Hopefully that title got your attention.
But don’t come here thinking this is going to be a character assassination of female footy, quite the opposite.
I feel it’s only right to begin this article with the Doncaster Belles, not because they were the first (there were a number of women’s clubs around in the 1890’s), but because they were the first team I ever watched on the TV. It was an FA Cup final, either 1992 or 1994, which is one of the 6 occasions they won it. I remember watching it and thinking to myself that the quality of football wasn’t bad, nowhere near the newly created Premier League standard, but not bad.
Since then I have continued to watch women’s football whenever it’s on TV, indeed I managed to see some of the She Believes tournament, which our Lionesses won. The standard has improved year on year, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd all have women’s teams, there’s a Women’s Super League, some of our players are playing for the likes of Juventus and Barcelona, so what’s the problem?
Well, let’s go back to square one, the goalkeepers.
Whilst there are some countries (Our Lionesses are a great example) that have excellent goalkeepers, some of the games that I have watched are let down by both the size and quality of the net minders. This is partly due to some countries probably not having the resources to fund better training, but also that women are on average smaller than their male counterparts. This means a shot from a striker above a certain height will leave some keepers with no chance. I’m not talking about a 30 yard Messi free kick that goes top bins, this could be a gently chipped effort into the middle of the goal. I’m not the only one that sees this as a problem, the Women’s Chelsea manager also has views on this:-
So why not adjust the game to fit the physicality of the players taking part, it happens in tennis, men play 5 sets and the women play 3.
At this point you may be expecting an answer… sorry no can do. The problem with changing football is that it’s our national sport, overseen mainly by men, it’s tradition etc. etc. Women have campaigned for equality for so long, are they in danger of being a victim of their own success? If you do make the goals smaller, does that mean the clubs with taller goalies have an advantage? Is it fair on the strikers to have a smaller target? Should we reduce the game time? Is this even football anymore?
I don’t know, and I’m not the person who should be making these points. I have played football myself man and boy for about 35 years (I still do when I get chance), but I was only ever a Sunday morning player, I have no influence at FIFA, The FA or UEFA. What the women’s game really needs is people like Emma Hayes to ask these questions, to get others to join the conversation.
There I am far right at the front, playing for Magnetti Marelli
There has also been mention of Emma’s name should Sarri depart the men’s manager position after the Europa cup. Now that really would be an eye opener, would a male dressing room be prepared to be managed by a woman? There’s no reason why she couldn’t be just as good as any man. Phil Neville is in charge of the Lionesses, so why not the other way round? The men’s game has a problem with racism (mainly a minority of moronic fans), so if the mantra from FIFA all the way down is everybody is equal, then Emma should be considered just like anybody else.
I am proud of our Lionesses, they have reached the quarter finals 3 times at the World Cup, achieved 3rd place last time around, and I really believe they have a chance to win it this year. Fortunately the BBC has secured the rights to show the Lionesses in action – https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2017/fifa-womens-world-cup-2019 – and lets hope in 2021 when we host the Euro’s (not sure how Brexit may affect that!) that there’s even more coverage, we’ve been runners up in 2009 and semi-finalists last time around.
There’s not enough women’s football coverage at the moment, do you even know that the Lionesses are 3 time winners of the Cyprus Cup? I am a fan of good football, I have watched the Premier League, The Championship, Serie A, the MLS and many others from around the world, so why isn’t someone making the women’s game available to watch? I would much prefer to watch the Women’s Super League than Serie A in Italy, Christ that is boring. At least with the vertically challenged keepers we are guaranteed some goals, and isn’t that what football is really all about… entertainment.
Which leads me nicely onto Soccer Aid, not only is the England team being co-managed by Susanna Reid from GMB, but we have Rachel Yankey (England & Arsenal) and Katie Chapman (England & Chelsea) playing alongside all the blokes. In many ways it’s a shame that we can’t have mixed teams, and then again why cram all the football stars into one league when we can have two. But again, this is a great opportunity to showcase the women’s game, let the ladies play at least an hour. The kick off is 7:30pm, so young girls can watch, maybe the first Women’s England superstar is inspired to play?
This is the second problem we have with the women’s game, after about 11 years of age the girls and boys at school can’t play in the same team, which can simply translate into girls being discouraged from continuing with the sport. What if the physicality of gender wasn’t an issue? For the record I don’t think Elizabeth Lambert (New Mexico Lobos) would have an issue with it, get yourself on youTube and watch her in action.
The men’s game is great, but the money side of things is ridiculous. Let’s look at someone like Alexis Sanchez (Man Utd) who has hardly played due to injury, he earns around £450,000 per week, that’s over £20 million a year for not a fat lot. How much do the ladies get paid? Well a good contract in this country might see them rake in £100,000… a year!
Women’s football is at the stage that men’s football was before the Premier League, and all that happened was the Premier League was well marketed, and the money came rolling in, big sponsors, Sheik’s, Oligarch’s, even the American’s wanted a slice of the action. So why can’t the BBC or ITV or YouTube or Twitter buy the rights, get the women’s game in front of a bigger audience. Show it on TV, stream it, get an App built, but do something, push it forward.
We haven’t had a World Cup win since 1966 (I know the men’s under 17’s won it in 2017, but I’m referring to the senior teams here), but if we act now, get the public behind the team, there is no reason why football can’t come home at last, and I for one don’t care if it’s a Lioness that is carrying it.