Tackling the sexism issue in football is so important

Sexism in football was a bit obvious, wasn't it? I mean, if you need a topic for debate about our game, then racism and sexism are up at the top. Easy.

No question you could rack up enough minutes of film from the archive, put them together with a few talking heads slotted in between and, Bob's your uncle, you've got yourself a documentary. Give it a catchy title and before the audience has sussed how bad it is, a re-run of Eastenders has already started. Couch potato fodder.

There have been lamentable attempts over the years by people purporting to be football broadcasters to discuss the whys and wherefores of racism, although sexism needs a more experienced and educated hand than some buffoon who plays the part of a thug in B-list movies to explain its presence.

Racism and sexism are very different. You can get away with sexism, it seems, but football has learned, thankfully, that you cannot get away with racism.

Which leaves women in football hugely disadvantaged.

Thankfully, Gabby Logan managed to expose the game's shortcomings on Wednesday night. It could have been a tacky, seaside postcard look at examples of the way women are treated; Fifa president Sepp Blatter urging women footballers to wear sexier shirts and shorts (cue wiggly bottom on blonde girl as 'example').

But it didn't. Instead, we heard first hand the experiences from some women who had experienced sexism – sadly, Delia Smith, one of the most prominent women in the game, didn't feature. But Karren Brady did. And the West Ham vice-chairman was brilliant. There was no accusatory finger-pointing, no histrionics; instead, she wore a rather bemused smile as she tried to work out why some of her male colleagues in football should regard the presence of a woman with such disdain.

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She spoke of the day when she was unveiled as Birmingham City's new managing director in 1993. Having spoken of her vision for the club, the first question from the floor was: 'What are your vital statistics?' The worry is, if a major club unveiled a woman as a senior member of staff today, someone in the media would ask the same question.

What the programme did manage to do was divide the role of women in the game between those involved on the playing side and those on the administrative side. Professional clubs don't generally have women coaches or managers, and not many have women in the corridors of power. It's important to separate the two. Football is a game dominated by men. It's a physical game which suits men better than women. When women play to a similar standard, then more women will become involved. The women's game needs to evolve, which it has done, although perhaps not at the pace it should have done.

Lawrie Sanchez said that within the next decade, a club would appoint a woman manager. Sadly, he admitted it would perhaps not be for the right reason: it would be a gimmick, a commercial consideration, rather than a reflection of women's standing in the game. The appointment of women to senior playing or coaching roles is a long way away. The appointment of women within other parts of the game is slowly but surely happening. Brady and Delia have led the way – others must follow.

However, please let it be a natural progression. Fast-tracking women is tokenism. It doesn't help anyone's cause. It simply puts women into the game artificially. It's similar to the awful idea in American Football, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching roles.

Gabby Logan's programme made me feel uncomfortable; as BBC's Mark Chapman said, 'there but for the grace of God go I'. Have I ever acted in a way that demeans a female colleague? The inference was that us men insult women without even trying. If you've ever wondered what the local media is like then I can say I have never witnessed it. I have, though, seen with my own eyes managers who react differently when a female reporter is around. There was one who denied the local media access to any players at Colney – but allowed a female reporter to train with the players for a story.

Women working in the football media and women working in football are two very different things and, again, the distinction was made. The conclusion was the same: that there are barriers, that there is different treatment, that football believes it can get away with it because it's 'the banter'.

I took on a female footballer writer while I worked overseas, but no one batted an eyelid. She was good, she did the job in the same way that any of her colleagues would do. Fortunately, she didn't have to deal with 'the banter', the get-out clause for old-fashioned, anachronistic fools who inhabit our game.

It sounds a bit like 'my best friend's a foreigner' or 'I know a lot of gay people', but there are plenty of women in my office who can talk football with the best of them.

Sadly, not everyone in football listens.


Good to see the name of Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen – who won four gold medals when the Games were last held in London, in 1948 – won't be forgotten this summer, although it was close.

Transport for London is to produce an Olympic Legends Underground Map – but they forgot to include 'the Flying Housewife', much to the annoyance of the country's athletics governing body, who promptly filed their grievances.

But TfL have backtracked and Fanny has her place. It just means a bit of a reshuffle and rather than dropping any of the 361 Olympians to make way for Blankers-Koen, they have merged American athlete Mary Decker and her South African rival, Zola Budd, who will share a station on the next print run.

Curious that, on two fronts: neither has ever won an Olympic medal and both are famous, among other things, for their collision in the 3,000m final at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

In case you're wondering, Oxford Circus is now Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe and Lionel Messi has taken on the guise of Paddington.

Thankfully, it's only a commemorative map: for someone who has to stop and look at every option before deciding which way to go, that is a godsend.


I see Jacob Mellis, who left Chelsea after letting off a smoke bomb at their training ground, is having a trial at QPR. Sensible, really. Rangers have Joey Barton, who once stubbed a lit cigar out in a lad's eye, and Djibril Cisse, who has been sent off twice in five starts for Rangers and appears to think a two-footed tackle is acceptable. And his manager, Mark Hughes, doesn't like shaking hands with rival managers if decisions don't go his way. Nice bunch.


Don't want to throw stones in glasshouses, but had to have a laugh this week when Norwich, Norfolk, got sort of lost. The Canaries reserves played hosts to Sunderland's second string at their Colney training centre. According to the Sunderland FC website: 'Conditions in Sussex were a lot milder than in the north-east with the sun shining down on the City training centre.' Hmm. Later in the week, the Liverpool Echo ran a story on its website headlined: 'Norhwich's Wes Houlahan dreaming of 2012 trip'. Someone must have said something because the spelling of Norwich was soon corrected – although our Wes remained as 'Houlahan'. Like I say, stones and glasshouses ...


There aren't many Saturday evening football papers around these days, but enterprising Indian restaurant The Raj, in Kettering, has filled a gap in the town that has existed since the 1970s, when the Kettering Evening Telegraph's Pink Un ceased publication. A colleague – who, coincidentally, used to work on the original paper – was dining in The Raj on Saturday. When he opened the wine list he found the restaurant's own four-page 'Pink Un' inside. It included all the day's football results and scorers, in full, all the tables, and even a write-up. On the back were the golf, rugby and motorcycling results. That is what you call service.


Bluekipper.com, a website devoted to Everton Football Club, has always been one of the best of its kind. I know this one's been done before, but Bluekipper.com does have a touch more class: 'The makers of the Andy Carroll doll have issued all stockists with an urgent recall. The product is riddled with the following faults:

• Item goes to pieces in the box

• Left foot is faulty

• Barn door and banjo have not been included

• Item crumbles under weight of price tag

• Right foot is faulty

• Far cheaper substitutes readily available

• Parts may be swallowed by those gullible enough