Women's football has a new broom - so do the right thing
- Credit: PA
You wouldn’t have wanted to be given a broom and asked to sweep up in Trafalgar Square after the England women’s team's Euro 2022 celebrations – that many people (7,000 and counting) leave a lot of mess.
Likewise, whoever has charge of the new broom that is about to sweep the country in an effort to get rid of the prejudice and antipathy towards the women’s game, needs to tread carefully. There are many potholes ahead.
England’s success was a game-changer, as many people have pointed out. The very real danger is that the aftermath will be short-lived, that the novelty of an England success will fade away and that the people who are needed to bring the women’s game up to a level that is deserved, will point it in the wrong direction.
Where do we start? Human nature, I guess. It’s inevitable that we compare the women’s game with the men’s game, despite there being light years between the two. It has taken the men’s game a century and a half to evolve - it took until the early 60s for the maximum wage to be abolished. But since then the game has exploded, particularly since the inception of the Premier League in 1991.
The women’s game was outlawed from 1921 to 1962 so is probably only half a century old. But that half century has been largely spent in the shadow of the bulldozer that is men’s football.
Not any more.
Ian Wright suggested during coverage on Sunday that the women’s game now needs a Premier League-style overseer.
- 1 Mysterious 'large black animal' spotted roaming in fields near city
- 2 City pub to reopen with new owners hoping to bring back 'good old days'
- 3 Police and ambulance attend Norwich home in busy road
- 4 Busy city road closed for gas works until late August
- 5 Britain's poshest train returning to Norwich Station later this year
- 6 Van offering free burgers coming to Norwich city centre this weekend
- 7 Bid to redevelop corner shop with £1.5m extension and swanky homes
- 8 Bottomless brunch coming to popular city steakhouse
- 9 Man in court after being ejected from Norwich nightclub
- 10 5 chart-topping acts heading to Norwich later this year
Judging by the way the tournament was played, how the players behaved on and off the pitch, and the stunning way they celebrated, you might think that’s the last thing they need.
The development opportunity that England’s victory has brought should not be under-estimated, neither should it be flogged to death.
The scramble for money in the men’s game is unsightly. And, quite often, so is the behaviour of many of those involved in it. Footballers at the top end of the game are hugely over-paid, thanks to the actions of the suits that control it.
It’s the perfect time to ensure that new investment in the women’s game means resource is improved at grassroots level. That’s where it all begins.
There is another interesting comparison here: if girls’ and women’s teams are to sprout up at village and town clubs, they will need staffing. The men’s game at this level survived for years because of the quite unbelievable commitment of its volunteers. But they are now worth their weight in gold, as the natural cycle of life turns inexorably. Many clubs have found it difficult to survive without them.
If more emphasis is to be put on the women’s game, they will need new volunteers. Maybe football in general needs to look at volunteers in a different way; maybe channel some of the resources traditionally lost to the game - exorbitant agent’s fees and exorbitant salaries for starters.
I should mention two people who have done great things for their respective clubs – Mark Nicholls, whose daughter plays for Wymondham, and who wrote a brilliant article in this newspaper yesterday – and Richard Brown, press officer for King’s Lynn Ladies.
This is a very telling comment from Richard: “Clubs need to get themselves organised and provide copy and images. With the Lionesses win tonight, newspapers will be falling over themselves to promote the region’s best teams, it’s the case though that clubs need to take the initiative and put themselves forward.”
If this is going to work, and work properly, a lot of people need to hold hands together, from the FA, to the county FAs, to the clubs, the players and the media (yes, we haven't always done it the right way, but we've tried).
Women’s football has a huge opportunity now, to show the game can be good and honest and enjoyable, to wipe out the images of greed and dishonesty.
And it has a responsibility. We are not just talking about the game of football here. We are talking about the rights of girls and women. The right to be able to go and play football, if they wish. The right to make football a normal, accepted hobby, profession, pastime for girls and women. The right to be equal. It’s not really rocket science.
So take advantage of the momentum, but be wise. Whoever is charged with progressing the game for girls and women has the opportunity to do something really special.