Written by Emma Thornthwaite
There is no doubt that throughout the entirety of history, football has been dominated by men. But why? Why is women’s football taken far less seriously? The same rules. The same concept. Yet the culture surrounding both games is so unbelievably different. It’s sad to think about how it takes an enormous success like winning the Euros for the Lionesses to finally be taken more seriously. Why can’t we celebrate all of the successes of these incredible athletes?
While researching to write this article I went to YouTube in the hopes of watching some women’s football games and observing the attitudes of the players and the crowds, however when I typed women’s football into the search bar the most popular search was ‘Women’s football shirt off celebration’. Ignoring this I loaded the results for ‘Women’s football’ and was met with ‘Women’s football- Most Inappropriate Moments’. There’s no doubt that in many areas of life, women are in some way sexualised, however in search of watching a group of talented young women playing the sport they are so passionate about, I find hundreds of videos blatantly disrespecting these athletes. Out of curiosity I then simply searched ‘Football’ and to no surprise I scroll through endless videos of successful male footballers. Not a woman in sight. In an interview Holly Morgan, LCFC Women skipper, spoke about the struggles surrounding the sport, stating: “What’s frustrating is that you’re constantly being compared to the men’s game. So, your knowledge or your ability to coach, manage or play is constantly compared to what a man would do and how well they would do it”. These women cannot achieve or do anything without being scrutinised, with all of their minor failures being amplified by misogynistic men who believe ‘their sport’ has been stolen by women.
The toxic fan culture that undeniably surrounds men’s football clubs continues to grow in extremity and has only widened the divide between male and female football teams. Some international fans take it to the extremes taking flares, machetes, and knives to watch a football game. Male fans often take club rivalry to another level, disregarding friendly competition between teams and forming violent gangs within the football club, with aims to fight and cause trouble before and after the games. Between 1980 and 2012, incident numbers have risen to a new level from 16 to 17 per decade and football related deaths are now much more common in a global perspective. The number of ‘football hooligan’ related deaths are shocking when you step back and take a look at the meaning of the game, to celebrate the talent of these footballers and bring together groups of people whilst supporting and cheering them on. Furthermore, in many of the male games, the managers play unfair tactics, making their players fake and exaggerate injuries to waste time in the match, taking away from the authenticity of the game. Although it does still happen, this is much less common in women’s football and the games tend to run more smoothly with less foul play. The Huffington Post’ wrote an article about the atmosphere at women’s football games and reported much more of a family attitude as people feel safer taking their children to games without the vicious hooligans who are often too misogynistic to go to a women’s game. It is a shame that male’s football is growing this violent reputation and hopefully the changes in attitudes towards women’s football will spark changes within the fans who have lost sight of the game and get caught up in the brutal rivalry.
The highest paid male footballer in 2022 is Kylian Mbappe with a net worth of $125 million, versus the highest paid female footballer Carli Lloyd, who is now retired, but has a net worth of $518,000. Its unfair to compare each individual player as each of them, male or female, has worked incredibly hard to reach the level they are at, however its undeniable that the pay difference between the top footballers are significantly different for men and women. This may of course be due to the popularity of each player, and no one can be directly blamed for women earning less on average, however I believe more could be done to promote and educate people, changing their attitudes towards women’s football as a whole. It would be a shame if talented footballers like Leah Williamson and Rachel Daly put in a lifetime of commitment and dedication to the game and can still never reach the level of fame and wealth that the likes of Ronaldo or Sterling can.
Overall, we still have a long way to go in bridging the gap between male and female football, but progress has been made and attitudes are slowly beginning to change. More recognition and respect is being given to female footballers since the success of the Lionesses in the Euros, and while this change should have come a long time ago, at least views are finally changing and becoming more inclusive.