We Need Role Models in Positions of Power: Part Two, Meet the Writers

Opinion

In Part One we looked at the prospects for women writing about football, how under-represented they are and the fantastic work done by Derby University to offer students, male and female, an opportunity to find their way in the industry.

With their links to Derby Ladies, the University is well placed to offer females an alternative if they don’t quite make it as players. If you haven’t quite made the grade as a player, why not write about it? Or if you are making it as a player, you can write too. It’s all about inspiring others and spreading the message.

But of course females don’t have to just write about women’s football. There are plenty of very talented ladies who have been writing about men’s football for some years. With the male equivalent receiving vastly greater coverage worldwide, then this is a great way to learn their craft.

During my research I have had the immense pleasure of talking to some extremely talented people who are blazing a trail in something they all describe as their passion. I will now summarise much of the conversation and please do seek out their writing, and don’t forget the names they will be more prominent down the years, I have no doubt.

I started my search by checking out the Football Blogging Awards. A great idea thought up by Anthony Cooper and Richard Green, who had the vision “to become the premier source of unearthing the brightest football journalism talent globally”. The event is held annually having started in 2012, with several different categories including Best Female Football Blog.

Past winners include Kirsty (@theliverbird), Laura Jones (@YICETOR), Anna Louise Adams (@annalouisadams).

From twitter also check out Laura Bradburn (@LBrad88) who is very popular.

My research lead me to speak to five females who are ploughing varied furrows in the field of football writing.

Niki Fisher (@NikiFisherTPiB) – Arsenal fan who manages several social media accounts for players, as well as her own blog “The Pitch is Back”

Maria Dot (@mariadg_97) – Man Utd fan, studies Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. She writes a regular piece on Ronnie Dog Media, Tales from the Top Flight.

Farkhanda Jabeen – Lives in Pakistan, writes for Ronnie Dog Media, as well as Chelsea Chronicle and O-Posts.

Molly Jennens (@_MollyJennens) – student at Derby University studying Football Journalism. She has earned a position as Media Manager at Burton Albion Ladies

Holly Percival (@hollyy_percival) – student at Derby University. Has reported on women’s football including the 2017 Euros.

So why did you start writing about football?

Niki

“I decided to start writing about football in 2008/2009 and started a Premier League Blog Called The Pitch is Back and an Arsenal one two years later. I wrote for many sites including MSN and Telegraph and I enjoyed every moment. After that advice I took a 3 month internship with Football Fancast to create more news worthy content and I learned a lot about the different ways press interpret news. I still continued to apply for writing jobs across the UK but didn’t ever succeed.”

Farkhanda

“I have been writing on football on and off for years. I started it because I always needed a platform to express my views in a more synthesised way. I have always loved discussing football with my friends but being a football writer gives me more freedom and reach to my opinions.”

Molly

“I chose football journalism because it was the perfect course for me. I love watching, talking, playing football and it combined my love of writing too. My friends were very supportive as they knew too that it was the right course for me.”

Holly

“If I am honest, I was starting my last year of 6th form and had no idea what job I wanted let alone what degree I would need to get there. I watched and played football every weekend. I always thought how cool it would be to make it onto Soccer Saturday but I guess because there were no women at the time, I didn’t see being a journalist as a potential job. However, something inside me clicked and I just thought ‘I have to do this for a job.’ I started looking at degrees and began to find journalism courses, then sports journalism courses and the FOOTBALL journalism! “

Maria

“I’ve always loved writing. Despite football being my main hobby/passion, literature comes close after it, so it seemed a great idea to combine both things. That’s why I decided to start a Journalism course, as it would allow me to create content easily. The first thing I created was an entire magazine edition for the game Fantasy Premier League”

What has been your experience so far?

Molly

“Speaking from experience, I wrote for my first Aston Villa fans blog (run by somebody else) when I was 14 and I was the only female, I had relatively no experience and was just starting out – it was more just a hobby. It really put me off going into football journalism because I never got any constructive criticism from the editor, it was pretty rude to be honest, telling me how badly written my piece was and how terrible my spelling was. So I eventually stopped writing for them. Thankfully I look back on the experience now and feel like it taught me a lot because I went on to set up my own blog writing about Aston Villa and it was well received.”

Farkhanda

“Even among my female footballers, there isn’t anyone who writes on it (either home or abroad based). This, I think is because they don’t have well-paid opportunities available in this domain. My female football friends (those who play and those who just watch) are engaged in other professions already (which can see them earn very well). A good number of them didn’t prefer to choose football journalism because of the limited opportunities in this field. It’s about value for money when it come to choosing a profession.”

Are there any barriers or sexism for females writing about football?

Farkhanda

“I didn’t face any such barrier being a female football writer so far. But I am not sure if the situation would be the same in case of the full time, professional football journalism world which is surrounded by a different and more complex social and competitive contexts than the part-time or freelance football writing.”

Maria

“In my opinion, and for my own experience, it’s “the fear” of not being taken seriously….but to be honest I don’t think it’s “men’s fault”. Obviously it’s nobody’s fault but, I think the fact that there can be many women faking liking football to “impress” guys, makes the ones who really enjoy it fear being judged or whatever. Apart from this, maybe it’s also a bit of insecurity? In my case, because football IS a men-dominated sport, I assume my knowledge won’t be as good as any guy there.

My satiric match reviews reflect I am an insecure person. I know the rules and understand the tactics in football, etc. Yet I don’t feel confident writing about that. But maybe I don’t represent how most women feel as many women tweet about football.”

