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Arguments against equality


I’ve had an interesting couple of days reading as much of the social media reaction to the Abby Erceg bombshell as I can stomach. I have engaged with some of it, simply shaken my head at other aspects of it and lost my temper completely with one or two people – I’m only human.

With some overlap, the arguments against making football more 21st century compliant broadly fall into three categories.

Here’s a summary of each:

Know your place

“There is not enough money in the game for people who were born without penises to be treated the same as those who happen to have dangly bits. If we spent more money on non-dangly bit football we would have to spend less on dangly bit football and if we did THAT, well, then civilisation as we know it would come crashing down around our ears. Do you want that? Do you?? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT YOU MAN HATING FEMINAZI???? We only have finite resources so stop whinging! Just be grateful we give you what you already have! You get to vote and drive cars and stuff so you have the same opportunities as us regular humans to bring in sponsors and make the tea so just get on with it, OK?”

Accept your inferiority

“Look, women aren’t as good at sport as men. Men run faster, jump higher and are much better at flopping over with minimal contact in the penalty area and writhing around on the ground like they’ve been shot with a sniper rifle. XYZ Hardware puts up the money to pay Joe Blogs at ABC United $500 a week because Joe Blogs is valuable to them and Josephine Blogs isn’t. The fact that Josephine is an international who plays for a country ranked in the world’s top 20 by FIFA while the only rep team Joe is likely to make is the Onehunga Cossie Club’s beer sculling team is entirely down to market forces and nothing whatsoever to do with institutional sexism…”

We (men) know best

“You want us to treat people equally??? Really??? Clearly you don’t understand football. It’s just the way it is. Fact. Yes, that’s right, you’re snookered now! Because when I put the word “fact” after my totally subjective and highly debateable opinion, that means it’s a fact ergo you can’t argue with it. It’s true, because I said fact. It’s like “bags not” – when I say bags not doing the dishes, that means you have to do the dishes and it’s the same when I say fact only when I say fact it’s more like grand imperial poobah bagsies…”

But back to a serious note… One thing that this whole thing has done, is make me remember just how lucky I am. I get pretty wound up on gender issues because I can usually see the injustices and it really frustrates me when others simply don’t get it. But when the debate has died down, I get to go back to my life of male privilege. Women have to live with this kind of stuff every single day.

Categories: Football Ferns

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

13 replies

  1. As one of the one or two people you have chosen to ridicule in your post I thought I would put pen to paper so to speak.

    Myself and some others have spoken about the realities facing football and in particular the realities facing women’s football in this country. I come at this from the perspective of someone who works within a committee of people, Men and Women, who struggle every year to get the required money to get Senior teams (Women and Men) and junior teams on the park playing football. This is a 12 months of the year task nowadays. We are are (by NZ standards) a fairly large club having more than a thousand players across Juniors and Seniors. A club that has a strong local identity within its community and while not a “powerhouse” in terms of results, one that is there or thereabouts.

    I am sure you are aware that a players subscitions every year barely covers the cost of Affiliation fees that go to partially fund the Local Federation and NZ Football. The balance of the funding comes from three main sources. Firstly Grants from gaming and other charitable trusts. Secondly from Bar Takings and finally from Sponsorship.

    What I and others have tried to talk to you about is that from the second and third of those two sources the money a club can raise directly from the women’s game is relatively small. God only knows how many different avenues have been tried and continue to be tried. The cost of funding the Women’s teams are and will continue to be met from other areas within the club, and this is done without question, the same as it is done with Youth teams. We have provided that pathway that has assisted in some Women from our club achieving National recognition.

    There is just not the level of public support for the women’s game. Is that wrong? Of course it is, but that is the way it is at the moment and it is not, as I am sure you are aware perculiar to football. Pretty well all female sport in NZ suffers the same problems. This is a societal issue and one that is, changing, albeit slowly. Could NZ Football do better? Probably, but as an organisation they probably do a better job of it than the NZ Rugby Union do even with all of their financial clout.

    Last evening you mentioned in vague terms a NZF Meeting with Northern Clubs to discuss the Ferns Program. Apparently it was only men that turned up to the meeting. I would still love to know what that was. Was it on the basis of the invites? I am genuinely interested to know. I can only speak for my club, but that to me would have been probably a meeting that our Women’s Club Captain would have attended with, (probably) the club chair. Maybe we do things differently here?

    Perhaps I just don’t get it? But as a person who tries my best and puts in the hard yards every week, maybe you could explain what I am missing and how we change the system overnight, rather than taking churlish potshots.

