Written by Jen Offord

Health

One giant leap for womankind

Our sports correspondent Jen Offord has brought us the issues and achievements of women in sport and, by thunder, she’s going out on a positive note.

women running a relay race
The business of writing about women’s sport can be a bit infuriating, to be honest.

For a start, it’s rarely about sport – and look, I’m as guilty of it as anyone, having spent almost the last two years tricking Standard Issue readers into thinking they cared about sport.

Sometimes they did already, to be fair, but often they did not, having never been invited to sit at the table with the dudes, who grew up on this stuff. The dudes were spoon-fed it, in fact, even against their will at times, because, you know, not all men grow moist at the sound of the referee’s whistle or the pontificating over Arsenal’s switch from a back-four to a back-three.

When writing about women’s sports, the quest for angles and hooks can grow tiresome. Fortunately there are many, although generally associated with some dude (hashtag NotAllMen) saying something sexist, or some governing body missing the point, or a club literally not knowing the year is 2017.

Often it isn’t about sport itself, more the issues the sport raises regarding the narrow view society still holds of women (and often men, too). But every now and again that meant I’d get a tweet from someone telling me they’d not given a rat’s arse about football in the past, but they’d actually just read something that interested them about it.

That was the kind of thing that made it all worthwhile. Because the more women take an interest, the more little girls might take an interest, and the closer we get to tackling some of those issues that prevented women engaging in sport.

“For the first time you have a high-profile brand, targeted principally at women, sponsoring a women’s football team. The deal effectively signals women’s football stepping out of the shadow of men’s football, rather than simply mimicking or mirroring the men’s game.”

It feels fitting then, as Standard Issue draws to a close as an online magazine, to end with a happy story that caught my eye last week, and one that shows great progress in women’s sport.

In this story football – the often much-maligned beautiful game with its seedy stories of grotesque sums of cash and all the entitlement that goes with it (to possessions, to queue-jumping at Tiger Tiger, to women’s bodies, etc) – in fact leads the way in women’s sport yet again.

It is a mind-boggling statistic and one that I often raise, that according to the most recent research undertaken by Women in Sport, only 0.4 per cent of all reported UK sponsorship deals in sport are for women.

More baffling still is that, until last week, no female-focused brand had sponsored a Women’s Super League football team, the most prestigious league in which women in England play football. Enter Avon – yes Avon, a cosmetics brand – offering a three-year deal to Liverpool Ladies’ Football Club.

Liverpool Ladies FC: sponsors calling.

The general manager of Avon UK hailed the “truly inspirational women, working together to achieve their goals” and Professor Simon Chadwick at the University of Salford spoke of the huge significance of the deal, telling Reuters: “For the first time you have a high-profile brand, targeted principally at women, sponsoring a women’s football team. The deal effectively signals women’s football stepping out of the shadow of men’s football, rather than simply mimicking or mirroring the men’s game.”

He added: “The fact that football clubs are really starting to take their women’s teams seriously shows that we are in a new era for the game… The fact that they are investing is not only a vote of confidence in the women’s game but it is also implicit acknowledgment that there is money to be made in the women’s game.”

It is a significant move for a cosmetics brand, too, given the ludicrous misconception that women who play sport somehow aren’t like other women or are less feminine, a misconception drummed into us practically from birth. Interestingly, Liverpool men’s team has a long-standing endorsement with cosmetics brand Nivea.

Media outlets like The Offside Rule podcast, the work of Women in Football and the Women’s Sports Trust, and journalists like Eleanor Oldroyd, Anna Kessel and Jacqui Oatley, who have all been plugging away at this long before anyone else gave a shit, have challenged this kind of nonsense.

And it’s the recognition by magazines like Standard Issue that women’s interests are broad and varied and if they give a shit about football or tennis, they should bloody well get the chance to read about it, that has shown the possibility of commercial opportunities in women’s sport.

I’ve been beyond proud to be part of it and to continue to be part of that growing chorus, pioneering women’s sport as we move onto the podcast.

I hope that we will increasingly be joined by other women’s media outlets in this, because, seriously now, how can we ask men to give us opportunities we don’t give ourselves?

@inspireajen

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen