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Sisters doing it for themselves

Thursday 27th October 2011
I have a dream... A dream that women and men in sport can co-exist together on TV in the newspaper and over the Internet. Sadly it seems in this day and age, an age known for the great strides made in equality for race, freedom, and gender; that the fairer sex aren't getting their fair share of the limelight and exposure as their male counterparts.

I've heard both sides of the arguments, and I've heard lots of reasons as to why this was the case, ranging from 'Girls just aren't as good as the guys' to 'gals just aren't very interesting to watch play.'

Now while I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I just don't believe that either of those points or any other point along that spectrum is correct. Having watched some of the FIFA Women's World Cup this year, I saw good football. Football at times that was better and more interesting than a lot of men's games I have seen. Certainly there was no lack of skill either. Ellyse Perry's curling free kick into the top corner of the net against Sweden in the Quarter Finals, stays with me as one of the best goals I have ever seen scored in any form of football.

So the girls are obviously capable.

As to interesting, 847 064 tickets of a total of 1 000 000 available were sold in the Women's world cup in Germany , with 8 sold out games across the 32 scheduled. Interestingly the majority of games sold out were in the group stages. The cup was broad-casted live across all of Europe, the US, Canada, UK, Australia, the Middle East and Northern Africa, bringing in some of the best ratings for women's football ever.

Yet, at least in this country, the woman still get the raw end of the deal, despite the Matilda's being one of this nations most competitive International sides. Qualifying for 5 out of 6 World Cups, making it to the quarter finals on 2 occasions (07, 11), Won the OFC Women's championship on 3 Occasions, been runners up 3 times, and finished third the only other time they entered. In the Asian cup for three appearances they have a fourth and second placing, and were champions in 2010.

Still, women's football is consigned to one game being shown once a week on free-to-air television at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and games played in front of largely disappointing crowds, despite 19 of the 21 Matilda's players from this years World Cup, playing in the local W-League.

So why the disparity?

In my opinion I think that in this case, like in most cases, it comes down to money. I don't think enough money is being spent on advertising, and promoting the game. It's largely left to the clubs themselves to get the word out and try and ruffle up as much interest and create a great atmosphere in the stadiums that I'm sure the girls would love to play in front of. In fact just this week the Melbourne Victory W-League side, became the most followed W-League side in the country with 424 followers on Twitter, while their male counterparts have 7249, a bigger following obviously benefiting from decent money being spent promoting the team and the A-League competition they play in.

I also think it comes down to exposure. The girls just aren't being seen enough. One game a week isn't effectively going to help build interest, after all "out of sight, out of mind!" But it's not just the television medium they are missing out on, it extends it's reach to the Internet and print media.

In fact when the Melbourne Victory girls started following me this week (@Victorywleague), I had to go to wikipedia to find out who their team for this year was. And may I say as an aside, it's a strong looking team, watch out Roar! In fact all the W-League teams are looking stronger than they ever have, especially with quality imports coming out and plying their trade with our very own girls. But why do I have to go to Wikipedia to find that out? Football Australia, to their credit have their own W-League domain, but clicking on any team emblem, or player tab, only brings up an A-League team or a list of men playing in the A-League.

I just don't think it's good enough. But what can be done about it?

Some forums have suggested that like the fairly new lingerie football league in America, our girls should be "willing to use their feminine charms and wiles to attract more viewers to the game, because that's essentially what makes us different, makes us women, and will make others watch." Which for me would ruin the game and go against everything that women have fought for in the war on equality. They shouldn't have to dress skimpy, or wear next to nothing to attract people to a game. They should get the benefit of greater advertising and funds from their organising bodies.

Why not have a W-League match as a curtain raiser for every A-League match? The gate takings will still go to the same clubs, and essentially the organising body. Plus, the girls get the added benefit of having crowds bigger than what they would normally get; even if it's only a small difference to start. But I am confident that once the public see the exciting brand of football our girls are playing it will create more attraction, more interest, more exposure and launch the game into realms that it only dears dream about.

With Racism in the headlines in the Premier league at the moment, and the great strides FIFA has taken to stamp it out of the game. It got me thinking that maybe there's more that we could be doing. I for one would love being able to manage a Women's team in Football manager, or have the option to play as women's team in a FIFA game. Sure this could cost more money in development, but couldn't it also effectively widen an already bulging market?

I think it's time the fairer sex got a fairer deal and had the chance to showcase their wares more than just once a week on free to air television (to be fair, free to air TV would be great for the boys as well).

So do them a favour. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, get the word about them out and go to their games, it won't hurt you. And who knows, you may just come away impressed with the game. I know I have!

Melbourne Victory - @Victorywleague, Brisbane Roar - @BRoarWLeague, Canberra United - @CanberraUnited, Sydney FC - @SydneyWFC, Perth Glory -  @PerthGloryWomen, Adelaide United @FFSALadyReds & The Matilda's - @TheMatildas.

And Follow these too: @FFAGirlsFc & @TheWLeague.
Michael Kalinowski

Total articles: 4

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