Shamik Das reports on Gabby Logan’s “Sexism in Football” BBC documentary.
While many politicos will have been watching last night’s Newsnight London Mayoral debate on BBC Two, at the same time on BBC One there was an equally must-watch programme, one more disturbing and shocking, on Sexism in Football.
Gabby Logan’s documentary explored the issue of sexism in the beautiful game, finding it, if not institutionally enmeshed within the game, than still very much in existence, at clubs, on the stands and in the media.
Writing about why she decided to make the programme, Logan explains:
“The sport has been so male-dominated for so long that you’re going to get people who will have to break ground and encounter things for the first time. In the programme, we have Jacqui Oatley reliving the experience of being the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day and the reaction to it.
Karren Brady was also the first female chief executive in football, as well as the youngest, and there is huge focus on people like that, with expectations of how you should be.
“Any women working in football will have had their share of crude and lewd things said to them that just wouldn’t happen in any other industry. But all the same, some of what we discovered was shocking…”
Anna Kessel, in the Guardian, has more:
While football has spent millions of pounds on campaigns to stamp out racism and homophobia from the game, sexism continues to be tolerated – whether that means thousands of fans chanting “slut” at a TV reporter during a live televised game, female employees being barred from meetings and press briefings or the nation being up in arms at the appointment of a woman to do a “man’s job”.
Such was the experience of Jacqui Oatley, who made headlines after it was announced she would become the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day, in 2007. Despite years of experience in radio commentary Oatley’s suitability for the job was questioned – even within the Guardian’s sports section.
Through the WiF [Women in Football] network, founded in 2007, we have heard many disturbing tales which include sexual and physical harassment. The same type of incidents seem to resurface over and again.
Women who have been grabbed by the neck, stalked, harassed on their phones or been told that they have to sleep with the man in question if they wish to continue going about their everyday jobs.
The perpetrators are often high-profile – star players, top managers, well-known TV pundits – all safe in the knowledge that their behaviour will never be reported.
“Who wants to be the whistleblower?” asks Bass [Jackie Bass, regional clubs partnerships manager for the Football League]. There have been women who have attempted it but most have gone quietly, paid to keep silent or threatened with having their names and reputations dragged through the newspapers.
Just reflect on that sentence again: women have been “grabbed by the neck, stalked, harassed on their phones or been told that they have to sleep with the man in question if they wish to continue going about their everyday jobs” – today, in football, in Britain, in 2012.
• New women’s sports channel launched 8 Mar 2012
• Sepp Blatter: Time to go 17 Nov 2011
• Why is there such little coverage of women’s sport? 24 Jan 2011
Much has indeed changed, but, as the programme showed, as the horrendous examples above illustrate, there’s still a way to go; as Logan concludes:
“…some of what we discovered was shocking. That in 2012 some people have been locked out of training grounds for being a woman is just wrong. It is discrimination, purely and simply.
“There is also a serious lack of representation at the top of the game with Karen Espelund the only female on the Uefa executive committee.
“But I look back on the programme I made about the Dick, Kerr Ladies team, who were banned from playing football in the 1920s, and they never would have imagined that women would ever even be allowed to work in the game.
“Even in the time since we started making the programme, a woman – Heather Rabbatts – has been appointed to the Football Association’s board, and that’s progress. And as Jackie Bass, who works for the Football League, says on the programme, there will only be more women working in the game in the future.
“There is still a long way to go but things are changing for the better and the rate of that change will grow more quickly because barriers are constantly being broken down and women should be judged on merit.”