21st Pamela Denoon Lecture
FOOTBALLERS BEHAVING BADLY: Changing Attitudes Towards Women
Dr Kim Toffoletti
Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Gender studies, Deakin University; Secretary,
Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association; and Chief co-editor,
Thirdspace: A Journal of Feminist Theory and Culture
A podcast of the lecture is currently available through the ANU: http://www.anu.edu.au/discoveranu/content/podcasts/footballers_behaving_badly/
Dr Kim Toffoletti is a senior lecturer in Sociology and Gender Studies at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. He research interests span the fields of gender studies, visual arts, social and cultural theory. She has published articles in a number of Australian and international journals on a range of topics including the representation of gender and sexuality in the media and popular culture, women fans of Australian Rules football, and gender and sport.
Along with Dr P.Mewett (Deakin.U), she is currently undertaking the first comprehensive study of female football fans. This research addresses contemporary concerns regarding gender inequalities in sport by focusing on the practices of female supporters in the maintenance and disruption of a predominantly male sporting sphere. It has explored topics ranging from how allegations of sexual assault by footballers are perceived by sports fans through to how women become socialised into supporting male-dominated sports.
This research has been published in journals such as The International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Women’s Studies International Forum, Sport in Society and the Alternative Law Journal. Kim has worked with the Sydney Swans Women’s Advisory Group to produce a report providing recommendation on gender based policies and initiatives.
The findings of this research have been showcased at international conferences such as the World Congress of Sport Sociology and the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Conference, and at national forums including The Australian Sociological Association and Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association Conference.
Kim is the author of the scholarly monographs Cyborgs and Barbie Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture and the Posthuman Body (I.B.Tauris, 2007), and Baudrillard Reframed (I.B Tauris, forthcoming). Currently, she is co-editing a book on female sport fans across the globe. Titled Sport and its Female Fans, it will be published by Routledge in 2011.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by sportsmen seem to appear in the Australian news media on a disturbingly regular basis. Using the 2004 allegations of sexual assault made against AFL and NRL players as a starting point, this talk asks why it is that male athletes of major sports like football and rugby are often linked to incidents of bad behaviour toward women. Do men’s sports breed a negative attitude toward women? And what can be done to change how players relate to women in off-field situations? Drawing on my own research into women sports fans’ perceptions of player misconduct, I reflect on the consequences of ‘footballers behaving badly’ for women within and beyond the sporting sphere, and consider how feminist thinking and action can play a role in changing the way that we, as a community, respond to sportsmen’s attitudes toward women.
I’d like to begin by welcoming you all to the lecture and thanking you for coming. I’d also like to extend my thanks to the organisers of the Pamela Denoon lecture for inviting me to speak to you tonight. It really is an honour to be asked to deliver this lecture and continue Pamela’s legacy in highlighting issues of real concern for Australian women.
I never met Pamela. I would have been 13 years old when she passed away. I don’t remember being particularly aware of what feminism was exactly at that age, although in retrospect it’s clear that I am a product of the feminist principles and practices fostered by women like Pamela. I went to a single-sex public high school where students were never told that they couldn’t or shouldn’t do something because they were girls. For this reason, and many others, I feel indebted to Pamela Denoon and the many feminists who worked and continue to work actively to challenge sexist attitudes and barriers facing women in Australian society.
The fact that this lecture is still going strong after 20 years is testament, I think, to it its importance in advocating for more equitable relations between men and women. It is also a reminder of the currency and necessity of feminist thinking and activism to addressing persistent gender inequalities.
We find ourselves at the start of another football season in Australia and yet again another footballer has been charged with rape. This time it is Andrew Lovett, recently recruited to the St Kilda AFL club from rival team Essendon. It’s not the first time that St Kilda has been embroiled in these types of allegations. In 2004 two of its players were accused of sexual assault. No charges were ever laid, but the incident has no doubt stuck in the minds of many Australians for bringing to the fore a darker side of football that had, up until that point, rarely been spoken about publicly or been given such prominent media coverage. In the past clubs paid ‘hush money’ to complainants in return for their silence. More recently women are coming forward – speaking to the police and media about their ordeals. According to research by Deb Watson at Monash University, of the reported cases of alleged sexual assault since 1998 none have resulted in a conviction. My own searches have not yet revealed a footballer of any code who has been convicted for raping a woman while playing at the elite level in Australia.
Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. In the 100 or so years that Australian Rules, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Soccer have existed in this country, under Australian law, there is no widely known case of an elite footballer having raped or sexually assaulted a woman. If, as the football chiefs often remind us, football is just like any other part of Australian culture and faces the same problems and issues, then why is it that rape does not seem to feature in this microcosm of society? Sure, they concede that some footballers, like some men, don’t treat women well, but over such a long history it seems an anomaly that rarely, if ever, has a footballer been held accountable under law for raping a woman.
This fact is surely not lost on women who have been sexually assaulted by footballers. The lack of convictions of players in the past is likely to put women off coming forward and reporting sexual assault. Why would they bother if the only thing to come from reporting is a whole lot of media scrutiny? Or indeed, accusations that they are actively courting public attention and a slice of media fame for speaking out against the violence perpetrated against them. National data shows that only 14-16 percent of women report violent sexual incidents to authorities and only a very small percentage of these complaints result in convictions. These, figures, it seems, do not include elite footballers.
Only weeks before the AFL scandal back in 2004, news broke that some members of NRL team the Canterbury Bulldogs had been accused of pack raping a women at a Coffs Harbour resort. As with the St Kilda case, no footballer was ever charged, but the issue of group sex keeps coming back to haunt the code, as witnessed by the public outrage over the ABC Four Corners episode ‘Code of Silence’. The program, which aired last year, revealed a group sex encounter that occurred in 2002 in New Zealand involving players from NRL club the Cronulla Sharks. But the issue here is not just about sexual assault – whether it did nor didn’t occur, whether the women involved did or didn’t consent, and what can or can’t be proven. A litany of other events over the past 10 years has revealed a fundamental disrespect and disregard for women across the footballing codes. And it is this general attitude toward women that I’ll be exploring in tonight’s lecture.
The most recent case in point involves the AFL’s Brendan Fevola taking a naked photo of his then lover, well-known model Lara Bingle, and supposedly circulating it without her consent via his mobile phone. Reports of the incident, which occurred a few years ago but has only come to light in the past couple of days, overshadowed the announcement of an initiative by the federal government and the AFL to promote respectful relationships between young people. Launched by the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, it sent a confused message. At the very moment the Australian Football League is being promoted as a role model for young people, granted $400,000 to bring its Respect and Responsibility program to junior football clubs, one of its best known players is implicated in behaviour that isn’t respectful, in which a picture of a woman’s naked body is being passed around between men for their own sexual gratification and amusement.
If this is the kind of behaviour footballer’s model to young people, then we should be concerned. The phenomenon of ‘sexting’ is on the rise amongst Australian teens. It involves taking photos on a mobile phone of yourself or others naked or involved in sexual activity, and circulating these pictures via text message. More often than not, it is young women who bear the social stigma of having intimate photos of themselves circulated widely and instantly via electronic networks. I’ve heard that boys take photos of girls giving them blow jobs, without the girls knowing, which the boys then send around to their friends. Sometimes, girls take photos of themselves naked and send them to their boyfriend’s phone for his eyes only, thinking this makes them attractive, sexy and cool. But if he then forwards it to his social circle at the push of a button, she is likely to be labelled a slut and a whore. Sexting has potentially grave legal implications for young people too. By forwarding sexually explicit pictures of minors, young people risk being charged with the distribution of child pornography, even though they may only be children themselves.
I agree that building respectful and positive relationships, both sexual and non-sexual, between men and women must start at an early age, but it needs credible role models. If football codes want to be leaders in fostering equitable relations between women and men, players aren’t the only role models they should be promoting. Sporting organisations must look at the underrepresentation of women at senior and decision making levels. Perhaps by modelling themselves as social institutions where women are present and visible in positions of power and authority, there will be greater respect for women within footballing communities and beyond. I’ll be coming back to this point in more detail later.
The reason why I’m raising these various cases of ‘footballers behaving badly’ is to remind you that they are not just one-off events. They have been happening for a long time, and they continue to happen. Nor is it only footballers who commit sexual violence against women. Research done in North America shows similar patterns of violence and abusive behaviour towards women from sportsmen involved in male dominated, often team-oriented sports like ice-hockey, American football and college athletics. What we are talking about here is a phenomenon that is much bigger than football in Australia. It is also bigger than the sporting domain. All different kinds of men perpetuate sexual violence against women, and many men don’t, footballers included. So what is it about our national football culture that warrants particular scrutiny?
