Gender Negotiation in Women’s Soccer

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.


6 responses

  1. Great post Oliver!

    As a female soccer player I found it hard to find someone to look up to when I was younger and still to this day there is not many women that I can look up to. The economy of women’s soccer is growing although without money it doesn’t get you very far.

    My hometown club did not have much funding. As a consequence, they were relegated from the league so another team with a better financial status could take their place. It is not fair to think because a team doesn’t have much money they should have to play at a lower level, especially if they earned the right to be there in the first place.

    As discussed in a class of mine, we looked over 17 days worth of articles with relation to sports. 176 of these articles were on males in sports 40 of them were female. It is interesting to see how the media takes different perspectives when dealing with sports. They have an audience to please, and it appears that women’s sports don’t have much of an appeal.

    Another reason women’s sports aren’t on TV as much is because they play at the same time the men’s season runs – would it be possible to play their seasons at different times to help raise audience numbers?


  2. I enjoyed this post Oliver,

    Growing up in Canada I was never really exposed to men’s or women’s soccer on TV. I didn’t even know what the MLS was until David Beckham, who was the only player I knew at the time, signed with LA Galaxy. Now, Canadian sports networks such as TSN and Sportsnet do a fantastic job airing MLS and BPL games all the time. We also saw extensive FIFA World Cup coverage on TSN, Sportsnet, and CTV. It’s very easy for men’s soccer to be seen, but as you mentioned, very difficult for women’s. I’ve gained an abundance of knowledge about soccer lately, mostly because it’s available on many forms of media (tv, apps, twitter, etc.)

    I would be curious to know what the participation rate is for girls in soccer in youth leagues. As we discussed many times in class, girls drop out at a much higher rate than boys. You brought up the point that mothers play a vital role in keeping women in soccer, I’d also have to say that fathers would play the same role for men. Since this is a parenting issue, do you think it’s possible that parents can show support by inviting friends and family to games to ultimately increase the awareness? I know this sounds small and simple, but If more people are aware of women’s soccer, perhaps it will increase in popularity and ultimately be shown on TV on a regular basis, not just for the FIFA Women’s World Cup every 4 years.

    According to FIFA, Canada is ranked 9th in world for their Women’s club. I think this is an amazing feat, yet there still is very little media coverage. There needs to be more athletes like Christine Sinclair, who I remember at the Olympics scored some big goals for Canada and everyone knew who she was. Yet, I still couldn’t tell you what club she plays for and what league it’s in.

    If women’s soccer is ever televised the same amount as men’s, I still don’t think they will receive the same amount of pay. As unfortunate as it may be, men’s soccer is such an extremely wealthy business and it’s hard to envision women’s soccer coming remotely close to that. I think that even though sports networks make enough money, they will continue to want more and go where the money is. Gender inequality has come a long way and I’m sure it will continue to progress, so hopefully we will soon see more women’s soccer coverage and equality with pay in the future.


  3. I found this post very relevant to today Oliver, and really enjoyed reading it.

    As Laura mentioned in her earlier comment, I also found it very difficult to find a female soccer player to look up to. This resulted in me looking up to male soccer players such as, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. It also dawned on me, that I had been to see many male soccer games live from being the age of 5, however it wasn’t until I was 16 that I went to a live women’s game. Further emphasizing the dramatic gender differences within the same sport.

    I agree with the comment you made about women’s soccer leagues having to create sports stars, and I believe this is an important foundation to build upon. Perhaps it would create the domino effect, such that, once there is stars created it would be a fan base, then comes media coverage, and then an increase of income and community awareness of soccer programs? Another factor relating to the media, is that if drop out rates are so prominent in adolescent years, it is important to remove the stigma of stereotypes surrounding women’s soccer. Also, promote participation in the sport at a younger age, rather than waiting until women have made it as professionals.

    Despite continuous fundraising, many female soccer clubs struggle to reach the financial demands of the league they are involved with. It is unfortunate to think that so many young athletes are missing out on the opportunity to participate in something that they love because of the gender inequality surrounding it. In today’s economy most businesses want to continue to invest in already profitable organizations, rather than invest in something not so successful, and help promote that.

    However, gender equality has took significant steps in recent years, and will hopefully continue to strive to break barriers, and resist traditional norms, with women’s soccer being a part of establishing sports stars and professional success.

    Lucy P

    • El verso”pero tambien espera sin idioma”encierra demasiadopara poder comprenderlosin que se vuelque el pensamiento.El primer poema es un poema corto pero es capaz de extender su significado hasta límites inospsechados.Gracias a ti y a los poetas por hacerme pensar.Un saludo a la 44.

  4. This was a great read Oliver! I grew up where soccer was a big part of my life, my father having the chance to play professionally in Europe, influenced me to continue playing at a competitive level. I agree that men’s soccer is more televised than women’s soccer, and that this is due to the amount of money male elite teams have compared to women’s teams. Just like you, I looked up to professional soccer players which made me continue to play soccer even when I came here to Canada. I believe that if there was more female soccer coverage, there would be more elite female soccer players. There is such a big difference in pay for women’s soccer compared to men’s soccer, and it is hard for them to pay media companies to broadcast their games. It shouldn’t have to come down to who has more money.

    You brought up some great points we discussed in class about girls dropping out of sport at much younger ages. I agree that mothers play a crucial role in keeping girls in sport. Parents should definitely be involved in their children’s sports, and as you mentioned, not just drop them off and pick them up from programs. We discussed last year in youth development, that parents need to be involved in their children’s activities/sports. They are more likely to continue playing the sport for a much longer period. We had an example last year where a mother dropped off her daughter at the park and and she stayed in her vehicle playing on her phone rather than playing with her daughter.

    Media coverage is definitely a factor of a sport team being successful or not. I did not realize that it was such a big difference in men’s and women’s soccer coverage on TV. It would great to see equal media coverage with men’s and women’s soccer, but due to the amount of pay the men’s soccer teams receive, media companies will continue to strive as long as they keep going to where the money is. To fix this, sports teams should pay women a lot more than they do, but it could be years before they even consider it which is very unfortunate. I hope equality in media coverage, and pay with men’s and women’s sports happens soon.

    Zoran V.

    • Ahaa, nee joh ben niet negatief, zie er de lol wel van in, ben niet zo zwaar op de hand zoals ze dat zo mooi plegen te noemen.En motion sickness heb ik trouwens meer in vliegtuigen gezien (zonder dat de maaltijd tegen het plafond geplakt zat door de turbulentie) dan op schepen. Voieerfontemnen noem ik die mensen trouwens die er last van hadden. Erg grappig, voor de omstanders dan wel te verstaan.

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