Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The state of women's football

The world might be football mad and in England we have the most high profile and richest professional men's league in the world, but when it comes to the women's game the level of interest and support remain frustratingly small. While Capello's men play at the shiny new Wembley, England's women have yet to play at the national stadium; instead they appear at grounds in Swindon, Colchester and Shrewsbury.

It has not always been this way though, immediately after the First World War a match between Dick Kerr's Ladies FC (a works factory team from Preston) and St Helen's Ladies at Everton's Goodison Park stadium, drew a crowd of 53,000 (a women's record attendance that still stands today). Players such as Lily Parr and Alice Woods became stars of the game, and earned tidy sums touring France and the US.

But this was all to change, on the 5th December 1921 the FA banned women from playing on their pitches, effectively all grounds with spectator facilities. It was said that "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged". Speculation now says that male officials were threatened by the success of their female counterparts. The women's game was left to die whilst the men's game flourished.

In 1971 this ban was lifted but the women's game has failed to get back to how it was with Parr and Woods. Recent successes; Arsenal Ladies winning the Uefa Cup in 2007 (the equivalent to the Champions League), England reaching the quarter finals in the World Cup that same year and recently they were Euro Final Runner Ups to Germany (Why is it always Germany?). Despite this array of honours and successes the Women's game is short on attendances, facilities and finance, League games are not shown on TV, and sponsorship is hard to come by.

Successful clubs like Manchester United, Birmingham City, Charlton, Bristol City and Fulham Ladies have all folded or struggled when the men's club cut off support.
It's no surprise that English players are heading over to America where the games are shown live on TV and they have live phone in and discussion programmes. In Sweden, Umea IK pay professional wages to 75% of their players and rival mens' teams in terms of football coverage. England is lacking well behind these examples of what is going on elsewhere in the world. It was reported that during The World Cup they were paid £40 a day! It's of no surprise that they have to have 2 jobs to keep themselves financially secure, with annual salaries of £16,000 - it's a long way of the men's teams with some of them getting that in a day.

As role models go the Kelly Smith's and Karen Carney's of this world are doing all they can to highlight women's football and the FA is now starting to pay attention; mainly because the stars are leaving England to go to America. They say there will be a new Super League in 2010, but news on it is sketchy to say the least.

I've had the chance to do quite a lot of coaching and over a year ago I coached a group of 10-12 year old girls football, and they all wanted to play football when they were older but had been told by their schools "It wasn't worthwhile". Although I've now heard some of them are trialling for a girls team near me and I feel proud!
So I must have done something right and I'm going to get in contact with them and see if there's any further support they need. I realise it's easy to write a post like this and say more needs to be done and then do nothing myself, so I will continue with coaching and try to get as many girls/women into football. I trained last year to be a referee and if I hadn't gone with two other girls I would have been the only female in the training, with 24 blokes! Not that it would have stopped me going I might add.

I'm interested to know what you think?

If anyone has any doubts on the women's game you gotta check out Brazilian footballer Marta, a lot of men wouldn't be able to score goals like she can!

1 comment:

Doonytime said...

Good post.

I enjoyed reading that, and hope you manage to make an incy bit of difference to the world of women's football.

Good luck with the coaching.