‘Lionesses don’t deserve a bank holiday’ Telegraph column proves extent of gender discrimination in football

‘Dented male pride…. Get over it and grow a pair.’

If the Lionesses win the World Cup on Sunday, the occasion should be honoured with a bank holiday, say the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Labour.

Despite the England team’s incredible achievement in making it to the final, putting them on the brink of a major moment in the nation’s footballing history, the government has said there are ‘no plans’ for an extra day off, if the team secures victory against Spain.

Meanwhile, Ross Clark, a columnist who writes for a number of right-wing newspapers, where he regularly criticises the likes of climate change, wokeness, and the ‘left-wing mob,’ used his pen-space in the Telegraph this week to argue that the Lionesses ‘don’t deserve a bank holiday.’

In what is a painful read, not just for fans of women’s football, but for anyone who values gender equality, Clark writes:

“I wish I could join in the celebratory atmosphere a little more, but to be honest I haven’t watched a single minute of the tournament. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you how the England team reached the final, other than that they defeated Australia in the semi-finals. It is not that I have been trying to avoid women’s football, but I just haven’t managed to summon up the enthusiasm.”

And it gets worse.

“I would be quite bewildered, then, if we were suddenly given a bank holiday in the event of an England victory. I know that some people have been angling for such a holiday and the government has been resisting, but from my point of view you might as well give us a day off to celebrate Grimsby Town’s two-nil victory over Salford City on Tuesday. Much as many people would like to big up the Women’s World Cup to the same level as the men’s, the latter – or simply the “World Cup” as almost all of us know it – has been an international occasion for many decades.”

Thankfully, the narrow-minded column was exposed for what it is.

“Victor Meldrew is alive and well and is working at the Telegraph,” one reader wrote.

Another said: “Dented male pride…. Get over it and grow a pair.”

“What a plonker. The girls play as hard as the men, they deserve the same rewards,” was a separate comment.

“This idiot should be sacked.”

But sadly, Ross Clark isn’t isolated in his views. Simultaneous to the mocking of the article, there was plenty written in support of it, testimony of how far football is from achieving true gender equality.

A recent study showed that women’s football is viewed as inferior to the men’s game because of gender stereotypes. Research published in the Sport Management Review Journal ahead of the England vs Colombia quarter-final, shows how the quality of female footballers was only perceived to be less than their male counterparts when people were made aware of the genders. The study involved participants being shown highlights of male and female football players scoring goals. In one group, the genders of the players were blurred, and in the other they were shown. Both groups were then made to rate each player’s performance on a five-point scale. The experiment results subsequently showed that the male players were rated significantly higher only in the group viewing the unmodified videos, thereby leading the authors of the study to suggest our perception is “filtered through gender stereotypes.”

Studies like this one and chauvinistic Telegraph columns aside, the general lack of excitement towards this World Cup also shows how inferior the women’s game is considered compared to the men’s game.

Even in Spain, one of the biggest footballing nations in the world, the atmosphere has been notably muted. Matches aired in bars have been markedly absent, despite the national team progressing to the final.

From equipment designed for men, to the women being paid significantly less than their male counterparts, a number of ongoing issues are attributed to holding back the women’s game. Elena Sanz, health and medicine editor-in-chief of the Conversation, notes how the momentum gained from this summer’s tournament will only be maintained if we hold FIFA, governing bodies, and the media to account to replicate the high standards that women have been producing on the pitch.

In relation to holding the media to account, Ross Clark and the Telegraph would be a good place to start.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Twitter screen grab

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