A Bird’s Eye View: The BBC Tackles Sexism In Football

Ian

Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Great piece Jenni. As much as ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ were (and still are) my fave Sociology topics at Uni, I deliberately avoided the show for two reasons: Firstly, the presenter Gabby Logan. I’ve always found her unexceptional and little more than ‘eye candy’ for what is a predominantly male viewership. In fact I’d suggest her broadcasting career has actually blossomed ‘because’ and not ‘despite’ of sexism in sport, but that’s just my opinion. If the excellent Caroline Barker had fronted that would be different, but she’s not yet been on Strictly Come Dancing so there you go.
    Secondly, like you I thought the question and title was a bit daft. Of course football is sexist. And homophobic. And probably in some quarters still racist (ssshhh!) but are these things actually ‘hate’ or ‘discrimination’, or merely ignorance and stupidity? I’ve been involved with Weymouth FC as a fan, match reporter, forum moderator, supporters trust bod and director, and let’s face face it, football is hardly a breeding ground for the next generation of PhDs.
    Obviously I can’t imagine how I’d feel in the situations you cited but they were certainly very familiar, even as a bloke. But was the player with the not-so-smart phone actually discriminating against women, or just being a young lad with his young mates and the IQ of a potato? Likewise the (mainly older generation) Muff fans who still refer to black away players as ‘the darkie’. Is that actual hatred, discrimination or a rather naïve point of identification in a team of mainly white and unfamiliar players?
    Thanks again for an enjoyable read, for diverting me from what I should be working on, and reminding us of the unfortunate fact that female physios will still be hearing ‘get yer tits out for the boys’ for many years to come no matter how often Gabby Logan does a documentary.

  2. Steve says:

    Thought the issue was worth the time given to it by the documentary although the above article is more informative. This is due to the fact that the prominence given to Logan and Brady in the programme only raises other questions about their position in the game. For example would Gabby Logan be presenting football if her dad hadn’t been an international of some renown (no surprise she revealed she had a good working relationship with Eddie Gray)? Is Karren Brady the right person to speak on behalf of women in football when she earned her first job at Birmingham City due to a successful stint as editor of the Sunday Sport?
    The best bits were the pieces to camera by all the other women, most of whom, like Jenni, I didn’t know beyond a byline in a newspaper. Their stories reflect the socially conservative ethos of many of those with administrative roles in the game who sadly predominate boardrooms across the country.
    One line of enquiry which was not pursued in the TV programme and may have contributed to Jenni’s negative experience with the young player, was the way the game is presented by Sky, in particular the Soccer Am view of the world which as the title of this article unwittingly reflects is one of birds, blokes, beer and banter.

  3. Rob says:

    Excellent stuff from Jenni, as ever.

    Like the other commenters, I thought the focusing of so much of the show on Gabby Logan and Karren Brady was misguided. I’m not a fan of Logan, as she always comes off as being cold and a little detached. Logan herself has a background of being a former sportsman, as well as having connections to the game through her father (and therefore her introduction into the sport wouldn’t be the norm), and in that respect it would have been better to have heard from someone who had had to start at the bottom and reach the top, without previous connections (Jacqui Oatley?). It was interesting to hear Brady’s views on sexism within the game the first time, and even the second time she spoke about them, but as the highest profile woman within the game, its a subject she gets to speak about regularly, and the time would have been better served showing perspectives from other women in the game.

    I thought the documentary missed some tricks, Vikki Orvice refused to say what the worst thing to have happened to her, but if there is any place to have mention it, this was it. Female officials were glossed over, with just a single reference each to Wendy Toms and Sian Massey. Was there really no female official prepared to speak about the subject? Even a retired one like Toms, or one given anonymity?

    I also though the show represented the fans fairly badly. We only saw the side of fans that chant “Get your tits out”, and not the positive side of the fans, such as the example of AFC Wimbledon’s Dons Trust, where three of the nine elected board members are women. I remember seeing an interview a long time ago with Wendy Toms, not long after she’d reached the Premier League, where she’d said that she didn’t appear to get the same verbal abuse as male officials, as though fans were watching their language because she was a woman. Has the reaction from the terraces towards Toms, Massey, Amy Fearn and the other officials changed now the novelty has worn off?

    I though the talk of FA members was a bit odd too. With Logan suggesting that Brady needed to be asked to join the FA Board, when the existing roles on the FA Board (ie, before the appointment of Rabbatts and Devlin) were all elected representatives of Premier League or Football League clubs That was really poor research, there, with the clues on the website for the shows research team to see, with all previous members having an annotation next to their name to denote their representation. I don’t believe Brady has ever stood for election to either the FA board, or any of the League boards.

    The fact that Logan thinks that Brady being a member of the FA Board, suggests how far removed from the views of fandom she is. When Brady has run clubs, they have had reputations for squeezing every last penny out of fans (when she ran Birmingham City, they were notorious for high prices, initiating an ‘Away membership’ scheme where you had to pay a minimum of £15 for the privilege of buying tickets for away games, and were issuing 2-3 new kits a season at a time when Manchester United were getting pilloried for issuing 3 every two years), not to mention BCFC’s long campaign to try and get Birmingham Council to build them a stadium, under the guise of the centrepoint of a sports village for the city (Olympic Stadium watchers may have noticed a pattern). Brady is an excellent businesswoman, but she’s not exactly a force for good in football.

    The appointment of Rabetts must be seen as positive, but Rabetts herself made it clear very early in her interview that she was mixed race, which gave the impression that she was there to tick boxes. Maybe the show would have been better to have been made after Rabetts had been involved in FA Board meetings . Still, tokenism or not, it’s only taken 149 to get a woman, and someone from the ethnic minorities on the FA Board. All we need now is someone to represent the people that invest most of the money into the game – the fans.

    So, all in all, a disappointing program. One that showed depressing attitudes in the game when the surface was scratched, but not one that went deep enough.

  4. Fran says:

    As usual, the group who are the least qualified to broach the issue correctly have been the first to comment – men. “I’ve always found her unexceptional and little more than ‘eye candy’ for what is a predominantly male viewership. In fact I’d suggest her broadcasting career has actually blossomed ‘because’ and not ‘despite’ of sexism in sport, but that’s just my opinion.”

    “I thought the documentary missed some tricks, Vikki Orvice refused to say what the worst thing to have happened to her, but if there is any place to have mention it, this was it”.

    “Thought the issue was worth the time given to it…”

    “are these things actually ‘hate’ or ‘discrimination’, or merely ignorance and stupidity?”

    “The fact that Logan thinks that Brady being a member of the FA Board, suggests how far removed from the views of fandom she is”.

    All of this sounds very familiar: entitled appraisals of the programme, what should “really” be covered in these men’s opinions and how it “should” be done, and opining on how women in the game should behave in tackling the issue of misogyny. The fans should be represented “more positively” – to spare anyone’s blushes, presumably. It all smacks of condescension.

    My advice to the commenters above is to learn to check your privalege. To listen, and learn, about the problem, rather than explaining to us how it should be tackled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>