How does the younger generation view English women’s football?

How do young journalists view English women’s football? Four members of WNOL Sport discuss the state of England’s women’s national team as they made history by playing at Wembley Stadium for the first time against Germany on the 23rd November. Also up-for-discussion is whether it is time for Arsène Wenger to step aside as Arsenal manager.

Twenty-two players, two goalposts and a referee. A football pitch is nothing more than a sum of its simple parts. A top-level footballer, though, is quite the opposite. Years of training, dedication and commitment; and then abilities only a few possess on the biggest of stages: courage, hunger and will-to-win. A few hours is enough to construct a football pitch, but it takes years of sacrifice and struggle to become a top-level footballer. So why don’t the women who play football for their countries get the same respect as the men?

As archaic attitudes towards women in workplaces have almost diminished, England’s women’s football team have enjoyed more recent success than their male counterparts, but still have less coverage of it. Joseph Aldridge calls for both the men and women who represent their country on the football pitch to “work together to make English football better.”

Less than two weeks ago, 55,000 tickets were sold as England’s women faced Germany at Wembley Stadium for the first ever time. The fixture, which will be remembered for the history-making occasion rather than the result, has built a platform for young women dreaming of playing for their country.

In 1921, an FA committee claimed “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged” and prevented women from playing the game with a ban which lasted almost 50 years. Ironically, this ban occurred after 53,000 turned up to witness legendary footballer Lily Parr – a women who scored more than 900 goals in a career spanning 32 years – play for her team Dick, Kerr Ladies.

“Ask people about women’s football today and most people think it’s this new thing,” says Jean Williams, of De Montfort University’s Centre for Sports History in an interview for the university’s website.

“Actually, it’s not a recent phenomenon at all, but people seem to believe it is.”

This may be down to the 50-year ban – where the incredible history of the women’s game was unjustly removed from the books. But the excuse of nobody wanting to watch women play football was proven wrong when England played Germany.

When English football fans have had to read stories of teams allowing a convicted rapist to train with the first-team, Dave Whelan accused of being racist and anti-IRA chants being sung in England’s men recent fixture against Scotland – all after a disastrous World Cup – it may be part of the reason of the growing interest in the clean-cut image of the women’s game.

Here are a few statistics comparing the women’s team against the men’s:

  • England Women are ranked 7th in the FIFA World Rankings. England men have only recently moved from 20th to 13th.
  • The English women’s team have won all 10 of their World Cup qualifying fixtures for next year’s World Cup.
  • The women’s team have also won their equivalent of the FIFA World Cup twice. The men have only won the FIFA World Cup once, in 1966.
  • England’s women put 10 past Montenegro away from home in September and scored 13 against Hungary nine years ago. The last time England’s men scored double figures in a game was in 1964 against the USA.

As I pointed out that the women’s fixture against Germany attracted 55,000 ticket sales – more than the men’s last friendly at Wembley against Norway in September – Jessica Borrell, who attended the game and said it had “exceeded all my expectations.”

She went on to ask why so many people compare the women’s and men’s team: “What I would ask is: why are we competing against the men’s team? They are never going to be as well-known as the men because of the media coverage.”

Watch the full video below as Sunveer Sandhu presents the topic with male and female journalists Joshua Wright, Joseph Aldridge – and Jessica Borrell.

Picture Credits: Alice Mason

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