Who Run The World? And why are Manchester United stuck in the past?

August 09, 2017
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The Women's Euro Cup has just drawn to a tumultuous close, seeing hosts Netherlands lifting the trophy. The final itself was chock-filled with drama. There was a penalty for Denmark in the sixth minute, and by half time it was 2-2. How about that for watchability?

I imagine this victory for the Netherlands is very welcome, when the men's team are just not performing. Our wonderful Lionesses also reached the semi-final, a feat not managed in a major tournament by the men’s senior team since Euro 1996, when they were beaten by (you’ve guessed it) Ze Germans on penalties.

I’m currently working as a waitress in an Irish pub, and one of our main selling points is that we show a lot of sport. I’m very grateful for this as I don’t have a lot of time anymore, so whilst working I’m almost forced to watch a variety of different events. I now kind of know the rules of hurling (you have the football goal - 3 points, and the rugby goal - 1 point) but I also got to watch a fair few of the Women’s European Cup matches live.

Who just won the Euros?

“Hey! She’s wearing make-up!!” A pub-dwelling viewer (who shall remain nameless) says with his finger pointed at the screen. Yes. She is wearing make-up. It reminds me of that crap Alexandra Burke song “We can do it even better in broken heels”. Plus, there's a great picture from a tournament where Cristiano Ronaldo’s hair gel is quite literally melting down onto his face. Don’t pretend that female sports players are the only ones who primp and preen before being seen on the world stage.

Whilst discussing the topic at hand with a friend, he rightly asked me “how much women’s football do you actually watch?” This is true. I definitely do not watch as much as I should, or even as much as I’d like to. It’s a vicious cycle. People say it’s boring and low quality. It’s true. A lot of the time there’s nothing glamorous about it. The pitches are gross, the lighting is crap, and the majority of televised matches feature just the one camera angle. Big name sponsors won’t touch it, and because of that a lot of people aren’t interested. The clubs make it difficult for prospective fans to even go and watch a game. It’s barely on the television, and when it is - it just looks cheap. What you're seeing does not correlate with the mental picture you get when you think of elite sports women.

Women are amazing. But look at that all those empty seats.

A couple of seasons ago Chelsea FC were advertising free entry to Women’s Super League matches to those with existing season tickets for the men’s team. This was very exciting to me as I love a good initiative but I was very disappointed to find out that none of the games would be played in London. I tried. But there was no easy way for me to get to Surrey or wherever the matches were taking place. I’m the target audience, and even I tried and gave up. What does that say for the experimenting noisy lad who is used to watching the boys?

But as the recent tournament shows, hold the game in a big shiny packed stadium and have proper camera crews there and it becomes a whole different sport. I mentioned hurling earlier - that is a sport that benefited a bit from being shown on British Sky Sports. Armchair fans didn’t know what to think! But they watched it.

Manchester United are undeniably one of the biggest football teams in the world. Everywhere you go people will have heard of them and will even be sporting their replica shirts. So why in early 2005 did the club announce they would no longer have a women’s team? A decision that preceded the controversial Glazer’s takeover by a mere few months. Was the diabolical decision demanded by the Glazers?

Manchester United deserve the Cersei treatment

At the time they said they were pulling out to focus on the men’s game. Whilst there have certainly been plenty of glory days for the Red Devils since then, after Fergie left things haven’t quite gelled. They’ve spent a lot of money on players. A lot, a lot. Sure, they make a ginormous revenue on worldwide merchandise sales but I find it hard to believe they couldn’t focus on both. I’ve heard people argue that starting the women’s team back up again would just be a waste of time and money. These are probably the same people that were thrilled to have Falcao and Di Maria on their side.

People argue that if Manchester United brought back the women’s team today that they would have to spend a fair few years playing catch up. And that because teams like Manchester City, who have already invested so much into the women’s game are not really seeing much of a monetary return. Well, I’m not a United fan so perhaps I am biased. But haven't they been playing catch up since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013 anyway?

The fan run team “FC United of Manchester” have taken the lack of representation into their own hands with the women's team that began competing in 2012. It doesn’t make any sense to me, why allow all of the talented local ladies to go to rivals Manchester City? It doesn’t make me feel great when, as a woman who wants to work in the football industry, that one of the most prolific clubs in the world is telling me I am not important enough.

The "Love United Hate Glazers" scarves should make a comeback

A Getty Image search for “Man Utd ladies” brought back mostly pictures of the glamorous WAGs. It didn’t matter which terms I added, still more pictures of red carpet partners. To test this theory out I also searched other popular teams followed by the keyword ‘ladies’ and sometimes it took a tiny bit of scrolling but sure enough, there were pictures of the female players. With Manchester United it’s almost as if women don’t exist beyond trophy wives. I know they still have a women’s team up until the age of 16 but beyond that - nothing. The message is clear. You are of age now lovely lady, go out and prosper. Leave the football to the big boys.

Once the big clubs get their act together and start holding matches in locations that are accessible to the non-die-hard fans, and the television channels start putting some oomph into the production and presentation of these said matches. Then, and only then will ladies football come into the mainstream, and with any luck - Manchester United will be left behind in the dust.

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