Before I go any further, I’d better lay my cards on the table. Let me ‘fess up. I am lover of sport. Growing up with three brothers I had little choice but to get in there and kick the football and swing the cricket bat. Like many of the women I know personally, and many of the women I have interviewed for my research, my introduction to sport was through boys and men. Throughout my childhood and into my early adulthood I played basketball in my local suburban competition, albeit without much finesse. Today, my sporting pursuits are confined to a social hit of the tennis ball and a weekly Pilates class, but the value of sport for health, self-esteem and sheer physical enjoyment isn’t lost on me.
I enjoy sport in other ways that go beyond exercise and fitness. Watching sport, whether it is on television, or going to live matches, or attending an event like the Australian Open tennis, offers a fantastic spectacle and a chance for time-out from the weekly grind. It gives me a sense of being part of a tribe; a group of people who feel the same way as I do. Since birth, I have followed Aussie Rules as a Hawks supporter. With the advent of the national Soccer competition – the A-League – I took to following the Melbourne Victory. Six months living in New Zealand saw me adopt the Canterbury Crusader as my Rugby Union team of choice. Regularly I’d sit in icy conditions of an evening watching them play, even though I’d never followed Rugby at all before then. For me, sport not only provides a sense of community and identity, it also offers a connection to family –it gives me a chance to spend some one-on-one time with my dad as we go to dinner, followed by a soccer game.
Some of you here tonight might feel the same way and have had similar experiences, others less so. Regardless, most of us here, I imagine, would agree that participation in sport should offer something positive to women and men on a number of levels – physically, emotionally and socially. And by participation, I don’t just mean playing sport. Participation can involve spectating, or being involved in your local sporting club or association at an administrative or support level. Each of these aspects of sports participation can be enriching and rewarding for the people and communities involved. Going on 2006 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 10.5 million Australians over the age of 15 participate in some form of physical exercise. 7.1 million or 44 percent of the population attended at least one sporting event in the year prior to being surveyed and 11 percent of Australians volunteer at sport and recreation organisations.
Clearly, sport is an important part of so many people’s lives. For this reason, it should strive to be inclusive, equitable and accessible to everyone. Women and men of all ages, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and levels of ability should feel safe, respected and welcome when participating in sport, whether it be as president of the local lawn bowls club, as an umpire officiating elite-level sport, as a competitor or spectator. Sportspeople play an important role in sending that message. Australia has a strong history of celebrating its sporting heroes, most of whom have been traditionally male. In an age of celebrity culture and 24-7 media exposure this appears to be truer now than ever. Their successes are writ large, but so are their failures. Living in the public eye, their actions and words count. Footballers who demean or sexually assault women not only brutalise their victims. Their behaviour sends a message that women don’t deserve respect, that treating women as sex objects is ok, and that by getting away with it, footballers are not held accountable under the law.
On being invited to give this lecture, I was encouraged to explore my own ideas about those aspects of life as a woman that I feel particularly passionate about. I feel passionate about the issue of violence against women by sportsmen because as a life-long supporter of Aussie rules and a feminist, I find myself asking how I, as a woman, can support a code whose players have mistreated women. Back in 2004 when I first heard those reports alleging that footballers from the Canterbury Bulldogs had gang raped a woman, I rolled my eyes, thinking, to myself ‘typical bunch of boofhead thugs’. While finding it absolutely abhorrent, sadly, I didn’t find it shocking or particularly surprising. I’d always thought of NRL as a blokey boys club with little regard for women, hence it had never held much appeal for me. But when only weeks later a female complainant contacted police to inform them that she had been sexually assaulted by players from my own code – a code with more female supporters than NRL, ARU or the A-League, a code that had always appeared to me to be female-friendly, I was forced to confront my own feelings about being part of a footballing culture that fostered negative attitudes toward women. This led me to wonder how other female supporters felt.
