It’s not often I am moved to graffiti, but the recent posters advertising the FA Cup are seriously tempting me. They show footballers being tackled by milkmen and firemen on the football field. The slogan is ‘The FA Cup. Where all men are equal.’
Leaving aside the absurdity of that statement (because male professional footballers are paid ludicrous figures for chasing a ball about, and firefighters risk their lives for a fraction of that money) let’s consider women’s football in the UK. I imagine very few people could name any female footballers, or tell you when and where they play, or indeed, who won last year’s Women’s FA Cup (it was Arsenal). Even at FA level, the publicity given to women’s football is small compared to that devoted to the male game.
Since women’s football was banned on Football League grounds in 1920, and not permitted again until 1971, one might argue that it does not have the same unbroken traditions as men’s football. However, I think the real reason for such a low profile is that, like many other things, the men’s version is considered to be the standard, and the women’s equivalent is seen as different, outlandish, and of interest only to a minority. It is a sobering thought that, a few generations ago, not only women’s sport but women’s education, healthcare and legal rights fell into the same category.
This advert shows symptoms of that same school of thought. It is slightly misquoting the American Declaration of Independence, which was written in an era when the meaning of ‘all men’ excluded women automatically. Using the same expression without irony today is something only a few organisations could do, and it is sad that the FA still feels able to exclude half the popultion from it’s advertising. Women are currently viewers, fans and players of football at amateur and professional levels in this country, and they are wrongly sidelined by the men’s game.
My suggestion would be an equal division of all sponsorship and advertising money between men’s and women’s teams. This would extend to cricket, rugby, and other sports where men’s matches are unfairly over-represented. Once the money was divided evenly, I am sure the media coverage would follow. I look forward to the day when I mention the FA Cup in the pub, and it is not assumed that I mean the men’s event.