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Football Is For Everyone

Men’s football has always been front and centre of the world’s sports discourse, and its global popularity is emblematic of its cultural soft power. It has embedded itself into society without much thought. 


 


Women’s football, on the other hand, and being a woman who works in football, has always been a fight. With recent comments from a former professional footballer in the Premier League suggesting that women should be excluded from commenting on men’s football, or instances of sexual assault by the federations of womens’ national teams, it’s clear we still have a long way to go to fight misogyny in football, and thus misogyny in society. 


 


Whether it is high-profile premier league players being accused of rape, or the sexist comments by former players, it’s clear that there is a problem. We have to make sure women feel safe in the game. 


 


There is deep-rooted misogyny in football which means that some believe if women are involved in it, it’s inherently less valuable. There is an uncomfortable truth that the game has attracted some beliefs and values that are reflective of some people in society who don’t respect women. If there is still the common belief, which there is among some men, that we shouldn’t promote women in football or women’s football itself, then we as a society still have a lot of work to do. 


 


If you were to look at the comments on some large sports platforms on social media, you would see many comments suggesting either that the quality is poor or that ‘no one cares.’ They do, and if we can encourage men to be more open-minded when it comes to women’s football, we can break down gender-based barriers that exist in society. 


 


This appetite for women’s football is demonstrated in the explosion of the professional women’s game. Fan numbers are increasing exponentially, as well as the TV viewing figures. Women play and consume football, and it’s more popular with young women now than ever. To deny this would be to deny reality. The game is also at a tipping point. 


 


Since the World Cup in the summer of 2023, the game has risen in popularity across the globe, and how fans of the Matildas (Australia’s national women’s football team) took to the team, filling the stadiums and fan parks for the entire tournament, shows that if you build space for it, the fans will come. This was particularly impressive considering football, or soccer as it’s known in Australia, is not one of the nation’s most popular sports.


 


The women’s game has only been professional for a brief period in many countries, and still isn’t in some countries, so the players can uniquely relate to fans because not long ago, they were one of us. Because of this, the fan culture is inclusive and fun. I recently went to an Arsenal women’s game at Meadow Park, Borehamwood, UK, and I was struck by how connected the players and fans were. Each player had a chant and I even saw the players make comments to the fans during the game. 


 


This spirit of community is needed in the wider football world. We have to make sure that we keep a respectful boundary between fans and players, and not comment on their personal lives, for example, but a level of personability and relatability is important to fans. This is only going to help grow the game in the long term. 


 


Ultimately, if you like football, it seems a no-brainer that you’d also enjoy women’s football. Although it’s an ugly word, the ‘product’ itself is what the women’s game wants to be and should be known for, and people who care about it don’t constantly want to be worrying about how to artificially grow it. They want people to watch it for its own merits. There’s much more to do but the popularity of the game is only increasing, and so is the quality. 


 


In an article with the Guardian in March 2023, Lionesses captain Leah Williamson said, ‘Somebody said to me the other day that if our product was on Dragons’ Den, and you didn’t know whether it was men’s or women’s football, you just saw this version of the game, and the increase in attendances and interest, they’d snap it up.” If you’re a fan, I think it’s time you do. 


 


Edited By: Josh Reidelbach


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