Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith
On the brink of the World Cup finals, all eyes are on Gareth Southgate’s men.
After the failure experienced in previous campaigns, fans and media alike will be looking at how they will perform on the international stage in Russa this year.
But just as England’s men are going through World Cup preparations, so are their women’s team.
Phil Neville’s side have already played five qualifying games, picking up four wins and a draw. However, negligible coverage of their successes has meant that their performances have slipped under the national radar somewhat.
In a country where women’s football is the third most popular sport, the media and television coverage at international and domestic level must reflect this.
If not, we fail as a society in our attempts to stamp out sexism from the sport and allow gender inequalities to persist.
A lack of media coverage
After the England women put in an impressive performance in the 2015 women’s World Cup, finishing third, many expected that there would be a growth of recognition and exposure for the women’s form of the game.
Given the fact that, the year before, the England men had dropped out in the knockout stages, the subsequent lack of media coverage seems even more baffling.
This season alone, just 2% of mainstream sports coverage was dedicated to women’s sport. This summer will be no different.
Despite the status, profile, appearances and goals that these women have to their names, then, the England women’s team have always been neglected over coverage destined for the men’s team, despite a clear distinction in progress and achievements.
How do we resolve this?
Things must change.
Expecting people to watch more of women’s football would only deal with the symptom of the problem and not the cause.
If change is to happen, then this must start at the highest level, through the actions of the FA, who have not done enough in commissioning campaigns targeted at promoting women’s football.
This should involve having more coverage of the women’s games, not just pushing the women’s game into the late hours on ITV where they are less likely to be watched.
In the wider media, just as it is in men’s football, there needs to be more insight into the players, their style of play, their thoughts and opinions in the build-up to the games and not merely focus on their appearances or lifestyles.
Phil Neville’s side will play their sixth World Cup qualifier against Russia this evening. A win would mean that the Lionesses could go two points clear at the top of their group.
As many did with Southgate’s men during England men’s 2-0 victory over Costa Rica yesterday, we must support and watch the game to give these women the recognition they deserve.
England’s women’s team will play Russia at 5pm this evening on BBC 1. Will you be watching?
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