We Need Role Models in Positions of Power: Part Three, A Summary

Opinion

So what did I hope to achieve from this article?

It would be wonderful if someone was inspired by one of these talented young ladies to even just start a blog, just believe they have the ability and talent to write and follow that dream. The work being done by Derby University sounds excellent and if you’re a parent with a daughter who would love to enter the world of sports journalism then you simply have to look at what they’re offering. There are other Universities offering courses in journalism and I guess the key for each of them is to offer something different, to attract the best talent around.

The last twelve months have been quite momentous for women with progress against sexual harassment and wage discrimination hitting the headlines. There is also a perception women on television covering sports have been chosen for their looks rather than their ability. Watching Sky Sports News it’s very easy to believe this is the case, but these attitudes must change. Wouldn’t it be great if we were to finally break that glass ceiling in sports journalism, especially football?

These are females who can inspire. One of the factors which unites them is their lack of belief they would fail or shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. They have just got on with it.

I have always been interested in what people think and why they think the way they do. Often their opinion is based on their unique set of experiences and surroundings. Sit with a group of people watching a football match and you will get different views and conclusions on various incidents. I find this fascinating. Maybe someone has a viewpoint you haven’t considered before, maybe they were watching the action unfold from a slightly different angle than you. This is how we expand our knowledge and enhance our learning.

So have I answered my question?

Not sure it’s as simple as one answer for why there aren’t more females writing about football. It can be a combination of factors. But Peter Lansley identified a crucial element missing, and Holly Percival endorsed it, in the lack of female role models for aspiring writers to be motivated by.

What I hope to have achieved with this article is demonstrate how females do make, and are making a success in writing about football. Those who have contributed to this piece have commitment, enthusiasm, drive and enjoyment of what they’re doing. But these are qualities anyone needs when taking this route, this is no different for males or females. It can be a lonely old business and like any other art, it can be full of periods of self-doubt and insecurity. What cannot help is to find no matter what you do people write you off because of your gender, which you can do nothing about.

I guess this is one consequence of being able to read criticism online, but is it really valid if it is simply “you’re talking rubbish” or “you know nothing”. It is only of true value if you can explain why it is rubbish or how it could be improved, or perhaps offer an alternative view.

What has been glaringly obvious from the responses these young ladies gave, was they all have a love of football, an enjoyment of writing and belief they can do what they’re doing.

When I asked them to contribute I didn’t give them a set of questions to answer. I just gave the basic outline of what I was exploring, with perhaps one or two views I held. But I wanted the responses to be as open, unbiased and enlightening as possible. I didn’t want to miss something just because I hadn’t asked the right question.

When you read back what they’ve said it is quite clear these replies could have come from anyone writing, male or female. When that dawns on you it seems particularly strange why more females aren’t already writing. I guess it’s not that simple.

Maria was the first to suggest maybe females need to look at themselves a bit more and maybe it’s their lack of confidence which holds them back. But as you have read from the five ladies who contributed to this, it has not even crossed their minds they might not be accepted for what they’re doing.

A lack of confidence doesn’t discriminate by gender, it can affect anyone. But with the opportunity to set up a blog for free and start writing then my advice would be to just go for it, enjoy it and don’t worry about what might happen, simply enjoy the experience and see where it takes you.

In some respects us blokes should be envious of the opportunities for females in this business. Just imagine an organisation such as the BBC were to set up a focus group and wanted ten of the best writers to attend. These days they would demand the split was equal between male and female. If you’re a female there are so few competitors you’re bound to be in the running for selection. Whereas me, I’ve got so many other males to compete with.

Different Strokes

Football is a fascinating game, and many see things in different ways. It can be an enlightening experience to discuss how others view the game as we all look for different things from it. Much of our interpretation of the game can be based on our upbringing, our experiences, our background. How many times have you watched a game a second time and seen things you didn’t notice first time round? Well, maybe someone else saw those things you missed and therefore their view of the game was different to yours

What must be remembered with all this is it is only recently girls have been encouraged to play sports or perhaps specifically, the sports boys traditionally played. Therefore, up until recently it’s just been boys who’ve learned the rules of the game. Males tend to think in straight lines and boxes, whereas females are more confident with abstract conceptions. It’s no coincidence men make such good train spotters.

I wondered if women had a concern over the technical, tactical or statistical aspects of the game. This isn’t to say women do not understand this, of course they do but men tend to obsess more over those facets of the game. Yet many do not understand either. But would a woman be put off in talking about this for fear of being belittled as some men believe only they can truly understand ‘the complicated aspects of the game’. Opinion is opinion no matter which gender is voicing it. Men do not have exclusivity on good ideas, much as women do not have the monopoly on saying something stupid, no matter what some may think. All these are often pre-conceived ideas which benefits no one.

It is not just in sports journalism where women are still finding they’re up against out-dated values. This was a conversation I picked up from Twitter and perfectly illustrates the problems which still exist.

“I recommended a female musician to a label I greatly admire last year. I was told they’d already released a record by a woman that year. Rock ‘n Roll, eh?”

This was answered by a lady;

“My favourite comment I got, when pitching a sit-com. “We’ve already got a female comedy this year.” ALREADY. GOT. THE. ONE. FEMALE. COMEDY. OF. THE. YEAR.”

Yes this is 2018 and yes these views and beliefs still exist. But thankfully in some areas these are being challenged and eroded but it is unfortunately going to take time.

It can be incredibly enlightening to read someone else’s view of what you believed you already knew. This is especially true when reading or listening to a foreigner’s view of the game in your country. We can often be caught up in our own experience or expectations of what we think is achievable for our club or country, but it’s not until you find out how people from other countries view your own, then you can put things into perspective and maybe this helps you deal with, what you perceived as crushing disappointment.

Thank You

So if you’ve read all three parts to this piece then I cannot thank you enough. I write as a hobby, have never attended any course or teaching on writing or journalism. In fact, English was the only academic subject I was any good at, at school and probably unsurprisingly the only qualification I left school with. But I enjoy writing, have a vivid imagination, and my life has been transformed by the advent of the internet and the availability of blogs and websites.

Perhaps it could work for you.

I have to extend a huge thank you to those who contributed to this. They gave their time willingly and I learned a whole load of stuff I would never have found out. No one earned any money from this, it won’t ever have the platform of a major news source but all these people have certainly taught me a lot and I really hope you as the reader have gained much. Most of my work is historic pieces, and this has been my first journalistic effort so the enthusiasm and willingness to contribute shown by the people I spoke to has filled me with a huge wave of confidence. For that I am truly thankful.

If one person is inspired to start a blog, or a parent wants to encourage their child to consider writing about football then this would be way more than I ever thought could be achieved by something I have written.

There should be no barriers to writing about football. Your opinion is valid regardless of gender. If you haven’t read anything written by a female for a while, it may not be your own preconceptions which are the cause of this, but why not seek out their work. Seek it out, read it and then tell them you’ve done so. It will make their year.

About the Author

Pete Spencer
Just turned 50. Been Supporting Liverpool since 1976 (Paisley's first title). Write a lot about football from days gone by. There's so much available online about football today and over the past twenty years but incidents from the past often get forgotten