Over 77,000 people watched England face Germany at Wembley on Saturday, and with a crowd that big there will always be dissenting voices. But when does criticism spill over into overt misogyny?
“Weak, it’s weak.”
“You can tell it’s not worth equal pay.”
“The players aren’t as good, so they make the pitch smaller.”
“Most boring game I’ve ever watched.”
Any fan who has attended a live football match is likely to have heard abuse yelled at the pitch. Whether it’s towards the referee, the opposing team or even your own players, it’s hard to escape the wrath of the stands. As Wembley filled up with over 77,000 people to watch England play Germany, it would be understandable to expect criticism. Particularly when you’re watching a team where there is much to critique.
Whether it was the slack passing, the reluctance to close Germany down when they had the ball or the miscommunications in defence, this is an England team that leaves much to be desired. As the women’s game grows, it is important to praise and criticise as befits the skill shown. Even if Phil Neville gets his back up if anyone dares to suggest England might not always play perfectly.
Sitting in the stands at Wembley on Saturday, not all the criticism was entirely influenced by the performance on the pitch. For many fans, the match offered an incredible culmination of their support whether it be new or old. For some attendees, ‘support’ didn’t seem to be at the forefront of their minds.
There was subtle and overt misogyny embedded in comments that could be heard during the game and afterwards on the journey home.
Part of the problem comes as a result of a sport being grown artificially in a short period of time. As the Football Association strives to be able to quote ever higher numbers for attendance at its most elite matches, in person or on television, thought should be given as to who and why those people are there. £10 to visit the national stadium is by all accounts a bargain. No one is going to check whether you like watching women playing football or not. You are free to tell your daughter that the women on the pitch aren’t very good.
Accelerated growth is part of a desire to have the women’s game on a closer level to the men’s game. The full stadiums are seen as the benchmark for its progress. Using that metric implies the game only has quality if tens of thousands of people are there to see it. That implication allows people to believe there is something lesser to it. It is that notion which turns legitimate criticism into something more sinister.
This piece first appeared on The Offside Rule.com.
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