I’ve looked into these questions, both personally and in my research work. With my colleague Dr Peter Mewett, we interviewed more than 70 female fans of Australian rules in Sydney, Melbourne, Geelong and Perth. This involved speaking to them in great depth, often for a couple of hours, about their experiences of being football fans. In our interviews, which we did with individuals and groups of women who were followers of different clubs, we asked them what they thought of reports of footballer misconduct against women. All of the women we spoke to responded thoughtfully and with great consideration and insight on the issue. All strongly believed that violence against women was abhorrent and wrong and had no part in AFL or any other sport.
Many of the women we spoke to felt that football culture and team bonding rituals were important factors in shaping player attitudes toward women. They felt strongly that clubs played a vital role in influencing footballers’ actions off the field. Clubs that accepted drinking as part of the team bonding exercise were criticised for fostering bad behaviour. Some fans thought that leagues and clubs should help players deal with celebrity attention and other trappings of fame.
What also came out of these discussions were some unquestioned assumptions about male and female sexual behaviour. Women who had complained of being assaulted by footballers were often stereotyped as ‘predatory’ or ‘groupies’. Some fans felt that women who claim to have been assaulted by players may have, consciously or unwittingly, brought this on themselves – courting trouble by accepting a player’s advances or initiating sexual relations with a footballer. The underlying belief here is that ‘responsible’ women don’t hang around footballers, let alone act in sexually forward ways. This way of thinking about the situation puts the responsibility for any potential abuse on the victim by implying that they shouldn’t have put themselves in that type of situation.
Implicit to this mindset is the assumption that incidents of sexual assault can occur when women deviate from the ‘conventions’ of heterosexual relations that expect them to be passive and sexually available. Women who show an active sexual interest in footballers challenge the ‘common sense’ perception of male superiority — sexually and socially. So the blame falls on women for subverting the ‘natural’ state of sexual relations. Women who actively seek out footballers are held responsible for ‘provoking’ them — the presumption here being that male sexuality is something men can’t control. Instead it is seen as a woman’s responsibility to make sure she doesn’t provoke male urges.
In another gender myth, male hormones were thought to contribute to sexual assault, especially when it comes to men’s sexual urges, which are assumed to be primal, natural and uncontrollable. But if hormones are to blame, then why it is that all men or all footballers aren’t potential rapists, given that all men have testosterone coursing through their bodies?
In my research, I’ve also looked at how media reports on this stuff. I found similar explanations for sexual misconduct were often used by commentators and journalists when writing about the issue.What I find really interesting about how the media write about footballer behaviours and fans’ explanations of how sexual assault by footballers might occur, is the way women have often been portrayed throughout these cases and others involving women and sportsmen – as predatory, as asking for it, as gold diggers, as willing participants. You might think I’m overstating things here but you only have to look at the front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald to see Lara Bingle likened to Cleopatra – a woman responsible for a powerful man’s undoing. Bingle is described as ‘unstable’, a ‘femme fatale’, a ‘mix of beauty and danger’. Regardless of what the case might be, this is how we frame women who don’t follow the script of compliant wife and mother. They will always be judged as the seducer, the distractor, the woman who puts her own needs above all else.
Portrayals like these are not only devastating for the women involved, effectively silencing them by implying that they were somehow complicit in their own abuse, but they should be of concern to all women. How we talk about women who have been mistreated by players effects all women. These stories remind us that there are standards and expectations for women’s behaviour that men are not subject to. This is especially true when it comes to sex. Good girls don’t do this type of thing. Bad girls ask for it. If you are a woman who finds herself subject to unwanted sexual attention, then the problem must be yours. Same goes for media attention. Maybe you shouldn’t have flirted, shouldn’t have worn that dress, and shouldn’t have provoked him. At the heart of this type of thinking are traditional ideas of what is appropriate female behaviour.
Before the sexual revolution, before the Western feminist movement of the 60s and 70s fought for women’s rights over their own bodies and control over their own sexuality, very few people questioned the belief that a woman’s main purpose was to sexually please her husband and then raise his babies. The natural order of things involved men being powerful, dominant and virile sexual agents. Women, on the other hand, were expected to be passive, receptive and deferential to male needs and desires.
