Recently, the spotlight has been turned on women’s football, so MyLocalPitch caught up with County Cup winners, Ipswich Town Ladies to talk about the sport in London. Jasmine Cox, Lindsey Smith, and Samantha Carson shared their thoughts on the media, women’s involvement, and their love of the game.
Women’s football has (finally) been getting more popular attention as the #Lionesses fought their way to the World Cup Semi Final. Despite an agonising defeat to Japan with Laura Garrett’s own goal in injury-time, the England team were still exceptionally successful to get to that stage of the tournament and only narrowly missing out on being the second England team, after the men’s 1966 victory, to reach a World Cup final. But, the quality of women’s football has been increasing, and we asked Ipswich Ladies why.
Lindsey – ‘I think the England Women’s team a few years ago hit a high point, with the younger players now coming through from the current women’s super league the future looks positive again.’
Samantha – ‘There is a lot more attention and money towards women’s football which allows teams to spend more time with each other. For example, Man City Ladies have had their own stadium built because the club pumped money into it.’
However, this improvement hasn’t correlated with the media coverage of women’s football. There is a hugely disproportionate gap in media focus between men and women’s matches and while this underrepresentation is undeniable, Lindsey and Samantha see a positive future.
Lindsey – ‘It will always be second to the men’s game and I think we all realise that, but the exposure of the weekly women’s super league is a definite positive.’
Samantha – ‘Yes it’s building slowly but at the right rate. They are still building the new football format (WSL or Women’s Super League) so as the quality of that football improves, I feel the amount of coverage will. But there is still a big gap between some WSL teams and the WSL to the other league so you can’t cover lots of different leagues/games like you can with men’s football.’
One of the reasons for lack of female participation in football, and the gap between teams that Samantha highlights, are the barriers women face getting into sport. From a school age many girls find less opportunities and encouragement to get into sport, particularly those such as football which are seen as male dominated. Ipswich Town Ladies shared their opinions on the issues to tackle to increase female participation.
Jasmine – ‘I think lack of opportunity and information is a huge factor in some areas. I live in Clacton and their is currently no ladies football team and its hard to find any women’s football going on in the evenings.’
Samantha – ‘Confidence is possibly the main one. Women compare themselves to others which can demotivate them.’
Lindsey – ‘A lack of ready made opportunities to participate, a lack of exposure through media and a certain amount of peer pressure.’
The #thisgirlcan campaign run by Sports England has been celebrating active women nationwide and inspiring women to take up sport and exercise without fear of judgement. We asked the Ipswich Town Ladies players what they thought of #thisgirlcan and its inspiring message to get more women and girls into sport.
Jasmine – ‘Yes!!! Brilliant idea. Women constantly obsess about body image, which stops them from participating in certain sports.’
Samantha – ‘That campaign I think has motivated a lot more women to get involved or at least opened their eyes to the fact that anyone can!’
Lindsey – ‘Definitely, young girls have aspirations to be like their role models, the more women that gain success through positive sporting achievements the more girls will want to be like them.’
There’s still massive room for growth in women’s football. FIFA stats show that 1.1 million girls play football casually but a lack of opportunities, support, and confidence is holding them back from continuing the sport and reaching a higher level. Lindsey, Samantha, Jasmine, and the rest of their team have found enjoyment and friendship from team sport, which is underpinned by their passion for football. Having had a successful season and winning the Suffolk Cup, Ipswich Town Ladies certainly demonstrate the sporting and social rewards from women’s football.
BY - Lydia Cronin
2 July 2015