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Why does football have a sexism problem?

July 7, 2019

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Why does football have a sexism problem?

July 7, 2019

As the Women's World Cup is on TV tonight, historian Gail Newsham tells about pioneering female footballers


Imagine if women's football filled huge stadiums, and was splashed across the front pages of newspapers.

 

Imagine tens of thousands of spectators were turned away from the packed grounds where women played, and female football players were paid as much as men.

 

As the Women's World Cup final airs tonight, there will no doubt be reminders of how far we have to go before we reach gender equality in football.

 

But while it might sound far-fetched, that was the reality for women's football during the First World War.

 

I recently interview historian Gail Newsham for the Daily Express, and she told me about the pioneering female footballers who've all but been forgotten.

 

 

When men's football was still in its infancy, women started playing charity matches during the war to raise money for injured soldiers.

 

The games became so popular that they regularly drew crowds of tens of thousands.

 

The most popular team was the Dick, Kerr Ladies' Team, made up of women who worked at the Dick, Kerr and Co. munitions factory in Preston.

 

In 1921, they played a match against St Helen's Ladies at Goodison Park with more than 50,000 people squeezed into the stadium, and ten thousand more waited outside the turnstiles.

 

But shortly after the war, the Football Association banned women from playing on its pitches, virtually killing the women's game overnight.

 

 

 

It wasn't until 1971, 50 years after the ban, that women were finally allowed to play on FA pitches again.

 

And even now, female players have nowhere near the recognition or sponsorship that men's teams garner.

 

Gail Newsham, a former football player herself, she has been working tirelessly for decades to get recognition for the women's teams who pioneered the sport and are long forgotten - especially her local team, the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

 

Thanks to Gail's work, there is a statue of the Dick, Kerr Ladies' star player, Lily Parr, in the National Football Museum in Manchester - the only statue of a female player.

 

And hopefully there will be many more to come.

 

As the World Cup final kicks off this afternoon, huge numbers of people are expected to tune in.

 

 

 

At the end of June, a record 7.6 million people watched the Lionesses' quarter final win against Norway.

 

Their victories have been splashed across the front pages of newspapers, and the team have been the centre of a huge advertising campaign with Lucozade.

 

It seems as though women's football is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves.

 

But while it's great to see progress, there are still stark reminders of how far we've got to go.

 

Pundit and former striker Alex Scott recently spoke about the sexist comments she receives daily on social media.

 

And a quick scroll through the replies on Leeds United presenter Emma Louise Jones's twitter account are enough to make your skin crawl.

 

I was proud to be able to tell Gail's story, and the story of the pioneering female footballers in the Daily Express.

 

Let's hope we can stamp out sexism in football for good.

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