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Football vs Women’s football

Normalise the game, change the attitude

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid: Quarter Final Second Leg - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images

If there’s one thing that really gets our hands wringing over the treatment of women’s sports, it’s when it’s treated as an afterthought or something on a lesser tier than its male counterpart, or even when it becomes a charity case. Although it’s all symptomatic; it’s when women’s sport are treated as something different, something removed from the same game that men play that rankles more. The rules don’t differ, nor is there anything extra required for the women’s game, yet it’s treated as a cousin several times removed, rather than a sibling.

What women’s football and indeed, all women’s sport is desperate for, is normalcy. For it to be presented on an even-footing as its male counterpart. And before you start harking about investment and interest, I don’t mean for instant financial parity, but for it to be treated - respected and ridiculed - in the same way as you would men’s sport. It’s about taking your children to women’s matches as you do men’s and not making the distinction that it’s women’s sport. How fast did we see in Australia, when the W-League became the A-League Women to align to the pre-existing A-League which then became the A-League Men, that when only one gender was dropped from casual reporting, it was once again, sport vs women’s sport.

FC Barcelona’s treatment of their women’s selection hasn’t always been as honourable as it is today but in presenting the two senior football teams as equal, part of the same club, the sporting entity immediately bridges a gap. The simple effort of having an Alexia shirt for sale next to Ansu Fati ones in the club store or showing their UWCL highlights at the mini store at the airport instantly normalises women playing sport and frames them as equals.

Whilst it’s true, Barça are a special case as a club, Més que un club etc., the prevalence of the women’s team across the club as a whole, washes away the idea that they’re lesser because of their sex.

Those instances, not so much landmark games at men’s stadia (although a world record 91,553 fans and 3.2M+ views for the quarter-final first legs on DAZN’s Youtube channel is nothing to sniff at), but just having shirts able to be customised not just with the women’s team players/numbers but the addition of their league badge or sponsor (should it be different), or an extra star or less above the badge to denote their achievements. It’s a failing on the part of many teams and manufactures, that wantonly sees them turning down extra revenue as well as keeping their women’s teams down. Forgotten.

The way to change the perceptions around women’s sport is to do the small things, to teach the youth of today that there’s no men’s football or women’s football.

There’s just football.

That way, they can make their own minds up about teams and players and maybe, teach their children the same. Change doesn’t happen overnight, in fact it can trundle on at a frustratingly glacial pace, but over time, even the most inconsequential of trickles can form a reservoir.

The biggest charity you can show to the women’s game is normalising it, it’s just that simple.