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Is Women’s Professional Football like Chocolate Syrup Covered Pizza?

September 24, 2009

lindsay-tarpley_45941

Yes, ridiculous title I know.

But I love reading something that makes me think about the topic for the rest of the day and that’s exactly what our new writer Sarah’s article on the State of the Women’s Game in England did for me today.

Initially I said the problem with the lack of interest in the sport lies with society and not women’s football itself.  Well, I changed my mind (woman’s prerogative).  We need to stop pointing the finger at men, and perceived unfairness in society, ladies.  You know the saying- trying to change someone else will see you beating your head into a brick wall.  But we certainly do have the power to change ourselves…

Suppose you are a chef and you’ve created a dish composed of pizza covered in chocolate syrup.  Genius, right?  People love pizza, people love chocolate….. but for some reason the public has no taste for your creation. You can spend hours in the kitchen perfecting your dish.  You can even make the best damn choco-pizza in the entire world.  But you’re still not selling.  What do you do?  Blame the public for not seeing the potential deliciousness in something so odd sounding or mandate that for every monetary unit spent by the general public on pepperoni pizza must be matched by that spent on yours, or do you market the hell out of your choco-pizza?

Exactly.

And this is what needs to be done….and yes, the onus is on the sport of women’s football.  Men, you are excused……

Firstly, I’m separating youth football from professional.

I’m lucky in that there is absolutely no shortage of support or interest in youth football for girls in the USA.  Every SUV in the DC suburbs will be parked at some recreational ground on a Saturday afternoon whilst “soccer moms” and “clipboard dads” armed with coolers full of sliced oranges and Capri-Suns gather in droves to watch little Suzie kick the ball about.  Interest typically wanes when the child has had enough.

In England, I understand girls football hasn’t enjoyed the same level of enthusiasm.  I’ve blamed a culture that places a topless girl on the third page of their newspaper.  But really, since good old Jesminder from “Bend it Like Beckham”, about how many little girls in the UK have told everyone to swivel and “they’re going to play football no matter what anyone thinks?”  Probably not too many.  So we can point fingers at men for not showing interest, or we can promote the sport as something little girls ASPIRE to do.  Believe me, the latter would be far easier.

So leaving us with the Professional level, and a general popular disinterest on an International plane, what can be done?  It’s all about the entertainment factor really.  We know women aren’t as fast or as strong as men on a Professional level.  When they are, we have them poked and prodded until we find the hidden testes, so really, it’s just a fact…the pace of the game will be slower.  So stop comparing.  We’re not selling pepperoni pizza.  We’re selling chocolate syrup pizza, remember?

tarpley

So exactly how entertaining is a nil-nil draw between West Ham and Blackburn?  Why would I watch this Clash of the Titans in entirety?  Simple. I felt invested. Fantasy football has done wonders for my interest level.  And yes, as some of our authors can ascribe, people will bet on anything- including women’s football.

Players need to be relate-able, identifiable.  I’ve never been so up to speed on the USMNT until I followed them all on Twitter.  I’m a 26 year veteran of the sport, and I couldn’t name 3 US women’s players.  They need to get their faces out there.  The girl in the photo is Lindsay Tarpley and I think she’s lovely.  She’s not posed half nude on the cover of Maxim- she’s just an attractive girl doing what she does without causing any harm to credibility of the sport.  If a move like making Tarpley the face of the USA squad will make people notice, then I’m all for it.

We need to stop calling men pigs when really- would I stalk the website of Bristol City football club if it weren’t for Paul Hartley?  No, and I’m not a femme-chauvinist.   And Paul’s not a sell-out.  He’s not going out of his way to be sexy.  In fact as of late, the only thing he appears to be going out of his way for is being first in line when the pies are ready.  But if I started paying attention to a Championship club because maybe I fancied one of the players it’s a win-win.

Women’s football needs to create a spectator atmosphere.  As of now stadiums may sell to entire teams of 8 year old girls wearing full kit, and a few soccer mom chaperons.   I’m not inclined to attend.  Now what if a crew of rowdies started following the team?  My interest is piqued.  Redefine the target audience and we’ll see a shift in interest.