    1. Jeff,

      I have no intention of continuing our Twitter debate here but I will make one attempt to respond to a couple of things.

      I told you why it was a room full of men – because the women’s game is overwhelmingly coached and administrated by men. Your response to that was “and why is that Enzo” – your implication (spelled out in your previous tweet) was that if women don’t care enough to show up then why should the rest of us care.

      “Why is that?” I think it’s because of rampant institutional sexism right throughout the game, that sees men perceived as better coaches and better administrators than women and because when leadership roles come along, women tend not to get a look in. On the precious few occasions that women are appointed as coaches or administrators, they attract more criticism than a man would in the same position and they tend to get fed up and give the game away.

      You ask me to “explain how we change the system overnight” when I have never advocated for changing the system overnight and I’m afraid this is a good representative sample of your attitude towards this discussion and why I can’t be bothered discussing this with you anymore.

  2. I hadn’t got involved in this whole argument basically because, from what I’ve seen on both sides on social media over the past couple of days, it seems to be a case of shouting your case and ignoring the opposite view, regardless of any valid points which may, or may not, have been made. I do have an opinion, and my support for women’s football, not only in this country, has been unequivocal since my very first coaching appointment to a women’s team in the UK in the early 90s.

    My feeling is that comments from local/grass roots club football people (or men, primarily!) seem, rightly or wrongly, to be more about the practicalities that they have to deal with at the current time. There are some sexist bozos out there who don’t rate women’s football or give it any credibility but, in my experience, these are in the minority. I would like to think (maybe naively) that most Clubs would love to have their men and women on an equal footing. How to achieve that is what needs to be discussed. My personal feeling is that there is no doubt that the current situation as it relates to women’s football, is the result of sexism, both institutional and at a local level. Inequality which has been in place for a very long time and does have to be addressed. In my view, everybody will benefit when men and women playing football are treated with the same degree of respect, investment and publicity.

    The problem I have about this whole debate is that I’ve read loads of comments all over social media but don’t think I’ve seen many (if any) solutions being proposed. Shouting about how things aren’t fair, that change must occur and how things should be is admirable but simply ranting at someone that they have make these changes, without them knowing what changes are required or seeing how these changes can be made, without attempting to provide suggestions and solutions, is counter productive. Rather than butting heads, I’d prefer people to identify how this situation could be changed and offer potential routes towards that change being achieved.

    My comments aren’t supposed to be incisive and groundbreaking. I’m sure that they can be picked apart by people on both sides of the argument. I’m not helping the debate and, given what I’ve written, could be accused of being hypocritical as can’t really suggest how to solve the obvious issues. I’ll leave it up to more informed people to carry this debate on. 🙂

    1. As a general rule I think it’s OK to point out things that are wrong in the world without necessarily having the answers. In fact, I think it’s how important change happens sometimes. Once everyone agrees there is a problem, maybe we can work together on solutions. I think the bigger problem here is people feel personally attacked or threatened because they are part of the system that people are criticizing. Having your world view challenged is healthy – and I include myself in that even if it’s hard to understand the benefits while it’s happening. 🙂

  3. Hi Enzo,

    I imagine you feel like you have already heard too much from me on this issue, but if I could risk a sexist generalisation of my own here, it would be that women make better football administrators than men (assuming all other things are equal).

    I’ve dabbled in football admin (admittedly at low levels) for over 30 years and have made the following observations:

    # Women network better than men. Often, I have observed, this has grown out of their own life experiences, where in able to juggle jobs, getting kids to kindy and back, sorting out school camps, doing the shopping, and keeping a household running, this networking thing evolves out of necessity as much as anything else. It’s the only way they can get everything done. Networking is often a key skill in solving administrative challenges.

    # Women tend to be naturally busy and organised (see above). And as the old saying goes, if you want to get something done, find a busy person. (Ever notice how people who aren’t busy are so often not very useful either?)

    # Women communicate better. Conversations can last longer than 30 seconds. They enjoy talking. (okay, shoot me.)

    I would love to see more women on my own club management committee. But we’ve only managed three in 12 years, and that includes a mum and daughter combo. The committee woman is indeed a rare and elusive species. But a very valuable one.

  4. My view, rightly or wrongly, is that the majority of people at grass roots level wouldn’t argue with the fact that there is a problem. I’m sure most clubs would love their bar to be packed to the rafters all weekend with members and supporters watching both men and women’s games. I’m sure they’d all also be delighted to attract the same level of sponsorship for players, irrespective of their gender. Not sure recognition is the problem. Real, sensible, practical suggestions as to how this can start to be addressed seem to be lacking, as far as I can see. I don’t have an issue with pointing out inequality, none whatsoever, but when that’s aimed at people who may not necessarily disagree but who may not, due to their current situation, be able to see how to effect changes then it becomes counter productive and ends up with an “I’m not arguing, but what can I do” situation.

