The winter months are kicking in, and for the majority of women in Britain, most are likely to be found trawling the country’s shopping centres and squeezing their feet into the latest patent leather stiletto shoe, in the hope that it matches the sparkly outfit they just purchased for the annual office Christmas party. This scenario will ring true for hundreds of women. But not every woman in Britain owns a Topshop loyalty card and would faint if they were asked to live without their mascara for a week. There are always of course, the women you will find down the pub, proudly wearing their beloved team’s strip, pint of lager in hand, bellowing loudly at the TV screen. بت مجیک, especially in the UK, has always been linked to men and masculinity. When we think of football, we’re unlikely to conjure up an image of eleven femme fatale’s running around a field, hair flowing wildly in the wind. (Though of course this would never happen – hair would naturally be tied up, but go with the image)
However, there is no denying that football is widely regarded as a man’s game. A Beautiful Game, certainly, but a man’s one nevertheless. Statistics have shown in the past that the number of women playing team sports as a full time professional in the UK is zero. But with the ever increasing amount of women’s football players and ladies teams, could everything be set to change? Vicki Christopher, captain of the women’s football team at the University of Winchester, thinks this is most certainly the case. She says: “Women’s football is definitely on the up. Over the last few years our university football team has increased in numbers considerably. It used to be the case at school where boys played football and girls played netball. Nowadays though, school kids have a much better balance of sports.”
Maureen McGonigle from Scottish Women’s Football has a similar view. She believes although it has much catching up to do to be on the same par with men’s, women’s football is now becoming recognised globally as the fastest growing team sport for women. “It’s growing constantly. Women’s football offers so many opportunities for everyone, whether it be as a referee, a coach, or even an administrate. Somebody once said that ‘The future is feminine’, and this confirms the belief held by many who have watched the amazing growth of the game for women and girls.” But where did it all start? Believe it or not, women have been kicking a ball around a pitch for almost a century. It first became popular on a large scale at the time of the first World War, around 1917.
Women’s roles started to change as they took on jobs and responsibilities that had always previously been fulfilled by men. Wartime women’s teams were usually started in order to raise money for war charities. The most successful team of this era was Dick Kerrs Ladies of Preston. They played to average crowds of 2,500 with all their proceeds going towards charitable causes. By the end of the war, the number of women’s teams had increased across the country, attracting generous sized crowds, and by the 1920’s, women’s football in England was more popular than ever, with crowd sizes even bigger than at men’s games. Ironically, it was this that led to the decline of women’s football; shortly afterwards the FA decided to ban women from playing football on football league grounds, claiming that the funds they had raised were actually being used for other purposes.
However, according to Sir Norman Chester’s Centre for football research at the University of Leicester, the true sentiment of the ban was found in the FA’s statement that it was of the ‘strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged’.
Subsequently, the FA disallowed their grounds to be used for women’s games. The ban was not rescinded until 1969, in which time women’s football had practically faded into obscurity. After the Women’s FA was founded in 1969, it seemed women’s football was well and truly on the increase. The first women’s World Cup, held in China in 1991 highlighted this, and since then has developed exponentionally, with sixteen teams from all over the world representing their countries. So if women’s football is on the up, which most certainly seems to be the case, why then do women’s games rarely feature on programmes such as Match of the Day and Soccer AM? TV dramas like Dream Team and Footballers Wives certainly weren’t centred around women’s football. It seems that even in this so called modern age, men are still prevailing. Caz O’Shaughnessy, manager of the women’s football team at the University of Lincoln agrees: “Women are the minority. There may be more of us in quantity but men have the power which makes them the majority.”
Now I’m quite sure the reason for this isn’t as black and white as men look better in shorts, therefore they’re better footballers. Harsh as it sounds, does it go back to what was written in stone centuries ago – that a women’s place should be at home and not out on a football field playing a ‘man’s game’? Caz O’Shaughnessy thinks this is a stereotype that will never change no matter how hard women push for it: “History has always placed men as the breadwinners with the women at home looking after the kids. We try hard to separate these stereotypes but the ideologies are so set that it will never change.” Sports Journalist Chris Ray disagrees with this, and thinks that there is now far more national media coverage of the women’s game than ever before, profiting it immensely: “Women’s football could be bigger than men’s one day. Attendances are up and the stereotypes of it being just a man’s game are all but gone now I would say. The standard will continue to improve as the public and young people become more and more aware of women’s football.”