I’m sure that many of you feel that this certainly isn’t the case anymore. In our apparently ‘post-feminist’ age women are more assured, self confident and sexually forward than ever before. Call it girl power or raunch culture, or any of the other faddish labels concocted by marketers to commodify women’s sexuality, there is a widespread belief that women are men’s equals when it comes to sex. But it would seem that the consequences for women who sleep around are markedly different than for men. Women’s actions are scrutinised and called into question in a way that footballers are not.
Even though myths about male and female sexuality are deeply entrenched in our thinking, we don’t have to go along with these stories. Sometimes we question them, as witnessed by the campaign by Football Fan’s Against Sexual Assault, which involved encouraging people to post a message online stating their opposition to footballer violence toward women and the excuses often used to justify such behaviour. The website generated an enormous amount of support from both men and women within and outside of footballing communities. The site, which was established in response to the sexual assault cases that arose in 2004, is no longer active, but it showed that many people can and do want to challenge the double standard that exists when it come to men, women and sex, and which has negative consequences for women.
Another challenge to the negative stereotyping of women and the normalisation of footballer violence toward them can be seen in last years’ interview between channel 9 television presenter Tracey Grimshaw and former Cronulla Sharks player Matthew Johns about his involvement in a group sex incident in New Zealand in 2002. While group sex used to be accepted within the particular sport sub-culture of NRL, many, including Grimshaw have disputed the normality of this practice amongst footballers. A number of media commentators have spoken out against the commonly held belief that women are willing participants in such events by virtue of simply showing up, or that by agreeing to sex with one or more players, they can’t possibly then find themselves in a rape situation. But for all of those who challenge the stereotypes, there are many who still don’t. Often, when journalists like Grimshaw or Caroline Wilson speak out about the negative aspects of football culture, they are accused of feminist conspiracy and political correctness in blogs and online forums.
For me, this issue is about much more than determining whether the woman in question has agreed to group sex with footballers. It’s more fundamentally about the way some groups of men view women, as sexual toys to be shared around in an act of male bonding and solidarity. These group sex rituals amongst footballers also say a whole lot about what they think it takes to be ‘one of the boys’ or a ‘real man’, who needs to prove his manliness to others by displays of sexual conquest. What we can see, in our media commentary and also in the opinions of many of the fans I spoke to, is that we can and should continue to question football cultures that support a certain model of maleness, where drinking, showing off to your mates, using sex as a sign of manliness, and demeaning women in order to be seen as ‘one of the boys’, is ok.
A common story we hear on high-rotation when it comes to explaining the constant stream of allegations of sexual assault and bad behaviour toward women is the footballer who is a ‘bad apple’ – the troubled individual amongst a group of decent guys. If we think about footballer’s bad behaviour in this way, then presumably, weeding out the ‘bad apples’ will fix the problem. But if we approach the issue of player violence against women in these terms, the role of football culture in fostering negative attitudes toward women is largely ignored. It assumes the problem lies with the individual, not the institutions in which they are socialised to think and act in certain ways. And here lies the problem.
Regardless of whether we are talking about men or women, much of the thinking around footballer violence is highly individualised, that is, spoken about in terms of interpersonal or private relations between people, where all parties are equally positioned to negotiate the situation. This kind of thinking worries me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it pays very little attention to the relative power differences between women and male footballers. In Australian culture, sportsmen are lauded as heroes. Footballers, especially are venerated, celebrated and held up as role models. Footballers have a fair amount of economic, social, cultural capital that can lead to a greater sense of entitlement than regular men. Some of the entitlements that come with celebrity and fame include feelings of specialness, economic rewards like high salaries and sponsorship deals, and sexual access to women, which may lead to expectations that women are there for their gratification. American sports researcher Jeffrey Benedict puts it this way: for athletes, ‘the ability to indulge in the constant presence of women who surrender their bodies for sex, all the while being held in such high esteem by society, grants athletes the opportunity and permission to act sexually without restraint. The athlete-groupie relationship guarantees a purely sexual encounter free of consequence, commitment, or responsibility’.
I do think that that issue of personal responsibility is important, but if we make the problem out to be solely about individuals and their actions, logic would dictate that getting rid of the few bad apples would stop negative attitudes and behaviours toward women. This doesn’t seem to be working. Another solution that has been put on the table is to train individuals to act better, while still maintaining a club culture where women, whilst increasing in numbers, are in very few positions of authority and seniority. If women are mainly seen to be the servicers of footballers’ needs on the off the field – I’m thinking here of the red carpet WAGS, mothers, fans, groupies and support staff whose main role is to help men feel and look good – then how can things change?
