Friday, 7 September 2018

Thoughts On Women's Football


The only books I have read recently have been football related, I have completed Alex Morgan's and Abby Wambach's books but most recently I have finished Under the lights and in the dark. What I have noticed throughout these books is the struggle the female players have to go through from finding teams as in some places girls teams are hard to come by, to trying to find a wage they can live off. Under the lights was a real eye opener to me as it has so many different stories from different perspectives. 

You have Allie Long star of Seattle Reign and a player for the USWNT who actually played in an underground mens league for numerous years where it helped her perfect her game. You have Fara Williams who although homeless hides this from teammates and represents her country. You have numerous African players who fight through the stigma of women don't play football women stay home. But all this player kept on battling through and have gone to have wonderful careers, other players haven't been as lucky and have given up the sport all together.

I started playing at a young age and when I got to around 13/14 that was it there were no teams for my age group in my area, so I just played when we had chance at school. I then went to college where I played for the college team but when I left college to enter my apprenticeship that was it I had no team again. I missed playing and I just watched on at Bradford City mens where I had started attending games. It wasn't until I was 20 I actually found an open age team and played a few games before suffering an injury. Then that was it I have been sidelined since, I am working on getting back into the game but I have to start over again on the search for a team.

Luckily they are trying in the UK to get more girls involved in grassroots football and introducing them at a young age, with the success of the 2015 world cup the  England Lionesses have been brought further into the light and young girls are starting to look up to players such as Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze. 

My biggest issue is still the lack of TV support for both the leagues and international competitions. BT sport show the league games but it is only just starting to be well advertised, and they only really show the same big teams. I want to see the second division or cup games showing lower teams, not just the same Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal. I myself follow Man City Women and a few times now I have had a ticket to the game but it has ended up kicking off earlier or been changed to another day just to get it shown on the TV, which is all well and good as it is showing it to a wider audience but I travel a fair bit to the game and usually book a train to get there so I don't want to waste money on something I have to rebuy or can't make at all.

Just this week we have had the England vs Kazakhstan game advertised as being on the red button but got pulled due to technical issues with a third party stream. How often do you see this in the mens game? Not many because they will do everything they can to show those games. How do they expect fans to be brought into the world of women's football, when it is impossible for them to watch, at some point people will get fed up and give it up as a bad job. 1.4 million tuned in Friday for England vs Wales, yet we couldn't even get any better than the red button. Something needs to change.

Then there is the obvious pay gaps as teams don't get the backing mens teams do. You don't see women's players on the same wage as people such as Rooney or Ronaldo, teams don't bring in the money the men do is what you hear when discussing the pay. But how are they meant to when they aren't televised or advertised as often. The big name players will bring most of their money in through endorsements and sponsorship. You have Tobin Heath one of the biggest American players advertising contact lenses, Kelley O'Hara advertising chocolate milk, I know you get men advertising products but honestly for the women this can be one of their main sources of income. 

Players say they love seeing people with their names on the back of shirts, but that can be a hassle in itself. Every time I want a new Man City shirt with a player on the back they try charge me per letter and number even though it says a players name and number is a set price. Why is it when you go into the official club shop and ask for Houghton on the shirt they say it is your last name and they don't realise you are in fact talking about the club captain. It has been so nice in the build up to this season seeing some of the women included in kit launches but unless you educated the shop staff what is the point? If you are going to include the women then educate people to stop the fans getting annoyed. 
Don't even get me started on the USWNT jerseys. I got one last year but don't know if it is legit, there was literally only 1 site I could get one from for a reasonable price, if not the closest thing you can get in the UK is a USMNT jersey on the Nike site, but why would I want that? It doesn't showcase the 3 stars the USWNT have earnt through winning the world cup.

If a woman wants to go watch a mens game the big downside to me is the facilities there is always massive queues for the toilets at the mens ground and why is that? A lack of female ones, the ones we get are usually disgusting too. You want to bring women to the games up your hygiene a little and provide us with more toilets, I actually avoid going as much as possible whenever I go to the mens games as they are awful. You want to make women included? Then take into consideration their needs.

One thing I have noticed within the women's game is it seems to be a lot more LGBT friendly, a lot of the female players are openly gay and aren't afraid to voice their opinions and how they really feel. It is also like a safe zone for fans just look at the Riveters at Portland Thorns, their huge rainbow flags at games. How often do you see that at the mens games? Bradford mens have an LGBT club but you don't really hear about it, they have the flag but it just waves away in the distance. You have the USWNT who play with rainbow numbers every now and again then auction off the jerseys. They also do a lot of campaigning throughout their NWSL season which is lovely to see. In my opinion more countries and teams need to get on board with this so more people feel included.

It is about time it stopped been all talk and a little more action was taken to get women involved within the game and more things were generally brought to peoples attention throughout the mens and women's games. But all in all I am looking forward to the new FA WSL season and the playoffs for the NWSL. Also bring on the World Cup next year, hopefully I could get to a game or hopefully watch them online. Trust me this wont be the last you see of football on the blog so keep your eye out for more.


See you soon.

Lucy.
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