• Gopika CPB

FA WSL and COVID transfers: Q&A with This Fan Girl.


By Gopika

 

During what seemed like a pretty long break from the blog, a lot of things have happened in the world of football. The transfers of USWNT players to English clubs, which some described as a “mass exodus”, is one of the several things that excited me. I got the opportunity to discuss this certain topic with the amazing Amy Drucquer, founder of This Fan Girl -- a lovely community centered in Britain for women who love football. So, unlike the other articles in this blog, this one is more of what I would like to refer to as a casual exchange of thoughts.


While most fans are looking forward to seeing what sort of an impact the world champions would be able to bring to FA WSL, some people argue that these transfers are not what the league needs at the moment. The fact that the transfers were triggered due to the pandemic and the players would probably return to NWSL by the beginning of the 2021 season, leaving England just after a few months of their arrival, is not something a group of people finds “thrilling”.

Without further ado, here are some bits from the interview with TFG:

Q: In terms of short term transfers, what do you think is in store for WSL?

Amy: “With the influx of US talent to the WSL, it feels like more eyes will be on this league than ever. Players from the WC winning US team will bring the league so much experience, and make it even more exciting to watch than ever. Will definitely add another element of competition between the teams - I'm excited to see what impact they'll have.

Although it was heart-wrenching for Britons to watch Alex Morgan sip the tea at the World Cup, her transfer from Orlando Pride to Tottenham Hotspur was indeed a cause for celebration in the country and for everyone who follows WSL. It is safe to say that it was not just Morgan who caused a wave in Europe, though, as we look at the record jersey sales of Tobin Heath and Christen Press at Manchester United.

Q: Which WSL team had the most exciting transfers during this COVID-19 transfer window? Also, what does the jersey sales of Heath and Press mean for women’s football as a whole?

Amy: “This transfer window was spicy! I almost screamed when the news broke that Alex Morgan signed for Spurs. I was most impressed with Man United though - even though they're the newest team in the league, the signings they made spoke volumes....”

“...The jersey sales of Heath and Press just proves there is an appetite, and the space and acceptance for women in football are getting better. I think for US-based Manchester United fans this might have just been excitement around having a US player on the team - not a promise to support the women's game - but it's a huge step for visibility nonetheless.

Women’s football has changed a lot in the last two decades. The environment is a bit better for players like Vivianne Miedema or Lieke Mertens than how it was for players like Formiga. It really fills my heart to see talented women from around the world fight for what they deserve in what used to be a male-dominated platform. If we, as supporters, cannot eliminate the misogyny that overshadows the sport and careers of women who push the boundaries every single day, then it is nobody else's loss but ours.

Q: How tough do you think has been the journey for women’s football from legendary players like Formiga to youngsters like Claudia Pina? And how bright of a future do you think the sport has?

Amy: “I wouldn't want to speak for the players, but in interviews, it's clear they've had to deal with things and situations their male counterparts just haven't had to. I think the thing they all have in common though is just that unwavering passion for the game - they'd be doing this even if women's football wasn't getting as big as it is. The future for women's football could be incredible - it keeps getting proven again and again that there is an appetite (the WC viewing figures, the stadiums gaining new record attendances) but the keyword is "could". There are still lots that need to be done - from sponsorship and media support to more commitment from clubs themselves. The possibilities are there and are truly endless though.

Q: Last but not least: it is really hard to eliminate gender inequality from the platform just like racism. No matter how hard people try to make football racism-free, it just lingers around. Somehow, many people have set different standards for both men’s and women’s football. What needs to change?

Amy: “I agree, and it's a really difficult one to solve that won't be changed with a marketing campaign. I think that time is a big factor - if you rewind even 5 years, things were so different. The phrase "Rome wasn't built in a day" springs to mind. I actually think there is a huge impetus on individual clubs - The Man Uniteds, the Citys, the Liverpools to do what they can to convert the expansive fan base of their men’s clubs across to the women's game...

...You look at some of their marketing communications, and they're barely talking about their women's side. If you could convert even 1% of Liverpool’s online following to start supporting (attending matches, buying tickets, covering content) on the women's game - that would be 150,000 + new fans. That would change the game for women's teams.

This is a period of revolution in women’s sports. Breaking all the shackles of gender inequality and stereotypes, women athletes from around the world are screaming at the top of their voices that this is just the beginning. We haven’t won the war of gender inequality in sports, we are just fighting our first battle but the outcome of all the blood, sweat and tears gives us hope. As a female football fan, there have been instances in my life when it was hard for me to get taken seriously. If the community divides the fans in the name of gender, we can imagine how worse the double standards conditioned for the athletes would be.

As we fight these battles, what we are left with at the end of the day are a few questions about what the people in power should do to make changes. As Amy mentioned, and I totally side with her here, successful Premier League clubs need to address their female counterparts more. What we think of as just a few posts on social media can actually have a big impact on attracting fans and planting that one seed of interest in their minds, which they will carry with them for a very long time. When there are lots of young girls around the world ready to fight their way into the game, it is up to us to support them through their growth.

After Brazil’s exit from the ’19 World Cup, Marta said that “the women’s game depends on [young players] to survive” and I really believe that it’s not just the athletes that should fight this battle rather it’s for all of us to fight it together.

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