On Friday evening, before the Engand vs Argentina game, I saw this BBC interview with Carly Telford. Attending in her 3rd World Cup as part of the England squad, Friday night was her first World Cup start.
However, over the past ten days, I’ve also seen some negativity on women’s football via social media, most of which goes above and beyond acceptable. “It’s not the same game” one avid social media user tweeted me. The use of female commentators (when a male was co-commentating). The mockery of a South Korea player hitting the side netting from a corner. The memes of commentators with irons instead of microphones. Is that the society we actually live in? Or is it the work of a few individuals that would prefer the nonsensical validation achieved through social media likes? A recent twitter post by a rather vocal Dutch coach was crass and uncalled for. I’ve challenged a few of these keyboard warriors, but it seems to me that it falls on deaf ears.
Having worked in Women’s football, and throughly enjoyed every minute of it, I think the Carly Telford speaks volumes about the sacrifices made by the players to get to, and participate in a tournament, that we’ve all dreamed of playing in at some stage. The biggest footballing stage of all – the World Cup.
The majority of teams in the World Cup do not have full time professional players or leagues. With the exception of England (WSL 1), USA (NWSL), Germany and France, the majority of domestic leagues are part time. The huge dedication of the players (and staff in many cases) to commit to play for club and country opened my eyes. Most players have full time jobs, football doesn’t pay their bills. The current prize package for winning the WSL is nothing. Clubs are given money in forms of grants from the FA. However, this is set to change in the 2019/20 season with a new sponsorship deal with Barclays for the WSL, with a prize fund becoming available for distribution across the league.
The women’s game in England has been professionalised over the last couple of years and still has a long, long way to go. Even players classed as full time, may need additional income to live. Furthermore, in 2018, injury pay was reduced for women players in the WSL.
However, attendences in women’s football across Europe have increased, with over 60,000 fans attending a recent Atletico vs Barcelona Women’s game in Madrid. In England, 2.2 million people tuned in to watch the FA Cup Final at Wembley between Manchester City and West Ham – a small increase on the 2018 final between Arsenal and Chelsea. An incredible 6.1 million people viewed the recent England vs Scotland game on June 9th.
Thus the video sums a lot up for me, players who have given up so much to live their dreams. Sacrifices beyond belief. I feel incredibly lucky to have worked (Albeit on a very small scale!) with some of the players at this World Cup, I’ve seen what they have had to do, had to give up, and in some case struggle to represent their country on the biggest stage of all. These players have a desire to be successful, despite many of the challenges, socially and economically, that they may face daily. I’ve seen it first hand. It makes me proud to see these players achieve their dreams.
I’d urge anyone who feels they need to be negative about the women’s World Cup to ask themselves what they would say if their daughter or niece wants to be a professional footballer?
Just stop and think for one second. Would you deny someone the opportunity to achieve their dream through your own bias or lack of regard for women’s football?
I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t.