Football lags painfully behind the times with the place it allows a woman to take.
Sian Massey, Karen Brady, Delia Smith – most football supporters would be hard pressed to name any other women in top flight football…
The only other name that might spring to mind – thanks to the prime time television and media coverage afforded to women’s football by The London 2012 Olympics is England and UK national ladies coach Hope Powell. Powell who has had her advanced coaching badges for over a decade, but never been approached to coach a men’s team, despite being on public record as harbouring a desire to do so.
In this age of modern football, with football clubs viewed as purely big business by many owners, where anything goes for a fast buck and media interest, a female coach is overdue – if only for publicity sake. Despite this, there still remains not one female on the coaching staff of any of the 92 football league clubs.
Those females which are part of the men’s game tend to be ridiculed – Sian Massey is singled out for sexist taunts when she runs the line and was famously the subject of an on-air tirade by football pundits Richard Keys and Andy Grey – who concurred before the game had even kicked off that Massey would ‘have a howler because even female officials don’t know the offside rule!’
A YouTube video of Sian being clattered into and flattened by Cardiff City defender Kevin MacNaughton, while chasing a ball, is the subject of much titillation – with suggestions that the Bluebirds own Silver Fox had done it on purpose for a bet, having to be repeatedly refuted by both the player and the club.
This is bad enough, but even worse is when a female taking even the slightest interest in football suffers because of her fellow sex and their attitudes. A point which was hammered home on twitter this Sunday when it was the subject of a takeover by One Direction fans.
The cause of this foray was 1D’s Louis Tomlinson, who signed as a professional for his home team of Doncaster Rovers during the transfer window as part of Sky’s programme of visiting all 92 English Football League clubs in a day.
A fact in itself which the more cynical amongst us would say is yet another prime example of the anything for media coverage mentality currently so in-vogue in football. His signing also just so happened to coincide with the cinematic release of a film about the band.
Tomlinson, 21, was playing in Stiliyan Petrov’s televised charity match at Celtic’s Parkhead when Gabriel Agbonlahor clattered into the star leaving him in a heap on the floor and clutching his knee. On getting to his feet looking very dazed and limping heavily, Tomlinson discovered he was being substituted before being physically sick on the pitch, to the screams of horror from a large portion of crowd – mostly young girls who were there solely to watch him play.
They had screamed and cheered every time Tomlinson got the ball, while the male portion of the crowd booed his every touch. The boos weren’t a reflection on the pop star come footballer -who was due to make his professional debut for Doncaster on Wednesday in a reserve match – he’d looked lively and skilful. Instead, they were caused by the sheer frustration of supporters, as even stray passes were being whooped at, and when Agbonlahor made the mistimed tackle which floored the One Direction singer, he was clapped and cheered wildly by the same section of ‘real’ football fans.
Reaction to the incident was immediate – Twitter became awash with get well soon messages for Tomlinson along with personal attacks on and death threats towards Agbonlahor. Anyone who leapt to Agbonlahor’s defence, telling the distraught 1D fans that tackling was part of the game and allowed, were also attacked.
One tweet stood out: “Louis Tomlinson got 1000s Of girls 2 WATCH FOOTBALL bet U can’t get UR Girlfriend 2 play fifa wiv U.”
Wrong on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start?
The whole incident gave ammunition and opportunity for those with set in stone attitudes to once again trot out the same old tired lines that females are clueless and only interested in football for superficial reasons.
For the tens of thousands of proper female fans, who sit come rain or shine in support of their team, this was a massive kick in the teeth, to be denigrated by their own sex when the fight to be taken seriously is hard enough.
Comments of get back to your knitting – you’d be better sticking to Emmerdale love, are common asides, even sometimes from the fellow ‘home’ supporters whose respect a real footy girl has worked hard to earn.
Also, much of female consensus still seems to be that girls only watch football for the ‘fit lads’ and that football is a boring, stupid game, just for butch girls or airheaded, gold digging wannabes WAGs craving a celebrity lifestyle. Bitchy comments are also commonly aimed at footy girls by jealous girlfriends and wives with no interest themselves in football.
Just to make it clear, I harbour no ill feeling to anyone who doesn’t get football – of either sex. I have male family members and friends who don’t get football and my Mum was always very vocal about not liking football herself, but she loved many other sports and she knew the game inside out – more than a lot of men.
While she loved to watch the pomp and spectacle of the World Cup, the week in, week out game did not interest her in the slightest – she would sit and read while my dad and I watched Match of the Day, repeatedly asking “how much longer is this on for?” This aside, she never tried to dissuade me from my passion for the beautiful game – choosing instead to encourage and support me.
If ‘footy girls’ still struggle to be respected as mere supporters, what hope is there of getting more women into the top jobs in football?
I’d like to throw this idea out to the TV and media moguls out there – take me, fast track me through my coaching badges, film me every step of the way, then put me in charge of an English football league team and watch them fly!
I fear until that sort of show is made, we will continue to wait for our first female coach in the men’s game – and what does that say about football?
Do you think we will ever get a female coach in the Premier League? Comment below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.
10 years ago
1000% agree -to be asked over and over again if the reason I support Real Madrid is because of Ronaldo is beyond comprehension. Would a male ever get asked this? Lets take a wild stab in the dark and opt for no.
10 years ago
Couldn’t have put it better myself! I was brought up in a family where football was more important than almost anything else – my cousin famously saying that if his team were in the cupfinal he was going there instead of the 21st birthday party his parents had a rranged!
Surrounded by boys who played I was gutted that at the time I wasn’t allowed, I put all my passion into following the game.
I’d thought times were starting to change until the 1D fans showed me how wrong I was!
10 years ago
Unbelievable article tackles sexism and the madness of fandom while managing to bring a tear to the eye and raise a smile,.
I absolutely empathised with everything said.. How over enthusiastic fans cause hatred and embarrassment, And I’ve also seen at first hand the sexism.. My mum is massively into her football and gets all kinds of stupid comments..
Definitely time for a woman to coach a league team its ridiculous its not happened already!!
10 years ago
100% agree with this very well written article. Why not a female coach? We have females in other highly rated aspects of life, doctors lawyers politicians too! In fact USA almost had a female president Hillary Clinton! Sisters are doing it for themselves in other walks of life, l say it’s time for equality re football! Isn’t this supposed to be the age of Girl Power after all!
10 years ago
Great read as always… I think it’s a fantastic idea and hope someone see’s this and gives your idea a shot, you’d be a brilliant football coach, you are more knowledgeable about tactics than Chris Coleman for a start.
10 years ago
Interesting read, Massey is one of the best officials on the Prem list and should be fast tracked to move onto refs rota to encourage others that ability and not gender should decide at what level you get too.
That said, it will be a long time coming before a female gets a position as coach/ manager in any league team…. regardless of talent. I am not saying this is right but there are too many barriers to break down in the foreseeable future.
You only need to look at the under representation of black/asian in the pro leagues to see how difficult it is to break through into professional football.
10 years ago
Very interesting article and well written …its a brilliant idea if we can have a female Prime minister, Judges and every other job the same as men then its definately time for a female coach in football.
10 years ago
Fantastic article, needs a much wider audience, this issue needs mass exposure, typical that its only be afforded an airing on a female only site! I note the parent site didnt have the balls to host this subject matter.
I think the boys there are scared of being shown up by a superior writer with passion, fire, flare and a killer eye for a news story they lack!