“Women’s football is still considered sub-football”

The Women’s Football World Cup organized in France in the summer of 2019 aroused significant media and popular enthusiasm. But if the number of licensees within the FFF has multiplied by five in twenty years, they remain largely in the minority within the federation: in 2019, women represented less than 10% of those made redundant, according to the most recent figures from the federationn., author of History of women’s football in the XXe century and professor of PE in a college in Lyon, discusses the obstacles to real equality.

How to interpret the evolution of the number of licensees? Has the popular effervescence around the 2019 World Cup had an effect?

This increase in the number of female graduates comes after a long period of stagnation. In 1970, there were 2,000 players, in 1980, there must have been 18,000, then it stagnated for a long time during the 1980s: it is a very slow development. The increase in the number of female footballers is positive, but it remains low in view of the number of boys. And that doesn’t spoil the fact that women’s football is still considered sub-football: girls are always on the sidelines. As for the World Cup, it has not changed practices in terms of the number of spectators around the fields, while there were on average 20,000 spectators per match, and nearly 58,000 for the final. One would expect the average attendance for women’s matches to increase, but it is around 1,000 for D1 matches. The effect one could hope for is not really there, and the health situation does not help either.

How to explain the late interest of the FFF in football played by women?

When women’s football reappeared at the end of the 60s in the form of folkloric meetings within the framework of club parties, the federation was not really interested. She was slow to recognize women’s football in 1970, and did so rather under the pressure of reality, since there are teams that are starting to be created in France here and there, and the risk for the federation that women’s football will take hold. develops through an autonomous structure. She has remained deaf to the wishes of female soccer players, and is more concerned with controlling this practice than developing it. At the level of international federations it is the same, both UEFA and Fifa do not get more involved and take time to organize international competitions: in 1982 for UEFA, in 1991 for Fifa.

The president of the FFF, Noël Le Graët, made female practice a federal priority in 2011. Previously, she joined the major professional clubs in 2009, and in 2011 the World Cup was held in Germany: the The media began to take an interest in women’s football and allowed the general public to discover women’s football. The 2014 law for substantive equality between men and women then introduced the principle of parity in the governing bodies of sports federations: Brigitte Henriques, who is a former international player, was appointed secretary general and then became vice-president. There was really a desire to boost practice and build on popular momentum with, in 2014, the application to host the World Cup.

What are the obstacles to the development of women’s football today?

The major obstacle is at the societal level, on the representation of men and women. Women’s football remains sub-football, and feminization is overestimated: we generally talk about the D1 and the France team, but we never consider the feminization of football at all levels. It is done through men’s football, since it is his professional clubs that allow it to develop. And if we are to believe the subsidies that were granted to the D1 and D2 clubs for the 2020-2021 season, we gave even more money to those who already had it, that is to say the men’s clubs. Feminization is also sometimes used to restore the image of a club, and this is a big prospect in financial terms: there is half of the world’s population that we can interest.

Even in campaigns to promote women’s football, the image of women that is conveyed is not necessarily very progressive. If we think for example in 2009, of the four players of the France team who pose naked, with the message “Does it have to come to this for you to come and see us play?”, Or the choice of the model and woman of footballer Adriana Karambeu, ambassador of the communication campaign in 2010. There are plenty of players that she could use, and the federation is going to look for a “woman of” … We can also think of the football jersey of the 2019 World Cup women’s team with the golden rose rooster. It is quite significant of the representation that the federation can have of women!

Nathan Binet

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