wiegman: 'I see so much potential'
Lionesses head coach on her new contract, the growth of the game and her hopes for the England team
There was a sense that England remains the place to be when it comes to women’s football when Sarina Wiegman spoke to media on Tuesday afternoon.
The vastly experienced coach may have won the Lionesses’ first major tournament at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022. She may have reached the team’s first Women’s World Cup final. She may have been named The Best FIFA Women’s Coach for the last two years. But, in her words, there is ‘unfinished business’.
On Tuesday morning it was confirmed Wiegman’s contract, which was due to expire after UEFA Women’s EURO 2025, had been extended until after the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
So with more than 18 months remaining on her previous contract and another major tournament still to come, why the rush? Why sign the next contract now?
Wiegman said: “I really like the job and I have had a great time with the team and it works really well. I am very happy at the FA, the staff, how we collaborate, the expertise we have with the staff is really good, and it is really enjoyable.
“Of course, working with this group of players, they are good human beings and are very talented, so I am really excited to stay a little longer.
“Time flies so fast – I can’t believe I have been here so long already and I would like to stay a little longer. Everyone is happy so we can work towards another World Cup together.”
Wiegman first took charge of England in September 2021 and has helped transform the Lionesses’ fortunes.
Having won the UEFA Women’s EURO and reached the Women’s World Cup final during her time in charge of her native Netherlands, Wiegman repeated the feat in her first two years as the Lionesses’ head coach.
Her excellent reputation in the game was reinforced on Monday night when she was named The Best FIFA Women’s Coach for the fourth year in the award’s seven-year existence.Her contract extension was then confirmed the following morning and by the afternoon, the head coach was speaking to the media at Wembley Stadium connected by EE alongside the FA’s chief executive officer, Mark Bullingham.
Unsurprisingly, Bullingham holds Wiegman in high regards, haling her as ‘the best international coach in the women’s game’, and is delighted the former Netherlands international and her assistant Arjan Veurink will be in place for the next two major tournaments.
Bullingham explained how Wiegman has helped improve not only the Lionesses’ first team but also the development of the grassroots game.
And Wiegman spoke passionately about the growth of women’s football, saying: “Working for England is just amazing – it is the biggest federation worldwide and the game here has developed so much and England is at the highest level with the competition, with the players and how the FA approach women’s football, so I am really happy to be here.
“The growth of the women’s game has been really quick, with things like the club development and it has also been exciting to be a part of the league’s development.”
The FA launched its women’s and girls’ game strategy – Inspiring Positive Change – in October 2020 and in December provided a three-year update which highlighted record growth across several areas.
Alongside reaching the target for 75 per cent of schools delivering equal access to football in PE lessons a year ahead of schedule, between October 2022 and October 2023 there has been a 12 per cent increase in the total number of affiliated females playing football and an 18 per cent increase in the number of affiliated female youth players.
Between October 2021 and October 2023 there was a 78 per cent increase in the number of female referees across all levels and an 83 per cent increase in the number of active female coaches with Level 1 qualifications and above.
Wiegman recognised the important role played by grassroots coaches and teachers when collecting her The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2023 award on Monday night and highlighted how the work being done eventually benefits the England national teams.
The success of the Lionesses is clear but the strength of the player pathway can also be seen across the England youth sides, with several young players making the step up to the senior squad since EURO 2022.
Wiegman said: “There is so much potential. We have experienced players, we have young players coming in and the growth of the game here – with the Women’s Super League growing so much too and the games being so exciting and the crowds – it is just really nice to work in England and for the FA. I see lots of potential.”
So with her future now secured, what are Wiegman’s hopes for the future? What are her goals?
Speaking to England’s channels, she said: “We want to keep performing. Of course, we want to defend our championship at UEFA Women’s EURO 2025 and we want to do really well again at the World Cup and perform at the highest level.
“We really want to be successful and I see so much potential in this teem. There are young players coming through too and I am really excited to see what that brings us.
“The competition in the team is going to be higher and higher and we need that because the world around us is really improving too – we are being chased so we have to be at the top of our level.”
"There's so much more to come." 👏— Lionesses (@Lionesses) January 16, 2024
We sat down with Sarina to discuss her contract extension: pic.twitter.com/IaFTrcsN0X
Earps and Wiegman on Best FIFA award