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Forest Green Rovers Score Own Goal With Hannah Dingley Appointment

Dale Vince and Hannah Dingley (via The Guardian)

The past twelve months have been very difficult for Forest Green Rovers. After finally securing promotion to League One in the 2021-22 season, as champions of League Two, last season saw the club completely out of their depth as they finished bottom of the table, nineteen points away from safety, and were immediately relegated.

The bold appointment of Duncan Ferguson to his first permanent manager role, in late January, did not herald the bounce that was hoped for, with the team winning one and losing fourteen of his eighteen games in charge. However, despite this poor record, Big Dunc looked set to be given the opportunity to mount a promotion challenge in 2023-24, until all this changed on July 4th.


On that date Dale Vince, the Forest Green Rovers chairman and owner, removed Ferguson from his position after less than six months. This means that the former Scottish striker will now, for the foreseeable future at least, be remembered more for promoting vegan burgers and croissants than for winning football matches.

That being said, all of this was brushed to one side when Ferguson was immediately replaced by Hannah Dingley, who has been the academy manager at the club since 2019. This made Dingley the first ever female manager in charge of a professional men's football team in England, a landmark moment that understandably, and deservedly, received a huge amount of media interest and praise.

The news did come with a big question mark though, and that was to do with the appointment being described as an interim one. This clearly indicated that Dingley was not the new permanent manager, which could have made for a truly sensational, genuine moment for women in football. And it raised eyebrows because an interim boss is a little unusual when it comes to gaps between seasons, as typically a change of manager in the summer is followed decisively by the new one.

So, was Dingley going to be in the frame for being the next full-time manager of Forest Green Rovers? Many of us who lauded her initial appointment certainly hoped that she would eventually be the one to lead the club into next season, otherwise there was a fear that the interim announcement would ultimately come across as an underwhelming PR stunt. 

Sadly, it seems that the answer was more of the latter. Dingley moved back to her academy role this past Monday, after a mere thirteen days in charge, and Dave Horseman was announced as the man to take the team forward.

Dale Vince now faces fair accusations that he placed Dingley in post to simply put Forest Green Rovers in the record books and to gain a huge amount of publicity, that was mostly based on goodwill. As a result there are some questions that he should answer, to clarify the situation:

  • Did Hannah Dingley actually apply for the permanent position as manager?
  • If her tenure was only ever intended to be an interim one, then why was this not fully clarified back on July 4th?

If we were to know that Dingley didn't put herself forward for the role, then fair enough, maybe she'll decide on chasing other opportunities in the future.

The major problem here is the confusion over the interim tag, which in hindsight doesn't look that great either way. If Dingley did interview for the full-time position, then the attention garnered by the interim announcement appears a little disingenuous.  

Likewise, if Dingley was only ever intended as an interim, then Dale Vince could now be accused of milking the media attention and, in some respect, exploiting the gender of his academy manager. Frustratingly, in less than two weeks, a story that was primarily positive has descended into justifiable cynicism and suspicion that may do more harm than good for the prospects of female managers in men’s football.

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