Tag Archives: England Women’s Football

England show why women’s football deserves more attention

Slowly but surely, the old stereotypes about women’s football being dull, slow and lacking in the skills department are being demolished by its growing sense of professionalism.

Attending the recent international friendly between England and Australia at Fulham’s Craven Cottage underlined this profound shift in how the women’s game is perceived.

Just over 6,000 fans gathered for the Lionesses’ first game in London for four years, and while the FA might have wished for more, the atmosphere inside the ground was fantastic.

Flags waved, drums sounded, a brass band played. The entire ambiance was different to men’s football, where mainly male crowds still indulge in the kind of tribalism that too easily results in aggressive behaviour, bad language and even violence. 

People were much more approachable and willing to speak, especially when the subject of women and football came into play. Everyone had something to say. 

As Vicky, an Australian supporter, told me: “Apart from the physical strength, the gap between men’s and women’s football is closing.”

Michael, a 45-year-old England fan, said: “I’m here to support my country but also because women football has something very special.”

Dominated

The pre-match scene at Craven Cottage

An excitable female announcer hyped up the fans ahead of kick-off, but the values of respect and fair play were observed throughout the evening.

“No matter which team I support, I just want to see a decent football game tonight,” said Elisabeth, 26, another Australia fan.

As the match got underway and England dominated, children screamed while mothers shouted even louder. Even the Australian fans applauded as the Lionesses created chance after chance, taking the lead through Fran Kirby on 21 minutes.

There were some whistles and boos from England fans as several questionable refereeing calls went against their team, but the howling rage and obscenities that often tarnish men’s matches was non-existent. 

On the pitch, another aspect that makes women’s football stand out from the elite men’s game is the respect shown by players towards each other and the match officials.

You will rarely see a bad tackle, diving and simulation are virtually non-existent, as is haranguing the referee, no matter how poor their decision.

Without all these negatives holding things up, women’s football also features more actual action and less stoppages.

Accessible

Another big difference lies in the cost of showing your support. Adult tickets to see England take on the Matildas started at £10, while under-18 and student tickets were tremendous value at just £1.

In comparison, tickets for the England men’s friendly against the USA on November 15th at Wembley start at £10 and go up to £100.

‘With plenty of media attention both before and after the game – and live coverage on BT Sport – the women’s international game is clearly on the up’

Vicky said: ‘Women’s football is pretty accessible and the FA has recently done such a great job. They develop the game by selling cheap tickets and I think it’s a really good idea.’

In terms of style of play, teams dare to play decent football. Players were always ready to make a difference and it was a pleasure to see considerable strength from both sides. The crowd was quickly won over by England’s display.

“Obviously, women are not as fast as men, but in terms of strategy and tactics, it’s very similar.” added Vicky.

Harry, a Fulham ticket season ticket holder, added: “Even though people think that women’s football is dull, I think there’s a lot of technique on show.” 

Lucy Staniforth, playing at No. 10, certainly showed plenty, with several decent deliveries into the six-yard box as the Lionesses mauled the Matildas but failed make their dominance count.

England should have been 3-0 up in the first half, but some gritty Australian defending kept things interesting. The hosts were also denied two clear penalties, but the atmosphere remained friendly and peaceful.

Momentum

Phil Neville’s side were eventually left to rue all those missed chances as Aussie defender Clare Polkinghorne rose to power home a close-range header with six minutes remaining.

England pushed for a late winner but had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Sweden are next up for them in a friendly at Rotherham as the build-up to next summer’s Women’s World Cup in France continues.

As the crowd drifted away, players from both teams stayed on the pitch to chat to fans and pose for selfies – something else you don’t see in the men’s game.

With plenty of media attention both before and after the game – and live coverage on BT Sport – the women’s international game is clearly on the up, aided by the ongoing success of an England team currently 3rd in Fifa’s world rankings.

The Women’s Super League is also gaining momentum but still suffers from negative perceptions about female football.

After witnessing England’s latest performance, more people should park those perceptions and give it chance.

Neville’s appointment shows the FA in yet more bad light

Phil Neville was appointed as England women’s manager this week – but just days into his new role, he’s been embroiled in a sexism scandal.

