As the women’s England team powers its way into the semi-finals of the World Cup, Standard Issue’s sports correspondent Jen Offord urges us to “come on our girls” all year round.
It is 24 June 2014, and Costa Rica has just sent FOOTBALLING SUPER POWER England home, head in its pathetic hands, following its least successful World Cup campaign (if we discount the time they didn’t qualify) ever.
For some reason, even though we still think we’re good at football (we’re not), we almost don’t care anymore. The players don’t seem to, and they’re mostly bellends anyway, aren’t they? If they’re not trying to persuade their club managers to write them a sick note out of international duty, they’re boffing each other’s wives or engaging in other activities probably not ideally suited to national glory.
Yep, it’s pretty miserable being an England supporter. Suddenly though, seemingly from nowhere such has the comparative coverage been, we’re emerging like a phoenix from the flames of international football. But wait… The phoenix has a vag.
With the biggest ever Women’s World Cup underway, the England women’s team, or Lionesses if you prefer, has achieved something our male team has failed to do since 1990 and, having beat host nation Canada in the quarter-finals, now go on to the semi-finals.
It is a historic victory and one much lauded by pretty much everyone, not least the UK media who aren’t usually all that fussed about women’s sport. From Sepp Blatter, who once suggested female footballers wear “shorter shorts” (he’s since described himself as the “godfather” of women’s football – I’ll let that marinade), to a friend of mine who wanted to know “how many of them were lesbians?” after I interviewed a women’s team recently, everyone has been quick to dismiss women’s football. Well-intentioned but poorly thought-through banners are urging us to “get behind” or even more regrettably “come on” our girls.
It’s a big deal, is this. Women’s football has been making considerable waves in the UK over the last few years, with the establishment of the FA’s Women’s Super League in April 2011, followed by the addition of a second division in 2014. They even show the games on the telly from time to time. Some teams, like Chelsea Ladies, are now even *gasps* fully professional – meaning they actually get paid enough so they don’t have to work part-time jobs to supplement their earnings. Though it must be said, the salary of a professional female footballer is probably somewhere in the £30,000 per year region, compared to Wayne Rooney’s £300k per week.
But it’s easy to start banging my feminist drum about all this. Firstly, there is huge disparity between what individual male footballers earn in professional leagues. Secondly, the men’s professional leagues make a lot more money. The simple fact is, we can come on our girls all we want, but we’re going to have to actually start watching their games if we want them to achieve anything near equality with their male counterparts.
The average attendance of an Arsenal game at the Emirates stadium last season was 58,142 – 96.3 per cent of the stadium’s capacity. Meanwhile, Arsenal Ladies welcomed 815 people to their Boreham Wood ground for their last home game. They don’t even get to play at their own club’s stadium. We’re currently between men’s seasons so it’s not like they’re using it, nor have Simply Red booked it out as part of their never-ending farewell tour (they wouldn’t anyway: Mick’s a massive Man Utd fan, FYI) – it’s just not economically viable to have them play there.
According to Chelsea Ladies’ manager Emma Hayes, whom I met earlier in the year, teams would need something like an average attendance of 2,500 to make the women’s teams commercially sustainable. When you consider that apparently 40 per cent of Premier League fans are women, this shouldn’t be a problem, right?
We may well wish the Lionesses tremendous luck, but more so we should remember that, despite a comparative lack of interest and investment in their efforts, they have already achieved great things – things that might even be interesting to watch in your own time zone when the domestic league commences once more in July.
So I’m going to get behind our girls and adopt a team even after the World Cup is over and The Sun’s stopped giving a shit. Sure, there’ll still be a racist old man at any match you attend, but the ticket will only cost you six quid (I’m not even joking), and you’re much less likely to be sat next to a man with a cannon tattooed on his face. If you’re honest, supporting Charlton Athletic always sucked balls anyway.900 Views
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