in women’s football “mindsets are ready to invest”

This is an all-match record for a Euro combined for women and men. 87,192 spectators attended the final between England and Germany on Sunday 31 July, won by the “Lionesses” at Wembley Stadium. On television, TF1 gained 24.1% viewership share by broadcasting the match.

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It is not the first time that women’s sport has (finally) taken off as a result of its promotion. Last April, 91,648 supporters gathered at the Camp Nou in Barcelona for the semi-final of the Champions League between Barça and Wolfsburg (5-1). “L’Obs” takes stock of the situation of women’s football in France with Béatrice Barbusse, sports sociologist and author of “Du sexisme dans le sport”.

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Wembley Stadium was packed on Sunday night, more than 43,000 people in the Parc des Princes last May… Are we finally witnessing the coronation of women’s football?

It depends on what you mean by holy. What is certain is that this confirms a positive dynamic that started a few years ago with records like at Wembley, but also in France and around the world. The high-level sport practiced by women attracts when it is visible.

Is this the crowning glory of women’s football? The expression is a bit too strong. It just confirms that it can be just as much fun as men’s football. And that, more generally, there is room for high-level women’s sports.

Can this change be supported by the government?

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The only action for the government would be to force the French Football Federation (FFF) to invest more through the agreement it is negotiating with the Ministry of Sport. But government grants represent less than 5% of the FFF’s budget. The clubs and the federation are private associations: the leeway today as the regulations are made, as the law is made, is minimal.

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It is the responsibility of the FFF and the clubs to invest in women’s football. And it would require a very substantial investment, as was possible in England [en mars 2017, un vaste de plan d’investissement a été initié en Angleterre par les clubs, la fédération et les autorités, ndlr]. They put the resources, the clubs put the resources: it allowed them, the sororities, to structure themselves, keep an English championship up to date and prepare the girls well. In the French Championship, most teams manage and tinker as much as they can with some government grants and some partners. Specifically, if we bet 100 euros for the boys, it would be necessary to bet 200 or 300 euros for the girls.

Today, the mentality of French society is sufficiently prepared to make investments: people will come to see, people will watch, people will read great stories. Journalists, companies, sports leaders must do their part. It started but you can’t stop: you have to stomp on the sidewalk every day.

Are we lagging behind in France on this point?

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Football is originally from England. So there’s an investment culture, like in the United States, where entrepreneurs don’t hesitate to invest millions or even billions. France is not a sports country! The teams struggle to find private partners. With a few exceptions such as Jean-Michel Aulas at Olympique Lyonnais or Louis Nicollin at Montpellier. Today, it is not only the federations that have to show voluntariness, but also the companies. They all talk about CSR and say they are responsible… Now we have to demonstrate it and stop investing in the same place for 100 years.

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In fact, the clubs are tinkering with a locker room for the girls, a time slot so they can play football… They lack sports equipment, locker rooms for the girls, trainers… The amount of bonuses and wages are also extremely different between women and men because “it pays less”. In football, issues of morality, justice and fairness play no role as it is the economy that makes the choice. And the economy, especially capitalist, is absolutely not moral. The money goes where it counts, from point to line.

French footballers must also make their voices heard. In the United States, wages are now equal for men and women. But because they fought! They said “Let’s Damn Go”, we get up and we go! In France they say ” Thank you “. I don’t say stop saying ” Thank you “, but we must stop giving alms. And yes, if we invest more in girls, boys’ wages go down. But they’ve gained so much in 100 years…

Is it even harder for women to find a place in football than in any other sport?

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Yes. It is linked to the place football occupies in the sports ecosystem. And even in the world in general: FIFA has more members than the UN! Football institutions are run by men who make very timid decisions when it comes to the development of women’s football. It would be pertinent to ask the FFF a question: how much of your budget of over 260 million do you spend on girls and how much on boys? From amateurs to the top.

Of course, little girls have to play football too. There are almost 200,000 licensees today, but they need to be trained by competent people. But very often, the more degrees you have, the more qualified you are and the more you want to train boys, not girls, because it’s still not very rewarding today. That’s all that needs to be changed.

How to respond to sexist comments on questions about physics, level, etc.? They are sometimes so integrated that even female fans prefer to watch men’s football

The “Bad Look” (Male look, editor’s note) was imposed on us. Even we, as female football fans, have internalized that. You have to deconstruct by watching women’s football and you end up not making comparisons anymore: either one or the other, you’re just watching a nice sports spectacle.

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Everything also goes through the education of children. 3 weeks ago I tried to get 7-9 year olds to play soccer, boys and girls together. And the boys already refused to play with the girls…

There are no rules for dealing with sexist comments. Sometimes I do pedagogy, sometimes I don’t have the energy. These kinds of comments have been around for ages, which is why we are kept in an inferiority position because of supposedly our physical vulnerability, our biological inferiority… Many studies and research have shown that our vulnerability is socially constructed and not real. Women win ultratrails for men, are sometimes more durable, suffer when they give birth, but for some we will always remain small vulnerable creatures. It looks good on them, it gives them a protective role. As long as we fail to completely deconstruct these gender stereotypes dating back twenty centuries, we will always have these comments. The bottom line is that these sexist people are in the minority.

Interview by Manon Bernard