By George Cook
Football is a sport that has been strongly associated with males as most of the advertising and media coverage focuses on the men’s game. However, attention to women’s football has recently experienced a steady increase resulting in more media coverage and a growing number of young girls playing the sport.
Despite this, the England Women’s football team has been subject to intrusive levels of public spotlight in the last few weeks, but for all the wrong reasons. Mark Sampson has been accused of racism and harassment of at least one player, Eni Aluko, and possibly more. After making comments about the player’s heritage, the calls for Sampson’s sacking grew, and he was eventually relieved of his duties.
Although, bigger questions need to be asked about the culture of the largely male dominated sport and also the culture of elitism at the very top of the English game. With accusations of a cover-up and blackmail at the FA, it portrays the picture of a corrupt organisation with white, rich men at its helm attempting to prevent its own star players from exploiting the elitism, racism and to some extent sexism that are personified by those in power.
Whilst such behaviour is present in the men’s game with the previous case of John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, the views expressed in the women’s game are by those who possess greater power than even John Terry at the height of footballing career. That case was also between two players and not directors of the FA. I doubt whether they would have spoken to high profile male footballers in that way. Female footballers deserve the respect male footballers do. However, because of their lack of profitability created and sustained by the sexist pay gap that the powerful in football generate, they often face disrespect.
The fact that they were female and the women’s game is less high profile suggests that they thought they could get away with it. They would have escaped justice if Aluko and others did not have the courage to speak out. I question the extent to which this problem existed previously and the depths those in power sank to so that they could remain in their privileged position.
The disgusting behaviour of those in positions of medium-level power was even denied by the ones at the very top of the FA, suggesting they too embody and exhibit such opinions.
Like Trump fails to call out the actions of white-supremacists, and Hollywood ignored and was almost complicit in the Weinstein Scandal, the FA is too like a gold and glamorous organisation on a hill of privilege, wealth and arrogance. But now that hill is crumbling from the weight of those ordinary players hoping to reveal the darker truth of the FA that will surely lead to an avalanche of resignations, sackings and change. Yet, even in the face of an avalanche travelling at great speed, the FA, like Hollywood and Washington, is unlikely to change any time soon. The views and actions uncovered by Eni Aluko are not the modern phenomenon some wish to believe. Instead, they form the bottom layers of the hill that were present in its initial configuration.
Whilst the process of new surface layers forming on top of the original one’s underneath over the course of time may give the impression of a new appearance with different opinions, the older layers still remain engrained in the hill of dishonesty.Like it is hard to change the layers of a hill, it will also be hard to change the attitudes of the FA and similar organisations. Even though Sampson is no longer manager and the Aluko case has received widespread publicity, those older, most powerful members that represent the ground layers of the hill, are still present permeating their views throughout the FA.
The avalanche of condemnation cannot obliterate the foundation layers of the hill, it will only briefly brush over and damage them. Only a powerful earthquake can destroy it and bring about a much needed revolution at the FA.