It's time to show you really care about women's football
21:30 GMT, 19 August 2012
Football made its triumphant comeback this weekend. You are probably aware of that: it is, after all, impossible not to have noticed the Premier League and Football League whirring into action, which is just as it should be.
But the FA Women’s Super League resumed, too. Did you know that More to the point, do you care
I mention this because 70,854 people certainly cared during Great Britain’s win over Brazil at Wembley in the Olympic Games. Another 80,203 cared enough to watch the USA beat Japan in the Olympic final, with a further 3.9million watching on the BBC.
We're back! Everton and Arsenal played out an exciting draw
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They cared, all right, as did the players, who won a lot of support not only through performances, but the sheer joy they showed in simply being there.
‘Everyone had an idea women’s football wasn’t as good as men’s but I think the games we have played over the last month have shown how good we can be,’ said GB and Arsenal Ladies left back Steph Houghton.
‘People were just coming to watch because it was a football game: that’s a compliment to us players. To change 70,000 people’s perceptions of women’s football is brilliant for the game.’
Yet last Wednesday, guess how many people watched Everton Ladies, a side featuring British Olympians Rachel Brown and Jill Scott, beat Doncaster Rovers Belles 2-1 at the Keepmoat Stadium Just 289. Another 287 spectators saw Bristol Academy Women beat Liverpool Ladies 1-0 on Saturday.
The Olympic flame has barely been extinguished and you can watch ‘Olympians in action’, as Houghton put it, for as little as 4, yet who is caring now
Women’s football in this country has approximately a month-long window to capitalise on the interest generated by the Olympic Games.
England play Croatia in their final Euro 2013 qualifier on September 19 in Walsall. It is ‘likely’ it will be shown on the BBC, but it must be televised on a terrestrial channel if this particular ball is to keep rolling. ‘Likely’ isn’t good enough.
Golden girls: The United States celebrate winning Olympic gold
This is a unique opportunity for women’s football, after all. It is not about deriding the men’s game, which took an unfair bashing during that glorious Olympic fortnight as we were swept away by the extraordinary exploits of ordinary people who didn’t talk in clichs and who actually seemed pleased to be playing a sport they loved.
But I was shocked to see Michael Owen say on Twitter this week that he ‘certainly wouldn’t take (his) kids to watch a (men’s) match’.
Perhaps women’s football can take advantage of these feelings of disenfranchisement. It’s still football, after all. The women’s game could provide an attractive alternative for new fans: a fun, entertaining and interactive opportunity to watch elite level sport.
Women internationals can stay and sign autographs, chat with fans and engage on social networks, but this is no longer realistic for many of their male counterparts, and most — though not all, by any stretch — should not be criticised for that.
But people need to vote with their feet; get out there and sample it for themselves. The FA’s target is to get at least the weekend’s results into national newspapers. So here you go, here’s what has happened this weekend. Now it’s over to you to decide if you really do care.
Bristol Academy Women 1 Liverpool Ladies 0, Doncaster Rovers Belles 0 Chelsea Ladies 1, Birmingham City Ladies 3 Lincoln Ladies 1, Everton Ladies 2 Arsenal Ladies 2.
And this is what I've been doing this week…
Thank goodness for Test cricket. Watching and listening to England’s battle with South Africa eased the post-Olympic blues; through excellent Sky coverage at home and Test Match Special in the car. Does any other sport work on the radio quite so well
Sight for sore eyes: England and South Africa filled the sporting void
Defending Great Britain’s ‘girls’ on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour. I don’t think it’s patronising to call our sportswomen ‘girls’ — I see it as a term of affection and respect which reflects how vibrant and dynamic they are.
‘Ladies’ sounds like they’re still playing tennis in long skirts, but ‘girls’ is a good alternative to ‘women’ because it sounds exciting and fresh. We don’t call young male athletes ‘boys’ because it’s more reflective of age.
Watching Britain’s Olympians trudge out of the athletes’ village on Monday. Lots took public transport for their journey back to reality, like 110m hurdler Lawrence Clarke, whose father is a baronet. He took the Javelin train back to St Pancras.
What they said…
The front page of The Voice newspaper this week featured images of Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha and double gold medallist Mo Farah with the headline: ‘Pride of Africa.’ Farah was then called a ‘British African’ in the corresponding article. I think you’ll find he’s just British, actually, and we’re very proud of him, too.
Brit special: Mo Farah completed a stunning Olympic double in London
Performance of the week
Jonny Bairstow. He fell just five runs short of a century but the way he handled the pressure —never mind the barrage of short balls — after coming in with England at 54 for four was scintillating to watch. Who can blame him for succumbing in the nervous nineties There’ll be another time to put that right, that’s for sure.