This week the Football Supporters Association has published the results of their first comprehensive survey which documents the attitudes and experiences of football fans across a wide range of issues throughout the women’s game.
The results are their first attempt to capture a comprehensive picture of everything from fans’ matchday experiences to thoughts on the new broadcast deal with Sky Sports and the BBC; views on how clubs engage with their fanbase to on-the-pitch issues and competition structure, and everything in between.
In a survey of more than 2,000 fans from across the women’s game, half of the respondents (55.1%) disagreed with the statement ‘the standard of refereeing is acceptable in women’s football.’ But VAR is not the answer as a third of fans (32.8%) opposed its potential introduction, while there was much stronger support for the introduction of goalline technology (74.3%) to aid decision making.
Making referees professional cannot be argued against. I have refereed informally at various levels and I know first-hand that it is a hard job!
I feel that it also needs to be acknowledged that this wage must be competitive and reflect their important role within the women’s game. Referees in the Premier League can earn as much as £70,000 per year. They are paid a basic yearly retainer of between £38,500 and £42,000 based on experience and then are paid £1,150 per match on top of that. Championship referees receive the same basic yearly retainer but are only paid £600 per game. While equal pay might not be immediately available there should be a plan, five years perhaps, to build referees up to it.
Four out of five respondents (81.5%) agreed that TV coverage of the sport had improved on the back of the new landmark TV deal signed by Sky Sports and the BBC, and almost two-thirds of fans (60.7%) are watching/streaming more football than before.
Despite this, only a quarter (26%) agreed that there was sufficient coverage of the game on mainstream media/TV, and similar (26.6%) said that there was sufficient coverage of their team in local media. For me, increased coverage must include the National League and potentially lower.
Deborah Dilworth, the FSA’s women’s game network manager said: “Our aim is to repeat this survey in future years which will help provide a benchmark and track changing attitudes on key issues, as well as keep up to date with new developments specific to the women’s game as they arise.”
The results of this survey will not only help inform the FSA’s campaigning and work in women’s football, but this research will also give us a valuable insight into what matters in the minds of fans on a huge range of issues.