And we market.  We push the product.  We get celebrities in adverts scarfing down chocolate syrup pizza.  The masses will follow.

This post is long enough, so I’m stepping off now.  But ladies, we’re responsible for our own successes and failures.  Put heads together and push the product.

Maybe chocolate syrup pizza will be all the rage one day.

So what do you think?  Am I out of my ever-loving mind?  Go on, I didn’t sugar coat anything, so it’s open season.

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. Shallowgirl permalink
    September 24, 2009 7:19 am

    I think this is a really good article and very thought-provoking. I see girls/women playing football every week at our local club and I’ve tried so hard to put my finger on why I don’t enjoy it and it has basically come down to “it just doesn’t look right”. Yes, not very enlightening I know. I can’t help but compare it to the boys/mens game and that’s where it suffers. It’s not as fast, physical, fit as the mens, but I think it goes deeper than that. Men’s football isn’t just a game it’s being part of a team, it’s camaraderie, smelly dressing rooms, war, aggression, going to the pub to drown your sorrows and a host of other things that the girls game just doesn’t seem to engender. Can the comparisons ever be erased, I don’t think so, because it will never be as good to watch, however technically able they are. I personally don’t like to see girls behaving like men as so many of them do, our physiques aren’t built that way, we don’t look right “getting stuck in!” Perhaps I’m just living up to my name!

    • September 24, 2009 9:59 am

      I think you are livin up to your name Miss Shallowgirl! ;-)

      Two huge points to make from KP’s article and Shallowgirls response

      Firtsly, im a little sick of this men and women separatism. Women should not have to drive their product simply because men do not…its all based on half truths. I believe it is about a collective responsibility (im talking about sport at the youth and amateur level..not the pros) If we focus on the feminist leaning then this issue will become warped…do we want 90,000 females watching 22 women on a pitch? thats as absurd as saying there are only men at every football game in the Prem (id say its about 60/40 at Old Trafford where i sit)
      Professionally wise, if the womens game is not popular then fine, its all about taste. But the quality of that product is indelibly effected over here by the lack of opportunity that girls get compared to boys, and that is for men and women to ALL take responsibilty for. Truth is that Chocy covered Pizza would taste like crap, so we stick with what we think is good. The womens game does not have to be as popular as the mens, but it cant be compared to an indigestable American food stuff. Thats too harsh.

      Secondly, Shallowgirls you need to drop the connection between the two codes of gender, but its perfectly fine to like the mens game and not the womens. But i hate all this it doesnt lookk right bull…what doesnt ‘look right’. Preconception clouds your thoughts i think. Be tolerant and accept.

      So girls get your kit on and enjoy the game like the boys do. You may not be able to play for Man Utd one day but you should enjoy the sport all the same. Its the taking part that counts

      • September 24, 2009 12:22 pm

        I’d say that considering my pets have Manchester United collars, someone is indeed marketing the mens game and driving the product. :-)

        And choco pizza was used as one of our own writers even once claimed the “oddity” of women’s football was “cringe worthy” and truly, that’s not an uncommon sentiment.

        It’s an odd dish to some people. Disgusting even. An acquired taste. And that’s the cold hard truth.

        So we either change up our dish, change the popular opinion by tweaking things here and there, or we live with the current mentality, because believe me, it would be a hell of a lot easier to change up some of the marketing of the game than to expect entire cultures to revolutionize.

      • Shallowgirl permalink
        September 24, 2009 2:20 pm

        Rob I can’t drop the gender thing when we constantly have comparisons in the press over England’s women playing the Germans, and what a huge contest that is, when the men have EARNED the right to that over decaded of blood, sweat and tears. The women have to earn their own contests (same goes for The Ashes. I appreciate what you’re saying about not thinking of the two things as the same but how do we do that. I was thinking it may be better if the girls develop their own “spin-off” of the game so no comparisons can be made, i.e. playing in indoor arenas, say 6-a-side, on astro, where they can show off their technical skills, rather than slogging it out on wet, muddy pitches like men in the lower leagues have to, which requires, sometimes, huge stamina. Believe me, I’m all for the girls playing but I just don’t ever see the day when a bunch of blokes spend all week talking about the upcoming match, spending their hard-earned money to buy a ticket, congregating in the pub for post match celebrations/commiserations etc., and I also don’t believe (as a woman) that women/girls will turn out to watch women play (unless they play themselves)or they’re family and friends, when we can watch the men. I just can’t separate the two games, my problem I know.

