By Oliver J.
As a male soccer player, I have taken notice of the recent rise in women’s youth soccer in North America. I believe that this has a lot to do with the current spark that the Major League Soccer (MLS) has had on the USA, Canada, and the rest of the soccer world. It is well known that elite male athletes are getting paid more money than elite female athletes, and even though women’s soccer is on the rise, professional female leagues and elite female athletes aren’t getting the recognition they may be due. Many speculate over the reasons behind this, but i believe it comes down to lack of role models and the media.
Historically, sports stars have been perceived to have a responsibility as role models in both public discourses and within sport cultures(Giuliano, Turner, Lundquist, & Knight, 2003). Young men find it easy to aspire to be a professional soccer player because they see their role models everyday on various sport networks. On the other hand, young girls struggle to stay in soccer, because the role models aren’t given the same media coverage and are that much more difficult to find. Would having an elite level role model help girls stay in soccer longer?
Growing up I looked up to David Beckham, and this helped me to strive to play soccer at an elite level. In a study conducted by Kristiansen et al. (2014), a professional female soccer player from the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), said that “having Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastian as elite role models inspired her to excel in sports”. Although I agree with this to some degree, Ive considered that parents, especially mothers, play a vital role in keeping women playing soccer. Studies have demonstrated that moth mothers, more likely than a sports star, are considered role models by adolescent girlsers, more likely than a sports star, are considered role models by adolescent girls (Vesico, Wilde, & Crosswhite, 2005). With this knowledge it is clear that mothers need to play an active role in keeping young girls in soccer. As discussed in class, the majority of young girls will drop out of there chosen sport around the age of fifteen. If we want to remove this stigma then parents need to become more supportive and involved with their child’s sport, and not just drop them off and pick them up from programs.
The media plays a huge part in whether or not a professional soccer league can be successful or not. Not getting televised media coverage can lead to leagues folding. A great example of this is the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS). This used to be the biggest league in North America until it folded (2009-2012), because of low media coverage and low attendances. The NWSL currently only has 9 league games televised through Fox Sports. When you compare this to the English Premier League (men’s), who just received a payment of 5.1 billion pounds(8.8 billion Canadian dollars) from Sky Sports and BT to broadcast 168 live games. The difference is astronomical and women will continue to struggle unless something changes. In order for professional women’s soccer to succeed with the media, they need to create sports stars. One way of being able to do this would be to get rich investors or sponsors to believe in the sport and heavily fund it. By creating stars within women’s soccer, you will instantly increase it’s fan base. Another suggestion could be community involvement. By athletes going out in their community, especially soccer programs, and getting involved with children who are interested in soccer, then it could increase the number or people who follow women’s soccer.
Sports Networks and the media make enough money from male soccer leagues; it utters the question as to if this is the real reason behind the media not fully supporting women’s professional soccer leagues?
Giuliano, T.A., Turner, K.L., Lundquist, J.C. & Knight, J.L. (2003). Gender and the selection of public athletic role models. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30, 161-198.
Kristiansen, E., Broch, T., & Pedersen, P. (2014). Negotiating Gender in Professional Soccer: An Analysis of Female Footballers in the United States. Sport Management International Journal, 10(1), 5-23.
Vesico, J., Wilde, K. & Crosswhite, J.J. (2005). Profiling sport role models to enhance initiatives for adolescent girls in physical education and sport. European Physical Education Review, 11(2), 153-170.