Loughborough University
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What's the score?: women in football in England

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posted on 2015-05-07, 14:43 authored by Joanna Welford
In 2003, football overtook netball as the most popular female sport in England, and current estimations suggest that 1.6 million girls and women now play the sport regularly (Cochrane, 2007; Randhawa, 2003). To many, this was a vindication of the successful admittance of women's football into the Football Association in 1993, when it became governed, organised and developed by the organisation that is responsible for the well-established male structures. Historically however the movement of women and girls into this traditionally male-dominated arena has been problematic, and discourses surrounding the sport, particularly in the UK, are particularly powerful in reproducing this 'male preserve'. The surge in female participation at the grassroots level does not necessarily indicate that such issues have been overcome. This research has examined the current experiences of women within grassroots football in England, locating these in the context of the club and organisational structures through which they experience the sport on a day-to-day basis. Following an initial survey (n=55) of affiliated women's football clubs, the experiences of twelve women substantially involved in the organisation of football for both girls and women within ten football clubs were studied in depth, with reference to both their positioning within relationships with male football clubs, and their perceptions of the wider football context. The mixed-methods strategy allowed for an overview of the relationship between women's and men's football to be developed, and dynamics within this to be explored in greater detail. A broad feminist theoretical framework was utilised, paying particular attention to the role of discourse within the organisation of football. The research found that women who 'work' within football are frequently' positioned as 'outsiders-within' the sport and face continuous challenges within structures that are constraining both individual experiences and collective advancement in the game. The relationship between women and the context of football that they are both embedded within yet detached from was complex and at times contradictory. The study concluded that the reported increase in participation represents limited progress in establishing the women's game and has done little to challenge inequitable gendered practices that persist in football structures.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© J. Welford

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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