The ‘beautiful game’ is all mixed up now

Deeping Rangers FC physio Becky Toone with Holbeach United FC physio Carol Holland.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
Deeping Rangers FC physio Becky Toone with Holbeach United FC physio Carol Holland. Photo by Tim Wilson.
  • How women and girls are kicking off all over the pitch

In 2013, the World Sponsorship Monitor revealed the most valuable sponsorship deal in men’s sport to be between Chelsea FC and Adidas worth £280 million over ten years.

In contrast, the most valuable sponsorship deal in women’s sport was a five-year deal between the FA Women’s Superleague and Continental Tyres worth just £450,000.

Almost 120,000 women play football and all levels according to figures from Sport England, while the Football Association (FA) has reported that the number of women playing in league and cup competitions has spiralled from just 10,400 in 1993 to 147,000 in 2014.

Making her way in football is Holbeach Primary Academy Olivia Simpson (10), part of Norwich City FC’s Centre of Excellence and an avid fan of her home-town club, Holbeach United.

Olivia was featured as a Sports Star of the Future last August when her dad Darren said: “Olivia is developing very well and Norwich City have done a really good job with her so far.

“When we watch her playing football and compare her with all the other girls, some of whom are older than her, Olivia stands out.”

Bourne Grammar School student and Peterborough FA referee Natalie Hudson.

Bourne Grammar School student and Peterborough FA referee Natalie Hudson.

Mum Jayne added: “We’ve always asked Olivia what she wants to do and, for her, meeting new friends, playing for the first team and against other teams are the best things about being a footballer.”

At a higher level are referees Sarah Grundy (22) of Market Deeping, Natalie Hudson (17) of Bourne and the woman with the whistle at last year’s Lincolnshire Women’s County Cup Final, Louisa Thorold (21) of Spalding.

Louisa said: “I was brought up in football as both my dad Nigel and brother James have been referees.

“The FA are doing a brilliant job of promoting female referees around the country and I’m certainly interested in refereeing as high as I can, for as long as I can.

I feel that my confidence has grown in recent years and I don’t feel worried about making big decisions any more because I feel that the men and girls respect me.

Lincolnshire FA referee and ex-Spalding High School student Louisa Thorold

“I feel that my confidence has grown in recent years and I don’t feel worried about making big decisions any more because I feel that the men and girls respect me.

“If I had the chance to talk to girls at my old school, Spalding High School, I’d tell them to give it a go because you don’t know how much you’ll enjoy something until you’ve tried it.”

Women and their involvement in professional football hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in March when a game between Manchester United and Chelsea became notorious after sexist chanter was aimed at Chelsea physio Dr Eva Carneiro.

Anna Kessel, sportswriter, co-founder and chairman of Women in Football which represents about 1,200 women working in the game, said: “Women represent half the population and half the talent so they deserve to belong in football, with equal recognition in the boardroom, workforce and as supporters.

Footballer Olivia Simpson from Holbeach with Long Sutton Primary School girl's Kwik Cricket team that reached the finals of a national tournament at the 2014 Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards at South Holland Centre, Spalding.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

Footballer Olivia Simpson from Holbeach with Long Sutton Primary School girl's Kwik Cricket team that reached the finals of a national tournament at the 2014 Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by Tim Wilson.

“While we recognise that progress is being made, there are still too many barriers to women’s progression in the industry and acceptance by the sport.

“That is why we are asking clubs to champion female talent, as well as raise awareness of sexist abuse and discrimination and how those affected can report it in a bid to bring about a change in attitudes.”

The challenges faced by women physios was considered by Deeping Rangers’ Becky Tonne and Carol Holland of Holbeach United who, together, have worked in football for more than 25 years.

Former RAF member Carol said: “I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to say to someone ‘you’ve crossed the line’ or ‘you’re out of order’.

“But while there are men and women in the world. I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of sexual banter and I don’t hear half of it anyway because when I’m on the pitch, my main priority is the players.”

Becky added: “From my experience, football is the kind of environment where you have to be able to stand up for yourself because you’ll 
always get a small minority of spectators who have a chip on their shoulder and don’t want women in football. We can do our job just as well as, if not better than, men and your sex doesn’t interfere with what you do on the pitch.”

Olivia Simpson at Carrow Road, home of Norwich City FC, for a charity football match with Eastenders actress Jacqueline Jossa.

Olivia Simpson at Carrow Road, home of Norwich City FC, for a charity football match with Eastenders actress Jacqueline Jossa.