  5. The point Abby has raised isn’t about equality, it’s not a girl vs boy thing. She was simply asking that the National Body, New Zealand Football look after their elite female athletes better, remembering these girls are all World Cup and Olympic athletes on a regular basis. The whole argument that women’s football doesn’t put bums on seats or bring in the big sponsorship money is irrelevant, if this was the case then we should do away with female sport altogether and simply not bother, not an option. What any elite female in sport does however, is encourage other females and even some males believe it or not, to actually get out there and give it a go and play sport and maybe one day succeed at an international level. As an example look at the impact on pole vaulting Eliza McCartney’s success has had. The growth of girls playing football over the last 10 years has been huge and the success of our national team The Football Ferns has played a big part in this.
    The response by Andy Martin and New Zealand Football to Abby’s retirement has been nothing short of appalling & unprofessional, if this is the way the captain of your national team feels about the situation then I can assure you, many, if not all the rest of the players in the Football Ferns feel exactly the same way and the possibility of more retirements to other key players isn’t out of the question.
    The players aren’t asking for millions or even thousands, they just want to feel looked after and valued by the National body, something that I don’t see as unreasonable considering all the sacrifices, time and dedication these athlete’s put in to be at their best to perform on the world stage.
    I would like to believe that with the support of the National Body and with the appropriate investment in our elite players, that in Abby’s or perhaps in my lifetime the Football Ferns could win a medal at the Olympics or win a World Cup, something that isn’t out of the realms of possibility, especially when without much support we sit 19th in the world in women’s football.(Correct me if I’m wrong Enzo)

    Come on Andy Martin and New Zealand Football get your heads out of the clouds and listen to these girls and their requests, then come to the party and take some of the pressure off these girls and I’m sure we will all see the results on the field.

    1. Bang on PT.

      I have seen some people saying there just isn’t the money for NZF to pay the wider Football Ferns squad.

      I agree with PT that they are not asking for huge salaries. However, in addition, NZF might not need to come up with the money.

      Giving he players money is only ONE possible way of closing the welfare gap Abby has highlighted (again).

      Surely NZF could invest time and influence to help find Ferns squad members jobs with sponsors, or other businesses? That would not require NZF to spend money to close the welfare gap, but it would close it, or at less narrow it. Surely there are companies that would be willing to become supporters of NZF by employing Ferns squad members? Surely there is value to being associated with Olympians and World Cup players?

      A concerted programme to sign up companies to become supporters in this way is worth investing in. It could bear fruit not just for the Ferns, but also for the All Whites, and the men’s and women’s U17 U20 squads too.

  6. Speaking as a woman who has been involved in football both as a player and (formerly, due to a change in personal circumstances) an admin capacity on the club committee for a few years (one of those rare and elusive species, to quote Mr Bull), there’s a few things that need to be said – based on my experience and observations. They may be unique to my experiences, but I also suspect they might not be.

    When I was on our committee, we had several very passionate, very committed, very knowledgeable – frankly brilliant – female committee members. One year in particular they held most of the ‘main’ roles – Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Grants/Sponsorship. Thus, these committee members did the vast majority of the thankless donkey work that no-one especially wants to do, but does need to be done for a football club to exist. During this particular year, there were some pretty big administration hurdles to jump through, and changes within the club to be made. These changes/hurdles were partly in response to what our federation was requiring, but were also intended to make future committee members’ lives easier – there’s nothing more frustrating or time consuming than reinventing the football when committee members leave and take with them institutional knowledge.

    However, these changes/new requirements were met with a considerable amount of resistance – either through people not listening/ignoring what we did/had to say, and/or not doing what was required of them. Overall, the people who most resisted, undermined, and kicked up the most fuss were the male members of the club’s community (players/committee members/coaches/you get my point).

    At times it can feel like, if you’re a woman in a role like these, you’re appreciated (by which I mean not met with resistance) for not rocking the boat, for doing the boring/laborious/not especially glamorous tasks, but if you stick your head above the parapet then you better be ready to duck down straight away when the shit comes flying back. I’m certainly not saying that male committee members don’t get criticised for their decisions or approaches or anything like that, but it’s hard not to suspect that, at the very least, the tone of the responses (or even simply responding to what needed to be done in the first place) would have been markedly different if it was a male voice issuing the requests, not a female one.

