Nobody can deny women’s football in the UK – the Football Association Women’s Super League (WSL) – is light years from the Premier League in many ways. But the most obvious difference is players pay. If any sport was to clearly illustrate the gender pay gap, sadly our nations favourite game of football, does exactly that. If only the FA hadn’t banned women’s football over a hundred years ago, deeming it ‘unsuitable for women’, I truly believe we wouldn’t have such a substantial wage gap.
During the First World War women’s football was hugely popular in the UK, with some games attracting crowds of over 50,000. To put this into perspective Everton men’s highest attendance the same season was 39,000. At a time when women had barely secured the right to play, women were dominating the game. Gail Newsham, a Preston footballer for the Dick Kerr’s Ladies, a team of Lancashire munitions factory workers who put women’s football on the map and introduced the concept of it being a national competition, explains “The team not only regularly drew large crowds but raised more than £70,000 for ex-servicemen, hospitals and needy children”.
Ironically it was this popularity – their crowds were often bigger than men’s games being played on the same day – which played a part in the downfall of women’s football. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1971. No wonder the WSL lags behind the Premier League today.
At Lingerie Football League we are massively inspired by the history of women’s football during World War One. To celebrate women’s courage and to raise money for today’s war veterans, we planned a centennial women’s football tournament. Which was meant to be taking place at St Georges Park (SGP), the FA’s £105 million national football centre in Burton-on-Trent, on Saturday 30th January from 6pm until 9pm. Players from Lingerie Football League UK would take on university teams in an exhibition of women’s football…I’ll come back to this.
So we’re all on the same page, I’d like to put the gender pay gap into perspective, Manchester City reportedly pay their – male – team members an average of £5,015,122; the players on the England women’s team can expect to earn around £20,000 per year. Other women players receive much less, if anything at all. As well as competing at a national level, most women football players have to juggle their passion for sport with a day job.
The FA made it very clear their sexist and patronising view of women who play football, on Twitter. After the success of the Women’s World Cup, Football bosses welcomed the Lionesses home and sent this tweet to more than one million followers: “Our lionnesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes.”
Within an hour the controversial tweet was deleted.
Why is it that women have to make a sacrifice to our education and careers, to earn buttons in comparison to our male counterparts? Of course, the recurrent argument is that supply and demand dictate the level of investment. Women’s football simply isn’t as good or popular as the Premier League. Would increased media coverage mean more commercial investment? Would more investment lead to a better quality women’s game? Or is it because the FA want to continue with the status quo, that football is a men’s game, so women will never be paid the same as the men?
At Lingerie Football League we will fight for equality in the sport and we will make change in our lifetime…and as a result, we’re banned from all FA affiliated grounds? Just like the FA banned women’s football over 100 years ago? Is popularity our downfall? Is history is repeating itself, another great day for the FA when they banned Lingerie Football League!
Organising an event requires a lot of work, I had to call St. George’s Park 6 times, before the FA confirmed that we could play. As soon as we got confirmation on Weds 6th January 2016 we organised the teams and started our fundraising through Just Giving. I thought it was some sort of joke when I read the tweet from Kelly Simmons MBE FA Director, on 17th Jan 2016 saying we can’t play. But when I received the email from Just Giving on Thursday 21st January 2016 saying that the FA had been in touch and wanted us to take the fundraising page down I realised the FA had cancelled our event. At this point we had not received any communication from the FA, to find out on Twitter is appalling. I was really upset so I called the FA and was put through to Peter Maxwell, communications officer at the FA group. Peter confirmed that we will ‘never play at SGP or any other FA affiliated ground’, effectively banning the Lingerie Football League.
What stopped the FA from speaking to me directly?
What’s the reason Kelly Simmons MBE would ban us on Twitter before we’ve even spoken?
Is it the same reason the FA banned women’s football 100 years ago?
Nice try but the FA won’t stop us! The days of middle-aged men sat in the boardroom deciding what’s best for women is a thing of the past. We won’t put up with it anymore!
We are actively seeking a new venue to play our charity match so please bear with us.
Lingerie Football League is built by women, run by women, for the benefit of women! The fight goes on…