        As for “it doesn’t look right”, here comes my great big clumsy foot. We’ve got boobs and hips, which make us run “more awkwardly”, we don’t have the same muscle structure, we don’t like being smashed in the face with balls, or being kicked til we’re black and blue, I watch girls every week, they duck and flap to avoid being hurt. I’m sorry but I watch and it’s a fact! Obviously, the top of the game it’s different but that has to come from grass roots.

        I suppose, when it comes down to it, it is a question of money and if people will go and watch. I know that the blokes/women that turn out week after week at my club in all weathers, won’t.

        Develop a spin-off I say and make it a sport in it’s own right. Criteria: Dry, warm, fast-paced (artificial surface), small-sided, needing great technical skills (which we are good at).

        Right, now off to take cover…

      • September 24, 2009 2:29 pm

        Boobs and hips? Where? Sign me up!
        Believe me though, if girls have been playing since youth NOTHING looks awkward about the way we run or kick. And you have a manager ping rock hard footballs at your head from a ball machine for an hour and every time you duck you run sprints, you learn very quickly not to. *Love you, Doc. Best coach ever and he coached Mia Hamm too :-)

        Anyway, like I’ve said. Work with your system and package the game accordingly.
        England is a little more…. I guess old school? Fine. Make the sport look more glamourous. Hello little girl, do you want to stay fit? Want to look like Lindsay Tarpley up there? Want to travel and make great girl friends?
        Football is the answer!
        Get little Suzie into training and lo and behold she loves playing the sport.

        And I’m a pissy prissy to the extreme but god if some of my teammates didn’t pray for mud. Gorgeous, feminine girls who liked playing in mud. Actually, youd think the lads would want a gander at that one.

        It can get gross and sweaty. So can sex. And I’ve got no complaints.

  2. September 24, 2009 11:44 am

    Comparing women’s football to choc covered pizza is excellent! Because I would actually eat it.

    And I’ve decided that I would contradict myself one more time because while I do not wish for women’s football to resort to using sexy outfits and showing skin to bring fans in, I realised after posting a previous comment about it that its precisely the reason why I followed tennis in the first place! In fact, I even gleefully wrote an article on WDKF in its infancy years about the female referee in Brazil who posed nude for playboy!

    So yes, I’d like to order some Choc covered pizza with extra cheese in medium crust (I like a bit of meat in girls!)

    • September 24, 2009 11:51 am

      You’d eat chocolate covered pizza?

      • September 24, 2009 12:23 pm

        He’d watch women’s football?

        It’s sad but this weirdo simile I chose is really how some people view the sport.

        You’d whhhhaaattt??

      • September 24, 2009 12:26 pm

        Lol!

        It was more the thought of sweet and savoury together that made me wanna gag that’s all!

      • September 24, 2009 6:01 pm

        Certainly. I’ve always been one who’s up for anything. Call me delusional, but I always think there’s always a time and place for change to happen. Maybe that time is now, especially when the highlight is on how money spent into the game is spread across the grass roots! =)

        Oh, and if you’re cooking, I’m coming!

  3. September 24, 2009 11:50 am

    The taking part is what counts, the sad thing is I bet quite a high percentage people over here don’t know we even have a women’s England team and to be honest you can’t blame them for that.

    The recent women’s Euro’s ONLY got media coverage over here ONCE they had got to the final! It’s not giving a great influence to the future girls of the game.

    Women’s football is finally taking the FA’s notice but it’s with the realisation that our English players are moving to America to ply their trade that has made them think about setting up a new women’s league here. Four English players have already left for America and another two have been invited to go just this week.

    It would be far fetched I know for women and men to be treated equally, as it is a society problem but at least give the women’s team the credit they deserve.

