Sexism is sadly still rife in football

It is with a heavy sense of foreboding and a little bit of sadness that I begin to write this article – not the kind I inevitably get pre and post-match El Clasico, but a genuine regret that this has to be written at all.

When I began writing about the football, it was just after the infamous departure of Andy Grey and Richard Keys – the former lynchpins of Sky Sports – and now two men who will forever be associated with the issue of sexism in football. After this incident and subsequent footage of further remarks, not to mention the slur on Karen Brady and certain sectors of the public’s response, it became clear as day that sexism was still rife in football and women were still seen as – and sadly I am not being dramatic here – second class citizens to men in this area by too many people.

Now before I carry on, I want to make this crystal clear – I am not in favour of positive discrimination in any way, and I firmly feel that whoever is the best candidate for the job – man or woman – should get it, regardless of looking PC or filling quotas.   This is not some feminist rant – in fact it is far from it.

I was also fully aware that upon entering such a male dominated industry, there would be criticism and a need to prove myself perhaps more than a male in my position. Not to mention the fact that football is such a passionate game and people genuinely care about their team and what happens, thus will take the time to read articles and comment to let you know what they think – this is actually something I love, and sometimes the best debates are between people who totally disagree with each other. Being magnolia is something I could never be accused of, and I do have an opinion, so I did expect to get criticised on my opinions from time to time.

This is something I welcome, and being someone who tends to go against the grain anyway – and I always have been a 100% kind of person who will fight for my views all the way – I was fully prepared for people to tell me how wrong I was and why.

What I am not prepared to accept – but felt might happen from time to time – was the standard ‘you’re a woman what do you know’ yet this has happened far more than I had expected, and comments are not just reserved to this – my personal favourite was being told to get back to the kitchen – and I now open up and invite to the man who said this, because mate if you sampled my cooking not only would I feel much better but you certainly would not be making that comment again! Other remarks range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including being told to ‘get back to watching netball’ when I can assure you I have never watched nor played the game in my life!

Of course as my very wise friend told me, if people are levelling comments at your gender, then they probably cannot criticise the article thus have to resort to that, so really it should be a compliment. However, as the one the comments are directed at, and like any other female in football, that is not something I feel like I should have to deal with.

Sian Massey, who through no fault of her own, has become the poster girl for such issues, with the lineswoman being subject to the rants of Keys and Grey – yet for a woman who does not know the offside rule, she has certainly made some cracking calls in her time, and is no worse than any male I have seen.

Much like it is assumed that any woman on Sky Sports was handed their job due to being attractive – well take Hayley McQueen – yes, she is stunning, but got her job after doing a degree specialising in Broadcast Journalism, and is an RTS award winning producer. Georgie Thompson was a production assistant at GMTV for years,  and then moved to Sky working her way up where all the female presenters are exceedingly good at their jobs – and fully deserve them on merit alone.

The only good thing to possibly come out of the treatment women get, is that unlike in other industries where women are so quick to knock each other down, in football they have to bond together and have a camaraderie – through having little choice, perhaps, but it is heartening to see and vital for women to stick together and provide each other with much needed support.

Of course it is not just writing or officiating – women also play the game, yet this is vastly under publicised and little real credit is given to the women who offer so much and have huge amounts of talent. Take the Arsenal ladies team – the only team who have been contributing to the trophy cabinet at the Emirates over the last few seasons, or the England’s women team – the FA spend an estimated £1 million per year in women’s football – yet you wouldn’t know it, and this is just a drop in the ocean compared to the money spent on the men’s game.

Is it any shocker really that women struggle to be taken seriously when the head of the game, the blooper waiting to happen Sepp Blatter himself suggested women wear tighter shorts? This is exactly what undermines females, and has to stop. It is not and never will be acceptable to judge someone on their gender. Blatter may feel that he can handshake himself out of such comments, and  that they really don’t matter, but f course they do, and people take precedent from this and think it is ok.

It is a sad reality that a woman has to work twice as hard in football to prove themselves when compared to a man, and should they make a mistake it will be scrutinised and blamed on their gender, leading women to work ever harder and become essentially flawless- something that could well give them the advantage. When all is said and done, the only ‘dark forces’ which Andy Gray is so fond of at work are people exactly like himself, who are too out dated and tunnel visioned to see football as an increasingly woman’s game. They may think there is no place for women in the game, when in reality, it is them and their attitudes we should have no time or place for.
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