From The PSL Soccer Desk: Respect…Or A Lack There Of

admin Last updated on: February 17, 2024

The simplest question that someone can ask to open up communication is, “why?” So let me start by asking this, “Why is there such a lack of respect shown to women’s soccer?”. There are no easy answers to this question, but here are the most commonly heard. ‘It’s soccer,’ ‘It’s a women’s sport,’ ‘They aren’t as good as the men,’ ‘No one will pay to watch a bunch of women play soccer.’ I hear these answers all the time, but where is the foundation of their answers coming from? In the United States, soccer is the fastest growing sport in terms of participation and attendance, especially in the women’s game. You have the number one ranked Women’s National Team in the world, and yet they are not given the same respect that their male counterparts are.

When the US Women came home from the 2011 Women’s World Cup after a heartbreaking loss to Japan, they were greeted by thousands of fans. You would have thought that they won the World Cup, so why is it that they don’t get the respect that the men do?  Why are they not featured on magazine covers? Why is it that when in the 2012 London Olympic Gold Medal game, more than 80,000 people came out to witness history, and yet no one seemed to care? When you have more than 80,000 people packed into Wembley Stadium for a women’s soccer game, that is saying something; the women’s game is here to stay. The Olympic aftermath saw the formation of a new women’s professional league, the NWSL which begins play in April, and a 10 game Fan Tribute Tour. Each of those 10 games that the US Women embarked on set attendance records for a women’s soccer game.  So why where they not shown on TV or even given a stream? Now, don’t misunderstand me most of the games were televised, but why does it seem like a struggle for ESPN, Fox Soccer or even NBC Sports to televise these games? There certainly is a market for this team, and all they want is to see their Women’s National Team.

The struggles for acceptance in the women’s game is not just in the US, it’s happening all over the world. When the Women’s National Team funding is cut because they need to concentrate on the Men’s team, when governing bodies don’t see the value in promoting and strengthening their women’s programs, is this where the future of women’s sports is heading? It has been over 35 years since Title IX was passed in the US, and still the respect for women’s sports has a long way to go. Things are certainly looking up however. Season ticket sales for the NWSL teams is higher than anyone could have hoped for, with the Portland Thorns selling over 3,000 already.

One of my biggest complaints is when you see a report that states, “The stands were full of screaming teenagers eager to see Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach take the field,” That may be true, there may be stands full of screaming teenagers at US Women’s matches, but what about the rest of the fans? Don’t they count at all? There is a stigma that states that the majority of US Women’s National Team fans are teenagers. I would like to erase that stigma if I could. Teenagers are fans of the US Women, yes, but lets not forget the other fans, the adult fans. When I look through the stands and the fans that I see at a US Women’s game, I see more adults than I do teenagers. There is a dedicated group of adult supporters, the Back 4 Patrioteer, that travel to more games to support the US Women than a teenager could possibly hope to ever see. While it is about being role models to the next generation and all of that, let’s not forget who spends their hard earned money supporting a team that they love.

Recently I saw an article about the “Tom Sermanni Era” with US Soccer. While the article did point out a lot of good facts, the author failed to do their homework on the team. The fact that they stated Amy Rodriguez was left off the 2013 roster even though she is a pretty good goal scorer and implied that she was not good enough to make a Sermanni team. If the author had done their homework, or even knew the slightest thing about the US Women’s National Team, they would have known that Rodriguez is not on the roster because she is pregnant and expecting her first child in August. That same author, in a different piece, tried to compare the US Women to the US Men. While I liked the concept of the article, that is all that I liked about it. If you are going to compare the US Women to the US Men, lets not try to compare fan bases especially when you don’t have the first clue as to what the US Women’s fan base is. Yes, the US Women have won more World Cups. Yes, the US Women are ranked number one in the world. What the author failed to do was acknowledge that the popularity of the US Women is on the rise. All the article did was take a magnifying glass to the struggles of the US Men, and barely touch upon the US Women except to say that their teenage fans love them.

We seem to be trapped by an “old boys” way of thinking when it comes to women’s sports. Women’s soccer is not the only victim of this however. Look at the struggles that the WNBA went through to finally have games televised on a regular basis. Look at the number of years it took for them to be sustainable. If we are ever going to grow and evolve as a nation when it comes to equal rights and respect for women’s sports, then the “old boys” network needs to come to an end. The idea that more people would rather watch a men’s sporting event than a women’s is a thing of the past. The generation that grew up in the 1990′s and 2000′s are going to be the leaders that will turn the table’s around. Title IX was a huge step for women’s athletics in this country, but now is a time to build off of what Title IX did and take things to the next level.

Being a supporter of the women’s game, especially in soccer, you are really in the minority; or are you?  With the rise in popularity of women’s soccer, it should only be a matter of time before they are treated with the same respect that their male counterparts are. Women are just as good as men at soccer, and the US Women’s National Team is proof of that, but it’s not just the US Women that are making that point either. When you look at the FIFA World Rankings out of the Top 15 in the world on the men’s and women’s side, only Germany and England are both there. In some countries the men’s game is stronger, while in others the women’s game is stronger. Why is it so hard to respect both the men’s and women’s games equally? A turning of the tide is coming and the “old boys” club is in jeopardy of being phased out, hopefully for good. Women’s soccer deserves the same respect that Men’s soccer gets.

It’s time for the respect that Women’s soccer deserves to become a reality.

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