We are back to WSL with a bang. So many fiery performances and shock performances. Genuinely proving to be one of the most exciting leagues in the world. With all the thrills and spills we’ve had you would think that is enough for your average punter.
Well no apparently not. As I was leaving my game last Sunday a whinge was heard that there was nothing for the kids to do. To say that my eyebrows went to my hairline is an understatement.
Surely the point of going to the game was to. You know watch the game.
Clearly, there have been some crossed wires if you were wanting some kind of sideshow. What were you expecting a coconut shy, a bric a brac stall, donkey rides!! Maybe I am just a grumpy old git but I always thought you go to a football match to watch football. Maybe spring for a violently hot but insultingly weak cup of tea. Or some half-decent chips. You shout and holler for your team and then either trudge back or skip for joy to your preferred mode of transport.
I have been following football seriously since I was 7. Unable to afford premier league prices even then (1990s were a glorious decade for the game). Mum and dad took me to Dagenham and Redbridge. Then in heady heights of the Ryman’s premier. All there was entertainment-wise was the match and the aforementioned culinary delights. I would entertain myself by running up and down the terraces if I was bored. But mainly I asked mum some inane questions and was satisfied with my chips. We followed Dagenham all around the Southern League for years. Where all the grounds had the same matchday experience. The only one that sticks in my mind was Purfleet away when I was served an out-of-date Pepsi. And I was convinced I was going to die. Spoiler I didn’t. It was just flat.
I have to admit my last men’s game was pre-Covid. But I don’t remember people asking for a carnival for their youngsters. Replace the tepid tea with lukewarm overpriced beer and it’s the same atmosphere.
I don’t understand why there is a pressure for the women’s game to entertain outside the parameter of the 90 mins.
Maybe it’s how it’s the women’s game is marketed. Maybe it’s just the perception of the game as a whole. Another classic that was overheard at another game ‘women’s football. Their audience is just for families and gays’.
Whilst the above was misguided I can kind of see their point. Women’s football is definitely more queer-friendly than men’s football (another article on that later). The low-cost tickets have made it more of a family day out. A more modern enlightened cost-saving exercise like my parents all those years ago.
But should we be pandering to this? Should we be having family fun days on all matches to make sure those families come back? Are we cheapening the sport by having all these extras? And when did matchday experience come down to these extras?
Women’s and men’s football is the same game but a different beast. Therefore I can understand why clubs would want to encourage attendance with added extras. That in the current climate it’s running at a loss. So any money to be made should be welcomed. But for this reporter it makes the Women’s game feel lesser than rather than equal to.
Match day experience consists of the stewards who are friendly, clearly signed posted program sellers and the aforementioned tea hut. I have followed West Ham women for five seasons now. Home and away so I have had every kind of match day. There was the pisspoor naming no names but it’s not one I will have contend with much this season. I have had ones that was all singing and dancing affairs such as that of the West London club.
Neither of these changed the actual game nor added anything particularly special or detrimental to the whole day.
So let’s live for the game. Chant, scream and cheer within the 90 mins. Let the excitement and anticipation be whether or not the snack bar has your favourite chocolate bar.
But mostly let’s treat this game as a game of football. That’s the entertainment. That’s the sport. And that should be all folks.
Photo: Ryan Asman