WOMEN IN FOOTBALL BECOMING ROLE MODELS FOR ALL
Women’s football has come a long way in a short time.
Record attendances, big TV deals, moves towards equality of pay for national sides – the game is booming.
It wasn’t always that way. Women had to fight for the right to play and be paid. Despite big crowds, the Football Association brought in a complete ban on women’s professional soccer in 1921, arguing it was immoral and even dangerous for woman to play. It wasn’t until 1993 the FA half-heatedly reconnected and the sport was able to grow.
Today marks National Girls and Women in Sports Day which honours the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports. CAA Stellar’s Head of Elite Women’s Sport, Laura Doyle, says there is still a way to go but things are moving in the right direction.
Laura says: “When I grew up, female sporting role models were few and far between and there were none in football. The role models were all about looking pretty and being famous, like models and pop stars.
“In football it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s about the level of your performance. These are dedicated athletes with strong mental focus – fighters – these are great role models for girls today.
“The Lionesses winning the Euros was a turning point, when they lifted the trophy every woman in the industry was celebrating for different reasons. Women have traditionally struggled to be taken seriously in the football industry but now there’s women working in all areas who are helping break the stereotypes of the past.”
The Battle for equality is still far from won, however.
“Everyone talks about when will we see the first £1m transfer, the first £10m? This will come but there are other things to be fixed first,” Laura says.
“There’s still no scholarships and girls can’t sign a pro contract until they are 18. Some players come from backgrounds where there is support from families who have the money but if you come from a disadvantaged background, you have to fund yourself. That means getting yourself to training and having to work around that at nights and weekends.”
One person who knows exactly what it is like to have to make your own way is Lianne Sanderson, who works as a consultant for CAA Stellar’s Women’s Football department. Lianne won 50 caps for her country and played for a range of top clubs in a playing career that was also notable in her being the first English professional footballer to come out as gay.
Laura says: “It’s great to be working with Lianne, she has been a trailblazer in women’s football. She is a role model for players, both on the field and off it, and she has broken through as a respected football pundit and broadcaster in an arena that until recently was completely closed off to women.”
Now, with wages are starting to rise and clubs allocating more budget to women’s football, the Stellar brand is, as ever, leading the way.
“Stellar have always been pioneers in everything we do,” adds Laura. “We’ve always led the way by offering the highest levels of service and our female players can expect the same levels of service that male players would expect. That’s unprecedented in the woman’s game. CAA Stellar is the hallmark of a quality player and it’s brilliant to be able to offer our clients access to that benchmark.
“Clubs say they are blown away because their players have never had this level of care. One told me they are relieved when a player signs for Stellar because they know that they will be looked after properly and the business dealings will be professional.
“We are building up a steady pipeline of clients for the future and commercially it is a very exciting time. Clubs are realising women’s football isn’t just an add-on but an essential part of their identity.
“It is interesting to see the demographics of crowds. There’s lots of young supporters and, interestingly, lots of teenage lads. They love football and support their club, whether it’s the men or the women.”