An opinion piece by Euan Davidson for Scheidt’s Footballing Miscellany.
I can’t believe I’m writing this in 2011.
I’d like to start off by pointing out that I am a male, new wave feminist. That said, like any normal human being, the rights of anyone is important to me, and think that every group should be treated with the same respect. It’s par for the course, and the minimum what I’d expect of people.
Therefore, when I found out that a woman, Sian Massey, would be one of the assistant referees for Saturday’s match between
Wolves and Liverpool, it didn’t bother me. Why should it? I was actually pretty pleased at how long it had taken me to find out, because the press hadn’t made a significant deal out of the whole thing. If she’s good enough to referee at Premiership level, then so be it, and the normally uproarious world of football journalism clearly agreed in not making a big deal of it. Now to any feminist, the idea of a man telling people what to think about women in this type of role probably comes across condescending. I’m not telling people what to think, I’m just trying to argue a point.
I wish I could tell you that Massey’s generally competent performance did enough of the talking, but that would be completely wrong. Apparently in 2011, despite our complete democracy and noted tolerance, the key figures in broadcasting sport still have the mindset of a spoilt child having to share toys.
Massey’s only contentious decision turned out completely correct, in awarding Liverpool the first of their goals against Wolves. It was perfectly legitimate, despite arguments of offside from the home side, and the rest of her performance was of the required standard for the Premiership. Yet, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, two of the biggest names at Sky Sports, the elite broadcasting network in sport (having helped ruin the modern game, but that’s another rant for another day) are flummoxed by the idea of a woman doing exactly the same job as a man, and doing it well.
You probably know what they said already, so I won’t insult your intelligence by directly quoting from their idiotic rant. But what was recorded was exactly the kind of misogynistic idiocy that puts a gloss on the glass ceiling.
They didn’t want her to be refereeing because she’s a woman. Apparently, women are lesser. They don’t know the rules of football to the same standard as men. Why can’t they leave alone? It’s man time. Lads on tour, where’s my Carling etc.
The sooner we stamp out this ridiculous Neanderthal mindset, the quicker we can get on with progression and sexual equality. Women have had all the enthusiasm for the sport men have since well, ever. There are established women’s leagues, cups and international tournaments. I wish I could tell you more about individual talents, but the likes of Sky have not so much given priority to men as completely ignored the existence of women’s football entirely.
Just so you know, it’s the same rules and everything.
While I have no grand ambitions to have mixed teams (I’m not sure how either gender would advantage particularly), it’s grossly unfair that men officiate and manage women’s football games and teams on a regular basis, but when a woman is so much as linked to a top job or responsibility, it’s a scandal. Keys and Gray also ranted diatribes about Karren Brady, West Ham United’s chairwoman. Some might find the legitimacy of her stance as an independent, pro-feminist football executive questionable, given her allegiance to Davids Gold and Sullivan (who made their fortune through pornography and the direct exploitation of women), but to target her for criticism in some quasi-informed rant is just as poisonous.
What are women meant to think of this? However well they may actually do the jobs in football that they are quite entitled to, it seems that ancient patriarchal attitudes rule amongst football media’s elite, and until then, WAGs get all the coverage women can expect in football news, and the excellent English Women’s Premiership and the burgeoning Scottish equivalent are ignored almost entirely. It’s a disgrace that this is the case – it’s not so much levelling the playing field as keeping them out the stadium.
The longer we have this sexual apartheid in football, the worse off we are. It has to start with the media – the hugely underrated Jacqui Oatley at the BBC faced enormous pressure and petty criticism from sexists who found the commentary of a woman “too weird” or “not right” on her debut for Match of the Day, yet she continues to be one of the most promising football journalists in the UK. Her and Gabby Logan seem to be the notable exceptions in a world dominated entirely by men. The talent’s there, but why would any woman bother when their fine efforts are there to be scoffed at by the laddish behaviour of over-paid, under-educated misogynistic pigs?
Ask yourself this: how can women know any less than men about football? How is that belief possible to accommodate? It’s nonsense, and the sooner little boys like Keys and Gray realise this, the better football can be.