Taking on the trolls: how to support the Guardian’s women’s football coverage

Reporting on women’s football is about more than just the victories and defeats. It is about changing attitudes towards female athletes and giving them the respect they deserve

Two weeks ago the Women’s European Championship kicked off with England beating Austria in front of more than 67,000 people at Old Trafford. It was a wonderful occasion and it has been followed by another 23 high-octane games featuring some of the best players in world football.

This Wednesday until Saturday the quarter-finals of this record‑breaking tournament will take place, starting with England facing Spain and finishing with the clash between Netherlands and France. All of them will be given the full Guardian Sport treatment.

The Guardian has led the way when it comes to coverage of the women’s game. In the past five years that coverage has ramped up another level and this home European Championship could well prove to be a seminal moment for the growth of women’s football in England and beyond – we have expanded our coverage to help make that happen.

This is not posturing; we recognise that for women’s football to grow it needs the best coverage and that, if the game grows, we benefit, too – through people wanting to find out more and seeking our coverage. Men’s football did not become the global beast it is today without good press coverage telling fans across the world the scores, results and team news. The media were integral to its rise, and the relationship between football and the media is mutually beneficial.

Why should we help to grow women’s football? Whenever the coverage of women’s football ramps up, so do the comments from trolls online. We are repeatedly told to “stop ramming it down people’s throats”. For some reason this minority are happy to switch over or turn the page if they are not interested in rugby, or cricket, or any other sport that benefits from national coverage, but coverage of women’s football appears to be a step too far.

These attitudes speak to a deeper ingrained misogyny towards women and their involvement in sport. The close to 50-year ban on women’s football in 1921 and the campaigning by the Football Association at that time to discredit a game that was attracting tens of thousands of fans, helped to sow the seeds (as did wider attitudes towards women in society) of the views we see and hear of today.

Sport, and football, is a very powerful thing. Just as the FA had the power to crush the women’s game, it also has the authority and tools to lift it up again. The investment into the women’s national team and the women’s domestic leagues has been part of the campaign to reverse the effects of that ban. Newspapers played their part, too. In 1921 when the ban was introduced and in 1970 when it was lifted, editorials and columnists parroted the FA line and opined on the unsuitability of women’s football. Few, if any, challenged the narrative.

Netherlands fans bring noise and colour to Leigh before their match against Portugal.
Netherlands fans bring noise and colour to Leigh before their match against Portugal. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

The road to comprehensive coverage has been a long one but step by step we are getting there. This summer I feel that our coverage has been unrivalled. From our profiles of all 368 players competing at the tournament, our in-depth team profiles written by our Experts’ Network (a collaboration with sports journalists from across Europe), minute-by-minute coverage of every game, our 40-page supplement and comprehensive match reporting, to our new Women’s Football Weekly podcast, with 12 episodes across the tournament, we have you covered.

Naturally, all this costs money. If you already support us, thank you very much, but we want to do more and make sure that women’s football continues to grow after this Euro 2022 tournament. But we can expand our women’s football content only if you help show there is a demand for it and it is valued.

The cost-of-living crisis is impacting us all but, if you are enjoying our football reporting and want to help us grow it, please show your support today. From as little as £1, you can power the future of quality Guardian journalism. Support the Guardian


Suzanne Wrack

The GuardianTramp

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