    What I’ve described above is obviously a specific situation, but to me it does highlight some of the unconscious sexism that exists in the game in its wider contexts. I’m sure none of the people involved would consider themselves sexist in the sense of ‘women should not play football’, but it does seem like there’s a point at which taking women in football (be it playing or in administrative capacities) seriously stops. We (women) have all had situations where we’ve made a suggestion, it’s been ignored/pooh-poohed, only for a man to state it and it be adopted and/or thought a great idea, and thus taken more seriously. If you’ve got a better word for this than sexism, I’d love to hear it.

    I think a comment was made above about women not being at the recent women’s football meeting. I don’t want to get into that particular fight, but would like to add that, if we’re asking why women aren’t in these meetings (be it because women are not in the positions e.g. club president-type roles or even specifically women’s football-oriented roles), we need to think about what might prevent women from getting involved. Is it because of other responsibilities they have in their lives (considering that childcare/domestic duties tend to be treated as ‘women’s work’)? Because there are other ways they contribute to the football community, other than sitting in a male-dominated environment where their ideas aren’t listened to anyway? We all know that we need more people volunteering for their football clubs, but I would be curious to know what differences there are in reasons for men not volunteering and women not volunteering.

    Will this change over time? Yes, I imagine it will, but only if there is a conscious effort made by everyone in the game to accept that change needs to happen and perhaps they themselves need to change their own approaches/ideas about how things should be done. This might just mean sitting back and listening to a different voice, and doing what you yourself might not have thought of, or perhaps don’t immediately agree with but can see the logic behind. Change will certainly happen faster if we change things now, and in the future. No one thinks this can be done overnight, but nothing will happen at all if we don’t get started. Change might happen gradually of its own accord anyway, but I think we all know that nothing major will change unless we make the effort for change to happen.

    On the point of not as many people coming to women’s games as men’s (which impacts on bar takings etc) on a practical level, that’s understandable – given (as far as I know) all women’s games are on Sundays. Most men’s games – certainly the competitive ones – are on Saturdays. Same as the vast majority of the kids games.

    As much as we all love football, there are other things that need to be done of a weekend. If, as a busy individual/family you’re going to spend time at the football ground playing in/watching games, you’re probably going to prefer to do it all in one day rather than trudge back the next. Might it therefore be worth considering there being a split of the Saturday/Sunday games in terms of COMPETITION rather than GENDER (i.e. the social games for both sexes on Sundays, the competitive ones on Saturdays)? I’d certainly be curious to see what sort of an impact that would have. Of course you’ll get the usual occasional neanderthal decide that ‘wimmin’s sport’ isn’t worth their Saturday afternoon, but I don’t think their contribution to the bar or the atmosphere would be too greatly missed.

    But as a player (admittedly my involvement has been with a small club, so this may not be experienced as acutely at larger clubs) you do lose a bit of the club feel when your games are on the day that no one else’s are. Especially when, as a junior player, part of the fun was hanging around after your own game to watch your friend’s games/the big kids/seniors play.

    This is just an idea, but it shows that there may well be relatively simple things that can be done to start making things more equal, which could well have other positive effects further down the track.

    1. In Wellington this season, the top women’s league (no idea what it’s going to be called yet) is going to be run on Saturdays, with the idea being that they’ll play as curtain-raisers for the boys or something like that. The draw isn’t out yet, so nobody really knows exactly what’s going on, but that’s the idea. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.

      Personally, I think it will make little difference (at least in the short term). They had a couple of Saturday curtain-raiser games last season, and the crowd was the usual parents and partners, until the last 30 minutes, when the fans starting arriving for the boys game. I think that the “only so much time to watch football each weekend” is the biggest issue, and for various reasons, people like watching the boys more than the girls. Maybe the girls should save their best football for the last third in an effort to win over some fans…

  7. Leaving all the debate/arguments aside, I much rather watch the women’s football now. The last two seasons I have watched the women’s NRFL games and the early summer National Women’s League. Found it bloody great. Ok not as fast and strong as the men’s but the actual football is far above what I expected. Plus with the women’s games you don’t get all the bloody back chat to the refs that the men seem to think is just part of the game now days.( how embarrassing was the Waitak v AKL match ) And these women are much tougher aren’t they, I don’t see them dropping to the ground like the men do when they get a little touch, or an angry look!! The men, well modern men’s football in general is becoming harder and harder for me to watch. Give me a day out watching women’s football anytime.

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