Despite the 41-year-old having no previous managerial experience, he was made Lionesses head coach up to the European Championship in 2021.

Many people’s misgivings about him getting the job were further fuelled when old tweets of a sexist nature posted by Neville came to light.

The former Manchester United and Everton defender has apologised for any offence these caused and deleted his Twitter account.

But the FA’s stance – deciding that the tweets in question did not meet its “threshold” to be worthy of punishment – sends out the wrong signals for all sorts of reasons.

One of these it that the governing body’s attitude will surely torpedo the likelihood of a gay male professional footballer deciding to come out any time soon.

Sexist tweets

Neville found himself in the dock in a trial by social media over tweets posted a while back.

One said: “When I said morning men I thought the women would have been busy preparing breakfast/getting the kids ready/making the beds – sorry morning women!”

Another made light of domestic abuse, saying: “Relax – I’m back chilled – just battered the wife!!! Feel much better now!”

Neville’s supporters will argue that he meant both to be light-hearted, no matter how ill-judged they now appear.

According to The Guardian, FA bosses already knew about the tweets – and yet still chose to appoint the former United and Valencia coach.

But what does that say about the FA’s stance on dealing with abuse within the sport?

Sampson was sacked after the Aluko scandal

Misconduct

One thing is crystal clear – after the Mark Sampson/Eni Aluko scandal, in which the former England women’s boss was alleged to have racially abused the Chelsea striker – the FA needed its next appointment to be sound.

Having been warned about Sampson’s misconduct in a previous job, he was hired and had a successful stint in charge.

But when Aluko’s allegations were made public, the FA was heavily criticised for appointing him in the first place and seeking to cover up the row by making a payment to the player in return for a non-disclosure agreement.

Now that the FA has said it will not charge Neville with any offence, it’s clear that its policy for dealing with abuse is flimsy, if not downright weak.

Neville has argued that the episode “doesn’t reflect” his character, but plenty of people feel it makes him unsuitable to lead England, on top of his lack of managerial experience and knowledge of the women’s game.

Of course people can change, and these tweets were five years ago. However, allowing someone who has been so derogatory into a top job, on the back of what happened previously, isn’t wise of the FA.

Support and protection

The FA’s approach is, at best, confused. In 2016, for example, it handed then-Burnley striker Andre Gray a four-match ban over homophobic tweets he posted in 2012.

But even taking that into account, would a gay player look at the FA and trust it to offer support and protection if they decided to come out?

Whoever becomes the first elite footballer to confirm publicly that they are gay will need a strong FA to deal with the abuse they would surely – and sadly – receive.

That’s why we probably won’t see it happen in the near future. Who wants to be the guinea pig for how the FA would handle the situation?

Kick in the teeth

The FA have undermined women’s football

Neville’s appointment is also a kick in the teeth for women’s football. Surely there had to be someone out there far more qualified that him?

He’s using the job – and the women’s game – as a stepping stone to further his career, and that is wrong.

He never applied initially and was last choice behind Chelsea’s Emma Hayes, Manchester City’s Nick Cushing, ex-Arsenal coach Laura Harvey and Canada’s John Herdman, who all reportedly pulled out of the running.

Of course, it’s not the most left-field appointment they could have made. He does, after all, have vast experience in football and has a winning mentality.

But he would be nowhere near a job in men’s football, let alone the national job. It’s belittling to the female game that he has been chosen.

He never should have been picked, based on his lack experience and his sexist remarks. Once again, the FA has made a real mess of things.

Elephant Sport Podcast – Women’s Football Special

In this edition of the Elephant Sport podcast, reporters Daniel Racheter and Shan Gambling discuss women’s football with Millwall Lionesses player Leanne Cowan.

Ahead of the upcoming Women’s European Championships in Holland this summer, Leanne gives her views on England’s chances after so nearly reaching the World Cup final two years ago.

Also discussed is the calendar changes that are set to go ahead for the Women’s Super League, moving the season to match the men’s calendar, running across the winter months.

Catch January’s Elephant Sport podcast here:

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