If football is the world’s most popular sport, why doesn’t the women’s game attract as much interest as the men’s game. “The cultures of sport in Britain have been distinctly male, rooted in masculine values and patriarchal exclusiveness” (Whannel, 1991). This statement links to the fact that football has always been perceived as more of a masculine game rather than a female game. The F.A backed this up by banning the sport in 1921. In this essay using some problem solving skills I want to establish an explanation to why women’s football hasn’t attracted much interest in terms of both participation and spectatorship.
In section one of this essay, I want to introduce women’s football, using important dates to highlight and reinforce the sports development during time. In the next section, I am going to reflect on the media’s influence on the women’s game as a whole and how it can create certain stereotypes. In section three I am going to discuss the theory of the role model in relation to the interest in women’s football. In the penultimate section of my essay I am going to use evaluate various problem solving tools to suggest certain amendments which the governing bodies can use to attract more people to women’s football, both in terms of participation as well as the levels of spectatorship before concluding the main points of the essay.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter (1999) pronounced that ‘”the future of football is feminine.” This statement followed the success of the 1999 women’s World Cup finals in America. Women’s football hasn’t always sparked such high accolades although it has certainly been present for many years. In fact there is some evidence which suggests that the first instance of women’s participation in football was during the late Victorian age. The game, which involved one southern team and one northern team, was played in 1895. Although this was the primary recorded match in the UK, the women’s game was further developed in terms of internationally in 1920, between an English team and a French team. Whilst this was only the dawn period for women’s football, a certain landmark was created during the same year.
The largest ever crowd noted during a women’s game amounted to 53,000. In December 1921, the Football Association (F.A) banned any female from participating in matches at football grounds. Furthermore it was quoted that “complaints have been made as to football being played by women, the council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged” (the Football Association). Certain women’s teams continued to play, however not officially, this had a detrimental effect on the women’s game, had decreased interest. It wasn’t until 1971 when the FA council lifted the previous bar; however two years prior to this the Women’s Football Association was formed, which saw interest levels increase once more. The first official women’s international game was held in the UK in 1972 between England and Scotland. For the next decade women’s football became more popular which lead to the F.A inviting the W.F.A to affiliate on the same basis as County Football Associations. Moreover, they created various competitions, leagues and cups which were played between teams from the same area in the U.K.
This idea of a county league was upgraded in the early nineties to a national league. In July 1993, the football association illustrated its commitment to women’s football by establishing a women’s football committee and also introduced a Women’s football coordinator. The committee’s role was to deal with all matters which are related to the development and administration of female football. The football coordinator had the responsibility to manage the development of girl’s and women’s football. This period was a beneficial time for the women’s game as many resources were made available to them by the F.A. This began a trend between women’s football and the football association in terms of the F.A taking control of such duties as the national squad and many competitions. Thus, they changed the name of the W.F.A National Cup to the F.A Challenge Cup and the Women’s national league to the F.A Women’s Premier league. This acted as a catalyst to further growth and development in the women’s game.
In 1997, a scheme was developed which focussed on developing females from grass root levels through to elite levels. In the same year the interest in women’s football led to the launch of On the Ball magazine, which was the first English magazine on women’s football. The latter years of the twentieth century saw considerable improvements to the provision of women’s soccer; Centre’s of Excellence’s were established all over the country and sponsorship deals were created. This showed a rise in terms of finance to the game. The F.A began to believe that women’s football could be very popular if interest continued to increase. In early 1999 it stated that their main objective was to make women’s soccer to be the “top female sport in England in 5 years time” (F.A). The game reached its pinnacle of success during the 1999 World Cup finales in which sold out matches were televised all over the world.
The Americans, on home soil, were crowned victors and some of their players even became household names. This promotes my theory of the role model, which I will address later in the essay. Although women’s football has developed immensely over a relatively short space of time, participation levels have always been higher than spectator levels, this may be due to media or sponsorship, however unless future competitions such as the World Cup finals can improve spectatorship, the sport may observe the continuous growth of participation and lower in comparison, levels of spectators.