It goes without saying that females are treated differently to men in the football industry. Karren Carney’s recent social media abuse from the official Leeds United Twitter account and the controversy over Sergio Aguero putting his arm around assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis were just the two latest instalments to the abuse which females often face when in the industry. The abuse that Carney suffered after giving her opinion on how Leeds being promoted resulted in her deleting her social media account.
The vicious cycle of females receiving abuse within the football industry continues and could in fact be getting worse. Many of the top male pundits and presenters simply do not face the same struggles as females do in the football world, resulting in many women asking themselves, why do we bother in the first place?
Lizzi Doyle, producer for The Anfield Wrap highlighted the continuing problems. “People are judging you first for being a woman and how you look and then when you open your mouth, it puts you down on the pecking order. For me I’m battling two battles, being a woman in football and two being a Scouser. A big issue for me is that local representation on a national level is just not good enough,” she explained.
Whilst working for The Anfield Wrap, the fan-led podcast and Liverpool-related content site, it has taken Doyle time to build a rapport with the loyal subscribers and although there could be an increased representation of females on the show, she is happy with her role and a highly rated member of the team.
However, problems still continue to persist when doing work for other companies, especially when working on YouTube. “I don’t read the comments anymore because it’s always going to be bad. If you make a small error or get facts wrong or have an opinion that people don’t agree with women seem to get completely jumped on and much more than the fellas. It’s just a really intimidating thing and I don’t blame women for not wanting to get involved because it feels so toxic,” Doyle continued.
As well as social media abuse that women often face, another problem is getting females into more influential positions within TV. “I think a lot of women go more for presenting roles because you don’t get as much abuse because it’s not your opinion, your job is to chair a talk between the pundits, who are often males,” Doyle explained.
“That’s something I would love to see change, getting more females on the telly and having them in the punditry roles, so as former female footballers they can give their views on the game. Not enough of the females on the telly are given the opportunities to give their opinions and that’s something that really bothers me,” Doyle said.
Whilst it is key to increase the representation of females in the football industry, it is also essential that this does not happen out of sympathy but rather to gain the insights of professional females too. This is something that the football industry so far has failed to recognise. Hearing females give their opinions on football will help viewers gain a different and fresh insight on the game rather than listening to former male players who mostly view the game in a similar vein.
Doyle was keen to stress the need to not just employ more females for the sake of it. “I’d hate to be the token female, that’s quite disrespectful to the people that you’re getting on. Females need to be selected based on merit and how good they are. But I think to hire someone just to tick a box rather than what they add is also quite insulting.”
Whilst the representation of females in the media has improved over the past 10 years, there is still much more that needs to be done to tackle the problem. Changing how women are perceived in the media will be the next task but is also an extremely difficult one to change.
Doyle concluded, “there’s an unconscious bias for sure and It’s so deep rooted. To try to change this is so difficult because that’s how it has always been. The narrative has been the same for as long as football’s been around so it’s hard to try to change that. It’s all anyone has ever known.”
Ragnhild Lund Ansnes, Marketing Director and Co-owner of Hotel Tia and author of three official Liverpool Football Club books, shared a similar opinion to Doyle.
“There’s still a long way to go because there aren’t many females in the industry. We are a minority and I feel that we need to be prepared and almost know twice as much as the males and really be prepared because there isn’t any room for any mistakes or errors. If one of the lads or one of the ex-footballers make a silly mistake that’s easily forgiven but once a girl does it, it will cause bad comments. It will feed the trolls of social media very quickly,” Ansnes explained.
To see an increase in females within the industry, more needs to be done to help get females to football games and make the environment more friendly for women. Many females are interested in football, with the women’s game growing exponentially.
The Football Association noted that following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, 850,000 new women took up the sport. This figure continues to grow, with both participation and viewing numbers rising to record levels.
In 2012, Ansnes started the Livergirls campaign in Norway which helps to arrange trips to Anfield for females and creates a network of women all interested in following the Reds. Livergirls has continued to grow, and on International Women’s Day last year was rebranded as Livergirls International.
“Through this campaign, we’ve been able to build a stronger network that isn’t dependant on where you live so now you have female friends who think like you and have been feeling a bit lonely like you in their support of Liverpool. They’re no longer the odd ones out and now they have company and a group of friends who understand them and are just as passionate as they are,” she said.
Ansnes was keen to explain the need to have a mix of both males and females in the football industry and the good that it could bring. “I think it’s so important to have both female and male pundits because we bring different perspectives to the game because we are different and it’s good that we are different, we’re supposed to be different,” she said.
“For a long time especially in the TV studios before they introduced more girls, everyone is so alike, it’s all ex-players between 30 and 50, in their suits, saying more or less the same things, so I think it’s been refreshing with female pundits in the studios and behind the microphones and in the newspapers, but I am hoping even more girls will follow.”
It will take women such as Doyle, Ansnes and the many others like them to continue to break down the barriers within the industry and to keep pushing for change. Without their drive the situation is unlikely to improve at the rate required to achieve fair representation.