    • September 24, 2009 12:42 pm

      There may be more opportunity to continue play at higher levels over here, but it’s still not widely visible. I vaguely remember hearing something about a women’s professional league coming back.
      And without ticket sales, these girls can be the best, most talented, hardest working players in the world, but they’re still going to make peanuts for a living and that, I think, may be a major factor when asking little girls if they want to go pro one day.
      I don’t. Because my current job probably pays 4 times more than a pro footballer’s salary.
      So, to Rob’s point….Here we are, a nation Chock full of little girl footballers and not many ever want to go pro. What’s in it for them?
      And Sarah, your women’s game sounds like our men’s game here. Our men ship off to other countries to better themselves because MLS league is piss poor and other than 15-20 players, nobody makes much money even though stadiums do sell. But our men are FIFA ranked 11. So it’s working.
      So fingers crossed. Maybe its a slow roll, but the English girls may come back to the UK after honing skills in the US and it’s their responsibility to spread the word. If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around……

      • September 24, 2009 1:09 pm

        “So, to Rob’s point….Here we are, a nation Chock full of little girl footballers and not many ever want to go pro. What’s in it for them?”

        yeah this is where money blights an issue. Personally, i would have chosen a football career with minimum wage than earning big dollars in the profession i do. Its a choice. Money doesn’t motivate me in that way, so salary wouldn’t be om the agenda. It depends on whether you want to be a professional sports person or not…i would have jumped at the chance but only made it to a good youth level.
        The point still goes back to the opportunity to play football. In the US you get that opportunity. Over her the girls don’t..and if they do they have to fight through all sorts of shit…just to kick a ball. Alot of my American friends have always said that..ahem…soccer..is a junior sport for kids, and not a serious ‘go on and play at college level’ sport..a la basketball, gridiron, etc. I understand that about America. It has its primary sports. I don’t understand why you get given a hard time just because you drop the sport at the mid teens.

        Oh and those FIFA rankings are bloody bull. How fifa add the points up is beyond me. They had Mexico at 6th at the last world cup…and now Russia are 6th and Australia are 14th! What rubbish! The US have improved massively tho in recent years..good team now

  4. September 24, 2009 1:22 pm

    Oh and who is that in the main picture at the top…..Hawt!

    Look, all women play topless, and the female code of the game becomes the greatest, most popular sport in the universe! Yay!!!

    Who needs talent when youve got…talent*

    *disclaimer: joke

    • September 24, 2009 2:01 pm

      Lindsay Tarpley. 26 years old. And I chose her photo cause she is hot. But she’s hot whilst playing football, not hot while being a skank *ahem Heather Mitts total sell out*

      But here’s an idea. I’m going on about how we who want to see women’s football gain some support and following need to make the changes but this article is just lip service.

      I guess one of the good things about the state of the game right now is that these girls are probably accessible. So here’s a thought: A bi-weekly “get to know your girls” type thing and maybe they’ll even do an interview. Use my ties with this website to actually DO something.

      Maybe if people knew more about the ladies or even fancied one of them, they’d be more likely to follow from time to time.

      Right on the BBC football page is an entire section devoted to the women. Now to get people to click the link…

      • September 24, 2009 2:20 pm

        Like the idea KP..make it happen

        sex sells…girl fans like yourself can like football AND fancy the players…maybe we could get a mirrored version of that happening…do all these girl players have twitters?

        Im soo about to google Lindsay Tarpley. She could be my Hartley! minus facial hair

      • September 24, 2009 2:25 pm

        Rob, google Rachel Unitt.

      • September 24, 2009 6:11 pm

        OMG RACHEL!!

        Ok I’m a red, hot-blooded male. Show me Rachel anytime!

  5. Shortbus permalink
    September 24, 2009 2:13 pm

    I don’t know much about the Woman’s pro league here, seen a few seconds of a few matches on FSC. Heard one match commentator remark how the St. Louis(my home town) team played rough and hard, I kinda liked that.
    That being said, what I do know is that all the days, nights and hours spent on taking our Daughters to soccer practices and games, tournaments paid of well when both received full athletic scholarships to College.
    This was the payoff from watching 2 little Girls grow up in shin pads instead of ballet shoes.

