The biggest ever women’s North London Derby is approaching, with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur due to play on Saturday 26 March (tickets available here). This will be the first time the two North London teams have played each other at the Emirates Stadium (Arsenal Women’s true home ground is Meadow Park in Borehamwood), making this a historical moment in women’s football.
Why is this match a big deal?
Felicia Pennant, founder and editor in chief of SEASON, the trailblazing football and fashion zine and online platform, told us that this momentous match means a lot to her as a football fan.
‘It’s really exciting for women’s football matches to be played in what are traditionally men’s stadiums. The first thing that’s really key is accessibility – it’s a lot easier to get to the Emirates Stadium than Borehamwood,’ says Felicia. Most women’s teams don’t play in central locations, which makes it harder for them to drum up support just based on logistics alone.
‘I’ve been to a couple of women’s games when they’ve been played in men’s stadiums and I just think that it’s really wonderful to see women on that stage, even if it’s just for one game. There’s prestige being that stadium. It’s a different atmosphere for everyone.’
Does this mean the gender gap in football is closing?
In terms of whether we are really closing the gender gap in football, there are a lot of factors to consider, from the disparity in prize money – ‘The team that wins the women’s FA Cup gets £25k while the winning men’s team gets £1.8 million’ – to sponsorship deals – what female football players earn in sponsorship over five years isn’t even close to what the men earn in one year.
As well as the upcoming North London Derby being held at Emirates Stadium, there have of course been other recent developments in making more noise about women’s games. ‘The fact that you can [now] watch [more] women’s games on Sky and on the BBC is so important. Then there’s the radio and TV coverage akin to Match of the Day. So there’s lots of things happening. The problem is people aren’t aware of it.’
It’s true – yes, there’s women’s football coverage on TV, but it’s often on after the men’s Match of the Day, long after prime time.
Ultimately, it comes down to demand. If broadcasters don’t see a demand for women’s football games on TV or stadiums don’t see large enough ticket sales, they won’t supply it.
‘Everyone values winning. Look at Emma Raducanu, when she came out of nowhere to win the US Open. I think until the Lionesses [England’s women’s team] win a major tournament like the Euros this summer or the World Cup next year, it’s going to be really hard to get more mainstream appeal [for women’s football].
‘I always say, what would have happened if the men’s team had never won the World Cup, would football be as popular? We need that emotional connection. It’s about those “I was there” moments, so as soon as England Women’s win a World Cup or a Euros, a lot of those things like visibility, awareness and respect will come quite organically.’
‘I also think there’s something to be said about having men’s players going to watch their women’s teams. I think that ultimately, as football fans, we are so obsessed with the male personalities, if they were going to women’s games, I think it would attract a lot more men to come and watch it and help to shift the messaging that it is a space that men can come and watch football.’
How to help close the gender gap in football
So what can we do to help champion women’s football? In the run up to the upcoming North London Derby and beyond, these are Felicia’s tips for helping to elevate women’s football and bring about more gender parity in the game…
- Watch the games and buy tickets – the more bums on seats and eyes on the games, the more sponsors and press coverage they’ll attract, increasing their visibility, quality, and sustainability
- Ask your local pub to show women’s games regularly
- Buy the merchandise – whether for a big name women’s team or your local grassroots club
- Follow women’s football teams on social media and then repost and share their content so more people can find them – again, don’t forget about the smaller grassroots teams; try giving @romancefc, @victoriaparkvixens and @hackneylaces a follow
- Call out discriminatory behaviour – if you see or hear misogynistic behaviour surrounding football, challenge the person, leave a comment explaining why it is unacceptable or report it via the Kick It Out app