Equal opportunities in sport

We had a very interesting discussion at work today, when I brought up the idea that you should do away with separate competitions for men and women, and just have one unisex league.

Football is a great example of this. Women’s football is not a popular sport by pretty much any measure. Faye White, captain of the England team reportedly earns £16,000 a year. That is just above minimum wage and for the most part, even women in the top flight of their profession cannot earn anything other than what would be considered a semi-professional wage, having to have another job as well.

Women’s football is barely televised, if at all. Not to mention garnering little respect from people like FIFA president Sepp Blatter who suggested that women should “wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts… to create a more female aesthetic” (and you didn’t think it was possible to lose any more respect for Sepp Blatter 😉 ).

There is a simple solution to this problem.

Just combine men’s and women’s football into one unified league structure.

This is much more inline with equal opportunities. At the moment, women are absolutely and unreservedly banned from competing in the top flight of football of earning a professional football’s wage, entirely because of their gender. Even if a woman was the best player in the world, she would be limited to playing in a league which earns less than half what I do and receiving very little exposure.

Allowing both genders to complete in the same league means that everyone gets the chance to complete on a level playing field, based on their ability.

Now, to address some of the concerns.

Firstly, the idea that women aren’t as strong as men. This is somewhat of an issue in football, but far more clear in other sports (boxing or hammer throw for example). But this doesn’t matter. When it comes to equal opportunities, you need to give everyone the same chance, and some people are always going to be better than overs.

You could argue it is better for a woman to compete on the top flight of women’s football than a lower tier of a mixed gender league system, but I disagree. Separating the leagues presents a ceiling to which they cannot rise above, no matter how prestigious people might try to suggest it is.

Secondly, the idea that women aren’t as good as men. It is true that the top flight of women’s football isn’t the same standard as men’s, but that could be down to a number of factors. Women are unable to complete in professional men’s football, so don’t have the opportunity to play week in week out against top competition. Society generally has a bias towards men playing football (not helped by the fact that only men are allowed to play in the top leagues). Statistically, more men play football than women, so statistically you’re also going to get a better standard.

But none of these reasons say that women can’t play football as well as men, it just says that in the current setup in society, they generally don’t. But again, it presents a level playing field it you give everyone the same chance.

I think it is also worth considering that a lot of people simply aren’t going to make it, female or male. You can make the argument that women would never make it into the World Cup squad in a combined league, but then neither would I. I’m not that good at football. I used to play for my school team, I trained, but I was never that good, let alone world standard.

Yet nobody says, “well we should have a separate world cup for geeks, because they can never compete with real men.” Why? Because we’re given the same opportunity. If I had the skill we could be up there. Whereas a woman who did have the skill, couldn’t.

Finally however, you don’t have to have to accept it as a perfect solution. It isn’t. Women would really, really struggle to make it into the top flight of football (though we can’t say for sure because women don’t have the same opportunities to train up through the professional system as men do).

But, all it has to do is be better than the current system.

Even if women only made it into league one or two, they would still earn more than they can at the moment. They would be able to compete in games which were televised more and gain far more exposure, encouraging more girls to participate in sport. Finally, it would make things more equitable because everyone would have the chance to compete, based on ability, in the same competition.



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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 12:25 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.