The recent success of the England women’s football team in the World Cup resulted in a wave of audience and media interest in what has long been regarded as a minority sport by large sections of the mainstream media.
Of course you’d be unlikely to hear that condescending term used publicly. After all, for many years it’s been claimed that the game is one of the fasting growing sports in the UK.
But don’t get carried away by the hype either or hold your breath for women’s football to be featured by Gary Lineker on Match of The Day just yet either.
Even the most ardent women’s football fan knows the standard of play has some way to go before it’s anywhere near the same level as the men’s game. But that’s just not the point. In fact it’s irrelevant. But I mention it because there is often an assumption that many people mistakenly make when assessing the future of the game.
Women’s footy is quite different and it’s unfair to make too many comparisons given the maturity of the game and its relatively recent growth as a sport.
The big win for the game following the success of England and the accompanying media coverage (the BBC 3 audience achieved a live peak of 2.3 million) will hopefully include more girls taking up the game as a sport or a spectator.
To coin an old coaching cliche, “it’s a marathon not a sprint” and while the sport certainly is progressing, the short-term goal must surely be to attract more attendances at league level while build on club and national success on the field.
It would seem that the game’s proponents are cautiously optimistic that crowds at Women’s Super League level will improve after the World Cup success and accompanying media profile.
Wanted – a female Gazza
But all this is pretty obvious stuff. What the game really needs to propel it to the next stage is,like any other form of mass entertainment, are a few big personalities who can perform on the pitch AND in front of the microphone with the very best becoming the Gabby Logans and Kelly Cateses of the future.
It’s down to the individuals themselves and their agents to make sure they that they’re trained by top media coaches so they’ll be taken up as presenters, pundits and commentators when their careers end. The game needs its top performers to do the business on and off the pitch to continue the momentum which is clearly there at present.
Last year the BBC Trust urged the corporation to tackle its gender imbalance so one would hope that this greater awareness means there will be more opportunities in throughout its services and in the commercial sector.
Really top presenters can’t be manufactured, any more than footballers, but they can be coached. And over time the personalities will emerge and the media will hopefully latch on to them.
Having watched a number of the England World Cup games and the qualities shown by a number of the players on the pitch, say USA’s Carli Lloyd or England’s Fara Williams, the future is looking is certainly looking promising.
I have no idea whether either player has any media ambitions after their current career but surely someone should be looking at the potential female media stars of the future and collaring them now and coaching them with a view to improving their media profile whether that’s in relation to women’s football any other genre.
(And if not, my contact details are on this page!)
Gary Lineker was a good interviewee during his football career – not particularly outstanding or memorable but certainly articulate. But he had a interest in the media while still a player, continued this active interest when he retired and showed the same determination to achieve his current status.
The fact that he was a world-class-striker-turned-presenter gave added credibility to an already credible Match of the Day and it was an inspired decision to give him the job as anchor when there was a plethora of seasoned presenters no doubt ready to jump at the job.
Not only did Lineker have the personality and the on-air talent, he’d been a top footballer and that gave him an added advantage against the competition. He didn’t have to work at his fame he already had it. He could easily have blown it but he had the talent, determination and no doubt bit of luck to get to the top.
Is there an equivalent in the women’s game today? And if there is, hopefully good media coaches are guiding them as we speak.
Someone who could become the face of Women’s Football – it’s a great opportunity for someone out there.
All it needs is the players to plan ahead and the broadcasters to spot the potential when the opportunity pops up.
Over to you BBC, ITV, Sky, BT, ESPN….etc