Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Discussing The Gap Between Men’s And Women’s Football And How To Fix It

by Sam Kent

I was discussing, with my friends today, football in general, and one topic that can never escape discussion when on the subject of football is the sheer amount of money that is seemingly chucked around by people and organisations that have too much to know what to sensibly do with it all. This then brought us to the capital gulf between men’s football, with which the previous description is paired, and women’s football, which usually slips under the radar in the footballing world. This is, of course, due to the lack of funding in the women’s game, the source of which lies at the bottom of a pile of factors that are hard to take, but just illustrate the extent to which ‘money talks’ in the modern world.

The first reason that women’s football is poorly funded compared to that of men’s is, due simply to human biology, the gulf in quality between the two. A woman, due to the course that evolution has taken (especially during the Palaeolithic Age), will generally have less strong muscles in the arms and legs than a man, due to the latter’s habit of hunting and fighting to survive. Natural selection then steps in to explain why it is evolutionarily favourable for a man to have larger muscles in these areas and thus why men have proceeded to evolve in this way.

Back to football, and this biological difference between the two sexes explains why the men’s game is usually of a higher quality: due to their ability to kick the ball with more force and to tackle harder, and run faster across the pitch. This, I predict, is when sceptics of football will make comments regarding the surprising ease with which a male footballer will go to ground after a tackle – and yes, I have nothing to counter this; it is a part of football that I, as a lover of the game, hate, and I wish for its riddance.

This fact in turn explains why there is more money in men’s football than in women’s: people will pay a higher price (or, more importantly, companies with the power will charge a higher price) to watch a higher standard of football. It is the same as with any product: the higher the quality, the higher the price. The unfortunate aspect of this rampant capitalism’s effect on football as a whole is that this starts a domino effect: men’s football clubs receive more money, they invest in grassroots football (the lowest level of football: children’s and teenagers’ football) as well as better facilities for current players; the quality of men’s football grows as a result of this investment; broadcasting companies charge more for the privilege of watching this football; the cycle begins again. The constant repeat of this cycle is due to the price inelasticity of demand that football as a commercial product has: football fans (as with any other sport) are very devoted and money is little concern when it comes to watching their team, or perhaps just watching the best teams around. 

As a result of this, the gulf between men’s and women’s football becomes larger and larger until the women’s game is mostly forgotten about by the general public. I must admit, it was only around four or five years ago, long after I had grown to love football, that I was aware of a professional women’s football league and national team.

I do not, however, wish to undermine the achievements of women’s football; in particular our very own women’s England football team. After the men’s World Cup in the summer of 2014, in which England did very poorly and were knocked out after having played only three games (winning zero), they returned to play at Wembley Stadium (the home of both sexes’ national teams) to a crowd of 40,000 against Norway – 50,000 lower than capacity. This was, of course, due to the public relations between the England team and their fans, which were in tatters after the World Cup. Two months later, however, more of Wembley’s seats were to be filled as the England Women’s team played their first ever match at the home of English football. They played to a crowd of almost 46,000 against Germany Women’s, which, although is still around half capacity, was around 12,000 more than the FA (the chief governing body of English football) expected and, of course, topped the attendance of the aforementioned England men’s fixture.

So we have seen why the gap between men’s and women’s football exists and how it affects their 
respective games as a whole, so how can we fix it? Personally, I feel as though the FA should invest more money into mixed and girls’ football at grassroots level. This would encourage young and teenage girls to take part in the game and grow to love it just as I have, and to nurture the natural footballing talent that lies within just as many girls as it does boys. This would spark a new generation of even better female footballers who could hopefully grab the metaphorical spotlight that has been shining on the men’s game thus far. This has directed the eyes of we the people onto it; and a shift of this kind would mean that the women’s game may share this spotlight, and with it the media and public attention, and, most crucially in today’s society, the revenue that football as a whole generates. This, hopefully, would also serve the cause of a more gender-equal society as a whole, due to the huge influence that football has on the people of our country. Also this may lead to have more people simply enjoying football as a sport to play and as entertainment to watch, which I feel is one of the greatest pleasures around today.

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