World Cup Wonders

World Cup Wonders

08 July 2015 | Lloyd Hughes

The women’s football World Cup has been great PR for the sport. The people of England, long fed up with the poor showing of the men in major tournaments had a refreshing taste of (almost) footballing success. Although the team fell agonisingly short, with a terribly unlucky own goal in the semi finals, the overall reputation has been given a huge boost.

In the past I’ve often been disdainful of the quality of women’s football. This disdain stemmed from an early age. I was on holiday in America and aged about 14 when a women’s match happened to be on TV whilst we were eating in a restaurant. I remember turning to my dad at the time open-mouthed at how poor the standard of play was.

This wasn’t down to an innate sexism, as being a huge fan of the game I was entirely open minded towards the possibility of watching it, but within 15 minutes my opinion of women’s football was negatively entrenched for the next 15 years. The gulf between first class men’s football and first class women’s seemed so vast as to be practically different sports, and one that I had no desire to watch again. It meant I barely gave it a second glance from then on in.

Fast-forward to 2015 and this World Cup has been a revelation. There’s still a big gap between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Alex Morgan’s Portland Thorns, but the gap has got considerably narrower. I found myself watching women’s football and genuinely appreciating the level of ability on show, something which I wouldn’t have thought likely as little as a month ago.

Having watched some of the football I’m sure many onlookers would have felt the same. The game has improved hugely and this World Cup has served to put the women’s teams on a well-deserved pedestal. England finally beating Germany at a major tournament finals has certainly helped.

But if anyone thought football was heading in a gender-neutral direction, reality bit following a well-meaning tweet from the official England Twitter account. It read: “Our-Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes.” Now, I understand that the person who tweeted it probably wasn’t aiming to give offence, but it’s breathtakingly belittling.

The saying “get back in the kitchen, love” is a sexist’s cliché and this tweet smacks exactly of that sentiment. The FA defended it by saying that the wording was taken from a wider article about the players being reunited with their families, which made it appear out of context. This may well be true and does go someway to explaining it, but it serves to demonstrate the perils of social media and the dangers of a poorly thought out tweet.

I’m sure the tweeter read the article and thought it would be a nice sound bite to tweet out, but then the backlash came. Good PR to women’s football, but bad PR from a social media point of view. It really does pay to analyse everything you post.