    • September 24, 2009 2:21 pm

      I commend you shortbus! Id be happy for my girls to wear shinpads

    • September 24, 2009 2:39 pm

      Congrats to your daughters! Full ride is no joke. They must be fantastic and nice that Dad was supportive :-)

  6. September 24, 2009 2:24 pm

    Lindsay has a blog!

    http://lindsaytarpley5.com/

    see how im on first name terms already?

    • September 24, 2009 2:30 pm

      And she’s on twitter!

      http://twitter.com/lindsaytarpley

      • September 24, 2009 2:33 pm

        LINDSAY! LINDSAY!
        Ok, let’s bombard her. Maybe we can get an interview.
        Pioneers of women’s footer promotion. Go WDKF.

      • September 24, 2009 6:13 pm

        Go for it KP! I don’t see why we can’t start having posts about the USWNT!

        And maybe even start following them on Twitter!

    • September 24, 2009 2:32 pm

      Love it. See? I’m not against putting some of the most attractive girls as faces of the team. I was going to put Heather Mitts up but her first 10 images on google search were her posing in push up bras and not on the pitch. Fail.
      Anyway, Roberto. Maybe I’ll look for an interview with Miss T unless you want the lead on that :-P

      • September 24, 2009 2:45 pm

        You go for it KP. And lets not discriminate against Miss Mitts..i just googled her…holy Mary mother of God. If youve got it flaunt it…but only if Maxim are gonna pay you a shed load of cash. Maybe she just gets real warm and doesnt like clothes?

      • Shallowgirl permalink
        September 24, 2009 2:49 pm

        Point taken (see above). I just don’t think our Englishness will ever accept it. You’re way ahead in America with girls football and I’m not sure the english pysche will ever adapt to it. Attempts to introduce baseball, basketball, american football have all fallen by the wayside. We’re entrenched in Men’s football, rugby and cricket and we don’t seem to see the need for anything else. Happy to be proved wrong so will watch this space.

      • September 24, 2009 3:48 pm

        Shallowgirl, I agree. The collective English psyche won’t accept right now. Not as is. Repackage and resell instead of waiting for a change in your “lads will be lads” society.
        As for saying that “Men’s football isn’t just a game it’s being part of a team, it’s camaraderie, smelly dressing rooms, war, aggression, going to the pub to drown your sorrows and a host of other things that the girls game just doesn’t seem to engender.”….girl, I couldn’t disagree with you more.

        At uni, our manager lined us all up and sprayed us head to toe with febreeze just so we could get on the bus to go back to the hotel and shower. I graduated uni in 2002 and just last month, 7 years later, I had dinner with the girls I played with at school. We will always have camaraderie. We partied together. Oh did we party together. Party mixers with the lads team, with the men’s rugby team.
        Any good coach will tell you there is a difference in the psychology of male and female athletes by enlarge. So use it to advantage. We had team building exercises that would probably make men laugh hysterically. But it worked for us.
        And it can work in England or any other country.

  7. Ben permalink
    September 24, 2009 5:45 pm

    How interesting is a draw between West Ham and Blackburn?

    That’s the key here. While there are some people who will watch any football, many people only go out of their way to watch ‘their’ side. And people will watch the side they support almost regardless of the quality. Hence the problem is that very few – if any – people have sufficient emotional attachment to any women’s sides to want to watch them.

    I think women’s football should be marketed with one eye on existing rivalries.

    I don’t watch women’s football… but if it was taken seriously I might be tempted to watch, say, a Manchester United Women’s team thrash Manchester City’s.

    • September 24, 2009 8:32 pm

      Good point Ben..with you 100%

      I would watch womens football all the time if there was a Man Utd female team!!!

      Will see ya against Wolfsburg pal..I will get there early, wot time you getting there? Did you still want my ticket for the Blackburn game?

  8. March 30, 2010 12:12 pm

    I am a mother of a young girl that at the age of 8 started to play football, now she is 12 and build a brilliant fame for herself as a goalkeeper. All this did not came easy but with a lots of sacrify from her part and a lots on my part as a single parent i had to give up my weekends to taker her everywhere and as a working executive during the week was not easy.
    She had to work really hard and keep fit and healthy like any other athelefood prohibition no fast food not un healthy stuff.
    So please give due what is due does a matter she is a woman she is sacrifing for her dream of a sport person.

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