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‘Women’s Football’ must become ‘Football’: What can Social Media do?

Source: theargus.co.uk

“Molly, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Two-year-old Molly smiles into the camera and screams, “a footballer!” to the Tik Tok users whose algorithms have not forgotten the Lionesses’ European Championship win. 

When ballet lessons on a Monday night became too boring for me to attend (as well as my own mother who would regularly nod off during lessons), I opted to copy my friends, whose parents had sent them to hip hop dance lessons instead. 

I am certainly not suggesting that, had my parents instead decided to send me to the local football club, I would be currently playing in Wales’s national female football squad. But with all professions and occupations alike, somebody must do it: why couldn’t it have been me? 

The most likely answer: I have two left feet and a particular tendency to trip over. However, there are many girls out there who potentially could have been international football stars by now, but they were never given the chance. Even if my parents did want me to have football lessons, it’s unlikely that there was even a mixed team when I was six years old, let alone a girls’ team. 

Source: huffingtonpost.co.uk

While 54% of girls aged 7 to 10 in the UK played football in primary school, this drops to just 33% once they attend secondary school. Outside of school, football is practically inaccessible for girls. The analysis of 8,000 grassroots football teams across England has shown that within many areas in the UK, female-only teams are close to non-existent. Speaking to my own female friends, a Friday night dance show and a termly swimming gala was a likely occurrence: but football was just for boys. 

Critics of women’s football enjoy highlighting how it supposedly pales in comparison to men’s football, yet they fail to acknowledge the significantly lower number of female football players on a global scale. However, with women’s football becoming the fastest growing sport, we could be witnessing a monumental shift in the history of the game. 

It has been six weeks since the final of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Final, yet the feelings of triumph and pride have been etched on to the virtual walls of social media platforms. With Tik Tok acting as a global sponsor of the Women’s Euros, a record number of fans were engaged with the tournament via social media. During the group stage, 152.4 million interactions were generated across the different platforms. Additionally, the top 10 social posts from the tournament accumulated over 308 million impressions: 

Top-10 social media posts (ranked by impressions)   




ENGAGEMENTS (in millions) 

Euro 2022 



WWC 2019 



*Note: Data correct as of 1st August 2022 

Chart:N3XT Sports  Source:Relo Metrics  Get the data  Created withDatawrapper 

Unfortunately, women playing football still seems to disturb a significant number of people. During the tournament’s opening match between England and Austria, over 40 abusive posts were identified. Throughout the tournament, around 46% of abusive posts were related to sexism. Despite this, for every sexist comment on social media, there were 125 positive comments. 

I spoke to Mr Edward Harvey, my local football team’s chairperson, who explained how the Football Association of Wales has been campaigning for an increase in grassroots girls’ football teams. Social media coverage of the women’s Euros this year has certainly provoked more parents and young girls to join the stream of people campaigning to break the gender barrier within football. 

After advertising for a girls’ local football Funday on Facebook, an overwhelming number of enthusiastic responses meant that the club arranged for three sessions to take place throughout the day. Not only is social media a crucial mechanism for enabling female inspiration, but an organisational blessing for local football teams. Finally, we may witness the formation of the first girls’ football team in town. 

Spreading football fever was not limited to local organisations, but also the long list of global sponsors supporting the tournament. Nike, Visa and Volkswagen are just a few names among many on the sponsor list, as we saw social media audiences engaged months before the tournament’s opening match. 

Car manufacturer Volkswagen saw an opportunity to highlight how ‘women’s football’ and ‘football’ are categorised as entirely separate. By using the additional qualifier ‘women’s’, Volkswagen has expressed how football, as played by women, has not been treated as ‘real’ football. Through social media campaigns like this one, we are finally witnessing an increase in the conversation surrounding the lack of respect for women in football: and, by virtue, all women. 

As well as this campaign post, Volkswagen has used a multitude of digital channels to spark and maintain individuals’ interest in the tournament, as well as the sexist double standards that still permeate the industry. Notably, a YouTube video created by Volkswagen explains the prevalence of gender norms within the world of football. 

With big brand names like Volkswagen and LinkedIn using their platforms to support the women’s EURO 2022 tournament, just their presence alone is enough to generate interest. LinkedIn’s vice president Ngaire Moyes has commented on the platform’s desire to promote gender inclusivity in football, generating further conversation surrounding the plight of women in football, 

“At LinkedIn we’re championing a gender-equal world that’s diverse and inclusive, and it’s a privilege to support UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 which actively shares and celebrates these values. The tournament is set to be a landmark event that will provide professional female footballers with a platform to showcase their remarkable talent and achievements.” 

However, while big brands seem to be doing their bit, some individuals have highlighted the level of hypocrisy surrounding their social media solidarity for women in football. While LinkedIn, Volkswagen and Tik Tok are eager to champion the women’s Euros, some individuals have expressed how each company must do more to champion the plight of their own female workers as highlighted by the gender pay gap within their own ranks. 

Social media has an immensely important role to play in raising the profile of women’s football, as well as defeating sexist stereotypes that remain embedded within football culture. While Global sponsors are crucial for generating interest, social media at an individual level has enabled users to share their uplifting at-home reactions to the nation’s favourite football stars taking the stage. 

As we witness a major boost to girls’ grassroots football teams, particularly in the UK, Manchester United’s Aoife Mannion has described the 2022 Euros as a ‘catalyst’, bringing women’s football to the ‘forefront of people’s minds’ . With the FA’s aim to get 120,000 women playing football by 2024, social media can facilitate the decisive interactions needed to change the face of football for good. 

Lucy Thomas 

Lucy is an undergraduate BSc Politics and International Relations student at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests include social stratification and international political theory.

Linkedin: /in/lucy-thomas



‘Women’s Football’ must become ‘Football’: What can Social Media do? Reviewed by Lucy Thomas on Monday, October 03, 2022 Rating: 5
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