Niki

“I don’t particularly know whether any of it is down to sexism. I’ve never personally experienced any sexism within the football world, in fact most people I have come into contact with are impressed and find it interesting that I am involved so much. It’s definitely becoming more viable for females to start blogs and gain following as they are matching men analytically more and more. I know a few girls that also started blogs around the same time but they found that they couldn’t keep up the reads and with jobs and personal life getting in the way they ran out of time.”

Holly

“female journalists just need to be confident with themselves, believe and trust in the fact that they deserve to be there as much as the next guy. However, this is hard to do with so few role models and the stereotypical sexism around female journalists. Men need to start acting as more of a ‘pal’ or role model to girls, a lot of people forget that there can be role models from the opposite sex, yes they are harder to connect with on a personal level, but they are doing the job that the female journalist is seeking to do so they are just as worth talking to and learning from as the other female journalists.”

Why do you think more females aren’t writing about football?

Molly

I feel that more females aren’t writing about football because there is still a stigma attached to it being a “men’s game” despite it only be a small minority now.

I’m not too sure why girls are put off. Part of me thinks it is a confidence issue, whereas the other part of me thinks its that they’re worried about what others will say. As a girl you kind of have to accept that you’re going to get ‘banter’ off the boys on the course, good or bad and maybe that puts girls off.

In my opinion, when I first applied I thought about the fact that although I knew a lot about Aston Villa, I didn’t really know a lot about football in general and that I would be torn about for it. In reality it’s not that bad, but you worry that it will be.

I also think that many females think that they have to write about women’s football and I don’t think that is the case at all. For me, it has never put me off because I am a huge advocate of the women’s game, but as you mentioned with the growing status and coverage many females get pushed into it when they want to report on men’s football just as much.

Farkhanda

“Another main reason is many of the female football writers don’t regularly follow the football views of other analysts and pundits. To be a football writer, one needs to be a follower, an audience of other football journalists and pundits too. But rarely would we fine any female football lover who ‘regularly reads’ football journalists’ work. And that could be because there are very few women who are at the technical or strategic side of professional football. Most football managers, coaches, and team analysts are male even for the ladies football clubs too. This might have shaped up the perception that the field is dominated by male only when it comes at the technical side. Once there would be more preference of female coaches and team analysts for the female football clubs, that would open more employment opportunities for female journalists. This would also in turn motivate more female writers to write even on a freelance basis as they would take freelancing as a stepping stone towards a professional career”

Do you have any advice for females thinking of starting to write about football?

Holly

“I think the reason I got onto the course is because of my determination. That would be my first piece of advice for any girl considering doing journalism. You have to be passionate about anything you want to do, but for such a male dominated industry, I think having strong determination to succeed is noticed and will mean you are questioned less about whether you are in the right place.

Another piece of advice I would give is set yourself lots of little targets, such as consistently writing one piece a week for a blog, or something like that. But also set yourself one big goal that you wouldn’t necessarily be disappointed with if you didn’t reach it, but if you did reach it…. lets just say a few bottles of champagne would be popping open!

Niki

“The advice I’d give a girl would be to definitely try it, double check every analytical opinion but stand strong on your opinion unless someone genuinely changes your mind. You have to be able to deal with criticism and not take it to heart when someone doesn’t agree with you. Most of all enjoy every moment of writing because it is one of the best things to do as a girl and it will become more and more popular over the coming years.”

Molly

My advice to other females trying or wanting to pursue a career in football journalism would be to go for it. I have always lived by the saying ‘follow your dreams’ and that is what you should do. If that’s what you want to do, make it happen regardless of what anyone else says. When you’re 30, 40 years old, you want to be able to sit down and think that you love your job and not stuck in one that you hate. I know for a fact that I will sit there and think I love what I’m doing and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Maria

“I think Twitter is great and I think it’s a good platform, especially for opinionated and curious people. I see it more intellectually stimulating than any other social media platform. However, I agree with one tweet I saw ‘football fans on Twitter don’t reflect all football fans much’, as Twitter one’s are more defensive/easily offended. You can see the gender difference. It’s partly educational though, we grow up taught that women like playing with dolls and men play football, so unless women think outside the box, it’s the way it is atm.”

What do you see are some of the opportunities opening up for you?

Molly

“I really admire the work of Louise Taylor of the Guardian but sadly in the industry that’s about it in regards to female influencers. Jacqui Oatley and Gabby Logan led the way, but I don’t necessarily want to go into broadcast journalism. I also don’t want to be the same as them, I want to be able to become an influencer myself in my own right. I want girls to be able to look up to me in years to come.

I think there are lots of opportunities opening up for me. I already have a job as media manager at Burton Albion Ladies and can see that continuing and I have had work experience at the Premier League which has been an incredible experience. One that I hope can lead to a job after university.”

Holly

“For me, my big goal is to be the first female at the Soccer Saturday desk. I mean I hope someone beats me to it to be honest, but if not, Jeff is more than welcome to give me a call!”

It’s quite clear these young ladies have the drive, determination and enthusiasm required to succeed in their chosen fields. Of course, anyone looking to make a reasonable career in sports journalism needs to put in a lot of hard work and show a real desire to achieve, and this is the case regardless of gender. But to begin writing about football, just starting your own blog, should be something achievable for anyone. If you have an enjoyment of writing you shouldn’t be held back by anyone or anything, just do it.

It’s well worth seeking out these young ladies amongst the world of football blogs, website and social media. They’ve got a lot of excellent things to say.

In Part Three we will summarise what we’ve discovered through this journey of discovery

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