The world is naïve if it thinks that it can replace men with women as football commentators and panellists for International Women’s Day and that is going to be enough for us. I began watching football almost a year ago as my boyfriend is an avid Chelsea supporter and must watch all of their games. Even when I am with him. At first, I remained indifferent but the more I watched, the more I became invested and now I find myself poised in a tense hold during a close game and throwing my arms in the air and cheering whenever Chelsea score a goal. I even understand the offside rule. I have now watched numerous matches and rarely have I seen any female representation. Male interviewers, male commentators, male panellists, time and time again.
Yet on March 8th 2021, the Premier League gave us one female commentator and an all-female post-match analysis panel during the Chelsea vs Everton game. Now, either these women were all completely qualified to do those jobs yet had not been given the opportunity to do so until International Women’s Day, or they were not qualified for those roles, but were put on screen to appease and placate us. So, are we now supposed to keep quiet because the Premier League have done their part, they’ve shown that women are equal and that they don’t discriminate? Surely that’s enough for us, right?
Growing up as female, you’re usually taught by society that football and sports, in general, are not for you. If you look at birthday cards, bedspreads, novelty keychains with names on them, there is a high chance the ones that are blue, green, and adorned with football motifs are aimed at boys.
During Physical Education lessons at my secondary school, we were grouped by gender and whilst us girls participated in activities such as dance, netball and gymnastics, the boys played rugby and football. This seems to be a common occurrence, across most schools, with girls stereotypically being less suited to what can be deemed as ‘rougher’ or more physically demanding sports. Phrases such as, ‘you run like a girl’ and ‘you throw like a girl’ are regularly heard in school playgrounds meaning that females are being taught from a young age that to do something in the way they would naturally do it is a negative thing. This often further discourages young girls from taking an interest in sports.
If you became a fan of football growing up, it’s likely you watched the men’s games. Because they were the ones that got more coverage and screen time. In 1921, The Football Association claimed that football was ‘quite unsuitable for females’ and women’s football was therefore banned for almost fifty years.  But ever since that ban was lifted in 1969, women’s football has never been able to reach the same level that men’s has in terms of recognition, coverage, and pay.
A prime example of this inequality is that ‘had England won the women’s World Cup [in 2019] the players would have received £50,000 each in FA bonuses. By contrast, the men would have received £217,000 apiece for winning the 2018 World Cup.’  That is almost five times as much. The Football Association have since stated that, as of January 2020, England players will be paid the same, regardless of gender. 
But what about those women who competed in the latest World Cup?
Bonuses are paid out of the Fifa prize fund and while the French Football Association received $38 million in prize money for its male team’s win at the 2018 World Cup, the US Soccer Federation was only given $4 million in comparison when they won the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The total amount Fifa awarded to the competing women’s teams was $30 million while $400 million went to the men. 
Is this discrepancy a reflection of viewership?
Some may argue that pay does correlate with the number of views; men’s football gets more views, therefore they get paid more. The men’s 2018 World Cup had 3.57 billion viewers while the women’s 2019 World Cup saw only 1.12 billion viewers.  That means that the women’s Cup had 31.35% of the men’s viewership, yet if you look at prize money awarded to other teams in the World Cups, the women’s teams only received 7.5% of what was given to the men’s teams. Even if the pay-outs were based on viewership that would still raise the subject of equality. It is not professional female football players’ fault that fewer people watch their games.
Yet David Marcus, a contributor to The Federalist, wrote an article entitled, ‘I’m Sorry, But The Women’s World Cup Is Basically Unwatchable’, in which he stated, ‘this week I decided to give the women’s World Cup a try. I regret to inform you good readers that it is awful, and bordering on unwatchable.’  He followed this up with, ‘Now listen: I consider myself a feminist. I enjoy women’s sports like tennis and gymnastics, even figure skating a little bit, but soccer just doesn’t translate.’  Typically, any statement that begins ‘I am a feminist’ and continues with ‘but’ is heading towards the path of a sexist statement.
I understand that everyone has their preferences, and some may find certain games more entertaining than others but that does not mean the female players should be penalised so severely in this way. Women were banned from football for almost fifty years, it is not their fault that, now that they are finally allowed to play again, fewer people are watching when their games, and they receive less media attention.
A step in the right direction to ensure female footballers receive the same pay and rights as men is to increase awareness. Watch the women’s games, talk about them, give them the recognition that they deserve. The SheBelieves Cup in the US began in 2015 as ‘a movement to encourage young women and girls to reach their dreams, athletic or otherwise.’  They have taken steps to provide women with an environment where they are supported and uplifted in the world of football as well as ensuring that ‘England’s female players will have received equal match and bonus pay from the FA for the first time in March at the SheBelieves Cup in the US.’  This is a big step in the right direction for women’s football. Now we all need to help make sure that the world of football continues on this path and that this is just the beginning for women in football.
I have recently graduated from the University of Plymouth with a BA (Hons) in English and Creative Writing. I have been writing pieces on women’s rights since I was seventeen, after I read Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates. Since then, all her work has been a huge inspiration for me, along with the writings of Gloria Steinem, Caitlin Moran and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As well as reading and writing, I also enjoy creating bright and extravagant makeup looks and collecting crazy pairs of earrings!