I wonder if negative player attitudes toward women might be part of a wider tendency to dismiss, downplay and disrespect women within male-dominated organisations like football. This is not necessarily from within the organisations themselves – by all accounts, there seems to be very little criticism of football culture from the women within it, and only words of praise for senior football women from their male counterparts. But this doesn’t mean that women’s voices, perspectives and opinions are given equal weight or visibility in sporting organisations. In the case of football in Australia, only a handful of women are in senior levels of club and league administration, women like NRL board member Katie Page and Community Relations director Trish Crews, and AFL commissioner Sam Mostyn and ground operations manager Jill Lindsey. While some women do participate in organised football competitions, at the professional level football is exclusively played by men. Elite coaching staff, too, are overwhelmingly male, and only two women have been AFL umpires, both behind the goals.
Where women appear to be making inroads are in support roles such as club dieticians and physiotherapists, and in public relations and marketing. This is not surprising, as it mirrors the gender division of paid labour in the Australian workforce, where women predominate in caring professions that service the needs of others – this itself being an extension of the type of unpaid work that women carry the burden of in families and households. In this sense, the rise of women in certain areas of football organisations seem to echo women’s traditional roles in football: as the mother, wife or girlfriend who cheers from the sidelines, washes the jerseys, drives backwards and forwards to training and matches, and volunteers in the canteen on match day. Many local footy clubs still rely on women’s unpaid and often unrecognised support to stay afloat. The problem isn’t that there are no women in football but that very few of the women involved progress into top-level decision making roles, despite their knowledge, commitment and passion.
Female football journalists, on TV and in the print media, are perhaps better known, although they have not been without controversy. Caroline Wilson, one of the most powerful football journalists in the nation, was degraded and insulted by media personality Sam Newman on the AFL Footy Show when he stapled a picture of Wilson’s face to a mannequin that he proceeded to fondle and dress in lingerie. Rather than seeing Wilson as his peer and equal, Newman’s actions clearly demonstrate his outdated and misogynistic attitudes toward women. By presenting Wilson in this way, he was essentially attempting to ‘put her back in her place’, letting viewers know that in the boys club of the Footy Show, her professional expertise and insight mean little and her only worth is as a sexualised object of male amusement.
So, too, was the introduction of the first female AFL television commentator, Kelli Underwood, a bit much for some people whose negative comments appeared on sports blogs and online forums. After her first few calls in 2009, some complained that Underwood was trying too hard to sound like a man, copying the mannerisms and phrases commonly used by other commentators, all of whom are male. Others were critical that she didn’t sound enough like a man – the high-pitch of her voice needed to be dropped down a notch or two because it was simply too distracting, annoying or boring. For some people, the problem isn’t the sound of her voice or her commentating style. They simply believe that a woman doesn’t belong in a commentary box, as she has never played football at a high level, so couldn’t possibly speak about it authoritatively. Mind you, a number of AFL commentators like Bruce McAvaney, Anthony Hudson and Stephen Quartermain have never played in the AFL but this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. While many people insist that they judge commentators on their merits and ability – you may know this as the ‘I don’t care if they are a woman or man, as long as they can do the job’ line – it seems that the gender of a commentator influences how capable and able we consider them to be. Men, without question, are presumed to know about sport. Women, on the other hand, must prove their competency, but will never be seen as ‘expert’ enough if they have never played elite football, which they never can, as this is only played by men. It puts women under impossible scrutiny in a way that men are rarely subject to in the sporting domain.
If women and girls, and men and boys for that matter, don’t see women in decision making and leadership positions, as full members of their sporting communities, then how can we hope to foster cultures that truly respect women? Changing attitudes toward women in sport is an issue for all women and men who want to see an end to violence against women, who want to see women treated with respect not only in the sporting sphere, but in all areas of social, cultural and political life. Fostering cultures of respect in football needs to be about more than reforming and educating individual players. It is about leading by example and showing that women in football are more than secondary support to the men of football. Perhaps if women football players were more visible and recognised, if more women were involved in the leadership of football – as coaching staff, administrators and executives – then footballers, and the wider community, might begin to see women differently.