The Perception Of The Women’s Game in England

The Perception Of The Women’s Game in England

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On January 28, 2011

By Geoff Reid

This past week has not been the best for Sky Sports back in England, with the sacking of long time expert Andy Gray, and the resignation of Richard Keys for off air comments made about female assistant referee, Sian Massey, during last Saturday’s Wolves versus Liverpool Premiership match. Now, as someone who grew up watching live Premiership, and England matches on Sky Sports, Gray was always my favorite pundit in the game, so it’s disappointing in that aspect he’s gone from the company. No doubt Gray has his connections in football and broadcasting, and will certainly find employment elsewhere, as well as Keys. One wonders whether Fox would consider bringing them back over permanently now? I should also mention this wasn’t the sole reason as to why Sky terminated Gray’s contract, as there was more information going on behind the scenes in the Sky Studios on multiple occasions.

While questions arose over the future of Sky, Keys, and Gray, this whole off camera incident brought a problem to my attention that has been going on for years. Gray brought up a stereotype that has been around in the UK as long as I can remember, in that most male football fans believe females don’t know anything about the sport. It hit me there that the mentality with women and soccer in this country is vastly different compared to back in the British Isles, and it’s been that way for a long time.

While Gray and Keys were suspended for the Monday night fixture by Sky before Gray was sacked and Keys resigned officially, I can’t help but think had somebody said something similar over here the punishment would have been much worse and rightly so. If somebody actually said something like that over here, it would have sounded a lot more ludicrous too in all honesty. The point is that in the UK, they have been so far behind with this issue for a long time. I have a number of females friends in England who are fans of the sport, and get excited, just as the rest of the country does, when England plays in the world cup or European championships, but have not ever played the sport for various reasons. In Secondary School, I don’t believe soccer was a sport girls played when we were that age and this was in the late 1990’s.

The women’s game is nowhere near as high as it is in this country, and the strength of the national team is proof of that. There has been some good players that have come through and played for the English women’s national team such as Kelly Smith who has played in both the WUSA and WPS for various clubs. Up to 2003, Arsenal and Fulham were the only two clubs that had full professional players for their women’s teams. So it was no surprise the best female players from England would go overseas and ply their trade. This was actually what the film Bend It Like Beckham illustrated, and say what you want about how good or bad the film was, it did show the perception of women and football in England, and sad state that it is in. We in America have been light years ahead thankfully, and in some respects it was completely the opposite a number of years ago when it was mostly considered a women’s sport. Also thankfully, you don’t hear as much of that now, although the odd hater will appear every now and then, and more often during a world cup year as we saw last summer.

My hope is that this perception that exists in the UK is gone quickly. Having female assistants like Sian Massey (who seem to make better calls then male officials) is a massive step closer to achieving that with the help of the Football Association (who have publicly supported Massey, and all female officials) and other governing bodies in the game. This is an issue that has bothered myself for a long time, and it’s time it was put to bed once and for all.

  • kickit

    I found it amusing that we look up to European Leagues like the Premier League yet such sexism exists. Let’s not forget the lack of managers of African descent.