5 Reasons to follow women’s football
Women’s football has exploded in recent years, with players becoming household names; the national team capturing the heart of the public; and the Women’s Super League (WSL) cementing itself as an engaging and fierce competition that more than deserves the current airtime it is receiving (the BBC have invested heavily in following the WSL in recent seasons). There are an awful lot of things of to be positive about in the game, clearly. However, unfortunate recent events surrounding the appalling treatment of England star Eni Aluko, means that the actions of certain men may have damaged the reputation of the women’s game. We think its high time to re-establish some of the reasons why the women’s game is wholly deserving of your attention and support.
1. You may well see England win something
The England Women’s National football team may be yet to win a major international football tournament, but they’ve certainly come close. In the 2007 and 2011 World Cups they reached the quarter finals, and in the 2015 Canada tournament they came away in 3rd place. These feats were bettered in the 2009 and 2017 European Championships where they finished as runners up and semi-finalists, respectively. Without having lifted any of the trophies, The Lionesses have improved and impressed at tournament upon tournament, and are always counted amongst the favourites. In fact, the England Women’s team is ranked by FIFA as the 3rd best in the world, at the time of writing, compared with the men’s side who currently sit in 12th…so, no Iceland-shaped humiliations here then.
2. The game is just as skilful and more football actually gets played
The women’s game may not fully reflect the same levels of pace and power evidenced in the competition of their male counterparts, but they do not lack the same levels of fitness, agility and skill. The female game is littered with astonishingly talented dribblers, passers, and finishers, and watching the WSL you will witness some blistering attacking moves and as much intricate interplay as in any other form of the game. It's worth noting that at least one female football player has been nominated, in the top ten, for the prestigious Puskas Award (given to the scorer of the best goal scored globally each year) every year since, and including, 2010. Stephanie Roche even took second place in the 2014 Puskas Award, and Deyna Castellanos came 3rd in 2017.
As well as being as skilful a game as the men’s version, the women’s game actually flows better, and more actual football is played by them during the 90 minutes. A study has shown that on average women are 10 seconds quicker to get off the field after being substituted, and 30 seconds quicker when celebrating than male professionals. This means you’ll actually spend more of the game watching them play.
3. It’s much cheaper to go to
A 2015 study conducted by BBC Sport, called The Price of Football, revealed that the average single ticket price to watch a Premier League club was £30.68 (yes, imagine that, over £30 a week to watch Stoke City). The same study also looked into the prices of watching teams in the WSL, and found their results to be in stark contrast. The cheapest WSL match-day admissions came in at a mere £3 (and averaged at £7), with season tickets ranging between £30 and £48. This study was taken a couple of seasons ago now, and prices have since risen with demand and inflation, but you will certainly still find that tickets to watch your chosen women’s side remain very affordable.
4. Steps in the direction of equality are being made
The treatment of Eniola Aluko, by the FA and ex-England manager Mark Sampson, has tarnished the reputation in the UK of the women’s game being a place of acceptance and inclusion. It is clear, that in this respect, there is still work to be done. That being said, there are strides which the women’s game has taken towards equality, with which the men’s game is yet to catch up. This is especially true of LGBTQ matters, with the women’s game championing a number of openly gay players. For instance, ex-England captain Casey Stoney was openly gay throughout her playing days. This, however, is not the case with the men’s game, with over 4,000 professional male footballers in the UK, with no openly gay players. The women are leading by example here in proving that sexuality has nothing to do with your sport.
5. The players are real people, and that matters
The average weekly salary for a Premier League player is £44,000, equating to £2.29million per year. If you support a top-flight side, your heroes are likely to be earning not far off twice your annual salary every week - win, lose or draw. WSL players on the other hand get paid on average a figure that hovers somewhere around the national average. The pay of female footballers is improving though, in line with the growing attention that their game is gathering, and the improved sponsorships and endorsements that come with that. In July 2017, semi-professional side Lewes FC became the first side to pay their women’s side the same as the men, as part of their campaign ‘Equality FC’.
It is unlikely that female football players will ever receive the same kinds of salaries as Premier League players, which says more about the grotesquely astronomical figures that the latter are earning. It is undeniable though that female players’ stature in the game is growing and that can only be a good thing. They are still earning a wage though that doesn’t put them out of touch with the average supporter, and that is crucial. It is possible for fans to build up much more of a relationship and sense of connection with players that they know off the pitch lead lives very much like their own. There is no comfort in the certainty that after a defeat, a dejected Premier League star returns dejected to his mansion, pool and sports cars.
The rise of the women’s game has been great to watch, and even if you feel like you’ve missed it all so far, there couldn’t be a greater time to start supporting these amazing footballers. Even if you’re unable to attend many, or any, matches in person, there is now more television coverage of women’s football than ever before, and the fanbase is a community eager to see its ranks continue to swell.