News   |    December 6th, 2021

EQUALITY RULES

Women’s Football has played quite an important role in my life.

After I took my preliminary coaching badge, my sister joined Millwall Lionesses and I coached the team for a number of years and 44 years ago I married my wife who was the goalkeeper in the team.

My weekends are now spent watching my 10-year-old granddaughter Evie play for Orpington Rovers FC and she has inherited some of her dad’s football finishing ability with 30 goals already in the bank this season.

She spent yesterday at Wembley watching a dominant Chelsea Women’s Team beat Arsenal Women comfortably in front of a crowd of over 40,000 spectators and it would have been more had the weather in London not been so bad. That took my memory back to 2005 when as CEO of Charlton I watched the Charlton Women’s Team win the FA Cup Final at Upton Park by beating Everton 1-0 with a goal from Eniola Aluko. It was very much a case of third time lucky for the team as they had lost the previous two finals they had contested.

It was a great day back in 2005 for everyone connected with the club and the excellent performances of the men’s first team in the Premier League to some extent cloaked the success of the women’s team, the reserve team and the senior academy teams who were delivering silverware regularly at that time meaning the club had to buy a new trophy cabinet! 8,567 watched the 2005 final which was held at Upton Park as Wembley was sadly not an option at that time.

Women’s football in 2005 was a far different proposition to the modern game in 2021. Anyone who watched England Women in their World Cup Qualifiers cannot fail to have been impressed by the fitness of the players, their technical quality, their passing and movement, the tactical awareness and the quality of the goals scored, and above all else they are really good to watch. I think they have a real chance to win the World Cup in 2023. How good would it be if there could be a men and women’s World Cup double in 2022 and 2023?

Similarly, the quality of the Chelsea v Arsenal final yesterday was high and watching Sam Kerr chip the keeper for the third Chelsea goal was a skill many male strikers fail to perform week in week out in the EFL and PL. The match was broadcast on both BBC1, and BT Sport and that exposure is vital for the future growth of the women’s game. The broadcasting of the Women’s Super League and the increasing numbers of players participating in the game at grass roots level are all important factors in the current growth pattern. It is no surprise that sponsors and advertisers are coming into the game in ever larger numbers. In the 1970s when I first got involved in Women’s Football many men and women questioned whether women should even play football. 50 years before that in 1921 the Football Association banned women from playing on the grounds of affiliated clubs saying “…the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged…”. That rule didn’t change until 1971 some 50 years later. In the 1990’s many clubs still banned women from their boardrooms on match days and I often refused to go into the boardrooms where that rule applied and my wife was denied entry.

We are now thankfully in an era of far greater equality and the women’s game is thriving like never before and rightly so. Young girls like my granddaughter can now dream of being a professional player in the sport they love and not be refused that opportunity on grounds of gender alone and that is something to be proud of in this country when so many other countries deny girls and women that dream.

Image – Reuters

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management.

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