Who is the new head of Man Utd women’s football?

Manchester United are preparing for the next phase of their women’s football project after deciding that Polly Bancroft will become the club’s first dedicated head of women’s football.

Bancroft has previously worked at UEFA and the FA and is currently general manager of Brighton, one of the WSL clubs that has made the most progress in recent years. She describes herself as an “experienced project and HR manager in European football and business development”.

After three years as a project manager at the FA, she was hired by UEFA as a business development specialist and designed their famous ‘Together #WePlayStrong’ campaign. Bancroft joined Brighton in October 2020 and has been general manager for almost two years.

At Brighton she was tasked with overseeing the club’s women’s football operations from the first team down through the academy ages, working alongside staff in all areas of the club from technical to medical, operational, marketing and commercial.

United try to compete on the pitch with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City but don’t have the same specialized support and leadership structure as their off-pitch rivals. All three WSL giants either have their own head of women’s football or a general manager.

Previously, Steve Deaville, United’s finance director, had served as the de facto general manager of the women’s team. In his previous role as Head of Football Development, John Murtough played a pivotal role in recruiting for the reformed first-team squad in 2018 and continues to support the team. But his promotion to director of football in 2021 brought big new challenges.

Discussions with potential candidates were held back in March and the club were keen to take the time to ensure the eventual appointment was the right one.

Head coach Marc Skinner said of the search throughout the season: “When they come in they’re going to have wonderful support; wonderful club to build from.”

In conversation with back sport Last month Bancroft stressed the importance of Brighton having a dedicated facility for women and girls. At United, the club have invested in training grounds in recent months, completing two new pre-season training pitches and working on a facility to house the women’s team for years to come. It means progress.

Skinner, who was appointed to succeed Casey Stoney last summer, was tasked during his first year with using his experience of women’s football to shape the club’s long-term vision for the future. Budget discussions have been a significant part of this, with United looking to make the women’s setup more self-sustaining with their own earnings that can be reinvested.

Bancroft brings experience and specialized expertise to the important newly created position, for which the search for a suitable candidate began back in December. Your role will be critical when it comes to key pillars like recruiting and overall strategy.

The arrival of Bancroft, set to come after her notice period at Brighton, will also allow Skinner to focus more on leading the team on the pitch again.

One of her first big tasks will be convincing Alessia Russo of a new contract. The striker was one of the breakout stars of Euro 2022 and turned down the offer of a new deal just ahead of the tournament – she is now in the option year of her current contract, which expires in 2023.

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