Women’s football is on the up, and it’s about time! – Labour Article
Back in 1969 the old fashioned notion that ‘football was quite unsuitable for females’ was dropped. This watershed moment meant women’s football in England officially became a professional sport. Whilst this moment was a great advancement for equality in the footballing world, it did little to ensure parity going forward.
Over the years the men’s game in England saw a dramatic increase in transfer fees, wages and sponsorship deals. The reason for this astronomical increase was popularity. The realisation by wealthy individuals that large clubs were economic vehicles upon which one could earn gross amounts of money started a race to the top.
This saw investment skyrocket, leading to the behemoth organisations we see today. Along for the ride were players and fans who benefitted hugely from the increased investment in their sport. The same trajectory, however, did not emerge in the women’s game.
There is hope for change, with interest in the women’s game on the up. Marquee events like the Fifa Women’s World Cup and the reorganisation of the top flight of English football as the Women’s Super League (WSL) have hugely increased the level of exposure and interest in the women’s game.
This can only be seen as a huge positive. Personally, having written before about sport being a unifying agent within society, I am excited about the way female football is going in England.
Before the coronavirus halted the sporting season, the average attendance of WSL games was up by 47% from the previous year; a promising statistic. Perhaps more importantly though, is the future of the WSL on TV. BT and the BBC have split the coverage of the WSL this season with average viewing figures being 85,000 and 285,000 respectively. This is a sign of progress and the fact the league is now beamed into homes across the UK will ensure not only greater interest but also will inspire the next generation of female footballers.
The plans for the future are also bright, as I mentioned the men’s top flight makes over two billion (between all 20 clubs) in TV rights deals each year. The 2021-22 season will be put out to tender to all the big sports broadcasters. With rising viewing figures comes rising income for the clubs in the league and it seems clear the WSL will target the 2021-22 season as the year to cement the idea that women’s football is on the up.
The frontier of English women’s football is pushed further by the fact the WSL is now attracting major international stars of the game. Sam Kerr, the shining star of the Australian National side and widely regarded as one of the best players in women’s football, has just signed for Chelsea.
I am not suggesting the men’s and women’s games have become equal. Far from it. In 2019 Fifa reported that only $652,032 had been spent in the women’s game. This is a drop in the ocean when compared to spending in the male game. But, this is a sign of hope. When the top stars of the game move, it boosts the media coverage and indirectly the future income of the WSL as a whole.
There is also a discussion to be had about wages. Since January, the FA has been paying the same match fees and bonuses to the men and women who represent England. This is long overdue but it is progress nonetheless.
As for club wages, we also see an upwards trajectory. The average annual salary of a WSL player is reported as being between £20,000 and £60,000. The exception is at the top clubs where the best players can expect to receive £150,000 per annum; three times what a similar play may have been given in 2017. Again, I acknowledge this pales in comparison to the salaries of their male counterparts. But, just as the men’s game evolved and grew into a financial juggernaut, so too can the women’s game. And, that transition will bring deserved positive effects for all the professional athletes and staff who operate at the highest level of their sport.
Written by Senior Labour writer, Henry Mckeever
Point of Information
Hugely promising, but not to be measured against the male game – A Conservative Response
Sport is unbelievably beneficial for body and mind, irrespective of sex. I very much agree with Henry, and think that it is a good thing that women’s sport is on the up; helping shed the unhelpful maxim that “sport is not for girls”. What nonsense, of course it is. I hope this trend will encourage our younger generation to don some boots.
The theme of ‘inequality’ running throughout this article is somewhat a misnomer, however. It is disingenuous to compare the pay of male athletes, to the pay of female athletes and claim injustice. There is no misogynist conspiracy at work, the men’s game simply has more viewers and thus more funding. If the viewing figures were to swap (and thus the brand deals etc.), so would the astronomical wages.
The reason for the asymmetric viewing figures? The difference in the level of play. There is an elephant in the room, and it’s that male athletes are far better than female athletes. Case in point: Australia’s national female side, were beaten 7-0 by a local (not even national) U15 boys side.
Having said that, male and female national representatives should absolutely receive the same match-day stipend. Representing your country is an honour — felt the same by men and women — and nothing to do with the economics of viewing figures.
The rise of women’s football is massively promising. The increasing profile will inspire more to the playing fields; improving both the quality of our professional player-base and the physical and mental health of all those involved. The female game should not be compared side-by-side to its male counterpart. It is its own entity and has its own trajectory.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Equality in Training is Crucial – A Liberal Response
I strongly support Henry’s desire for equality between men’s and women’s football. Glaring contrasts between the BPL and WSL exist. The wage gap in particular is shocking. As Henry aptly notes, there have already been some promising signs, but there is much more work to still be done.
However, whilst Henry’s article is a crucial starting point, we need to go deeper. To defeat this inequality, we need to defeat deeper societal issues. One of these is the gendered nature of ‘football culture’.
I was slightly disappointed in Alex’s response as a result. The disparities in pay, as Alex mentions, come from a lack of demand for women’s football. However, whilst Alex says this is because of the different levels of play, he leaves us on a cliff-hanger. Why do these differences exist?
The answer: society is sadly hard-wired against women playing football. Inequality is not a misnomer. It is embedded in the very nature of how we promote the game.
Growing up as a boy, there was suffocating pressure to play football. Training camps only for boys existed everywhere I looked. I never really wanted to play – I always preferred music – but I eventually wound up on the pitch anyway. By stark contrast, there was almost no room allowed for women in football.
My experiences aren’t an isolated example. They exist up and down the UK, a liberal country in many other respects. If we want the WSL to reach parity with the BPL, we need a sustained campaign to promote women’s football at a young age. We need a campaign to take the overwhelming pressure off of unwilling young men to play football. Most importantly, we need a campaign to defeat the hyper-masculine culture surrounding football. We need to integrate the two spaces.
If we can address the gendered football culture, we can address the disparities in funding and training. This will address inequalities in demand and wages. Like Henry, I am optimistic that this can happen. However, we need equality in training at a young age. Even more than that, we need an increasing demand to join this training. Hyper-masculinity cannot dominate football any longer.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Frank Allen