I'm excited. Today, with my 7 year old football-fanatic daughter, I watched the Lionesses - the England Women's Football Team - win their Quarter Final WORLD CUP match against hosts, Canada. They have made it through to the semi-final and their strength, skill, precision and resilience has bowled me over. I feel a sense of pride. Simultaneously I want to see MORE of these amazing athletes, but they just don't get as much coverage on our TV screens. Which takes me back...
... 31 years ago, nine-year-old me wrote a letter to The Daily Mail letters page. They printed it too! (My parents drove all the way to my Guide camp to show me). It was entitled 'More Girls On The Box' and in it I asked why there wasn't more women's sport shown on the telly? I loved netball and football but that was never ever shown. Today, whilst FIFA invests about $900 million a year in football projects around the world, only 15 percent is committed to women's programs. Whilst it's encouraging that this has grown since 2004 when it stood at 5 per cent, this meagre and inequal percentage seems crazy to me. Male football hardly needs any promotion - countless people go to matches, buy the kits, watch it on TV, support the sport... but female footie needs all the promotion and support it can get. Thankfully, three decades later, we are making some progress, but the promotioal budget is so small that most people (and future Lionesses) don't know about this.
Although the Women's Super League doesn't yet have it's own BBC1 Match of The Day or frequent coverage on the existing BBC MOTD programme, The Women's Football Show is televised on BBC2. Furthermore, with interest growing, more member associations are investing into women's football and there are a growing number of programmes for women, including the FA's own leadership course and other initiatives and BT covers the Women's Super League online. Plus there's some great resources for female footie fans, such as SheKicks.net. To keep the ball in the air, the momentum growing, it's important to sustain the interest in the female game.
Since 1983 when I wrote to The Daily Mail, we've made progress, as former England Manager, Hope Powell wrote in The Guardian, "In England women’s football is already the number one female participation team sport, with more women and girls playing football today than netball and hockey. Barriers to getting young girls involved aren’t anything like they used to be. We now have role models, players can earn enough to play as a full-time job. The obstacles to playing and earning a living have been eradicated. Personal sponsorship and team sponsorship have changed dramatically. Agents have come into the game." Indeed the The FA’s Women’s Super League is now broadcast on BT too and the Woman's Football Show on BBC3 shows great progress. If that could escalate to a mainstream channel, like Match of The Day and BBC1 coverage, we'd be saying 'back of the net' - a victory for women's football for sure!
I (along with most people) am so proud of our Lionesses for showing with such incredible #badassery how entertaining and talented the female game is and shining a spotlight on women's soccer for all to see. The BBC reported that 1.6m tuned in to watch the quarter-final match between England vs Canada. This tournament is a major stepping stone towards bringing the female game to more fans around the world and it has captured the imagination of so many already.
My 7 year old daughter, co-founder of Climbing Trees LOVES football and watched the game with me. (She especially loves Kirby, Williams & Bronze). She plays before school, during school breaks and after school. I am thrilled to be taking her to her first ever match - to see the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in August (get your tickets here) And it pleases me immensely to see that FIFA are encouraging girls to get into the game with their #WeCanPlay campaign, whilst the World Cup message is #LiveYourGoals.
I hope that we can now keep the momentum going. Talking with my daughter today we wondered why, just as my nine-year-old-self had done, women's football didn't feature more frequently on the box. We did a little digging and discovered that it is there, we just didn't know about it. And therein lies the issue. The budget to promote the sport is insufficient. The BBC has committed to providing extensive coverage of the 2015 Women's Super League season across all platforms, including television, radio and online.
This is great news, but we hope that more effort and budget it put in to making people AWARE of this, not only for our Lionesses but for our FUTURE LIONESSES - for girls who like football and play football. #HearUsRoar.... So we've started the WOT campaign
With this campaign it is our goal to raise awareness about Women's Football on TV by asking that more budget can be devoted to promoting it and do as much as we can to take Women's Football MAINSTREAM (i.e get The Woman's Football Show on BBC1!)
You can sign the petition and link to the campaign here and also to this page with the hashtags #HearUsRoar #WOT