After another week during which women in sport were reminded of the prejudices they still face, Jonathan Harding writes that it is time for teams and organizations to make genuine change.
How much longer is sport going to tell women that it wants them to play professionally but then commit to actions that suggest otherwise?
That leading players felt the need to write a letter to the German Football Association (DFB) after the discriminatory actions of a youth coach is telling.
People who feel supported and respected in their environment don’t need to write open letters to their associations asking them to take a stance. They already feel supported. They are heard.
There was no respect when Gladbach youth coach Heiko Vogel told female officials that women have no place on the football field — or when the Western German Football Association confirmed that Gladbach ordered Vogel to coach a women’s team as part of his punishment. There was no understanding when the Bundesliga club protested that the word “punishment” was out of place because Vogel himself wanted to coach a women’s team as part of his redemption.
Putting a misogynist in a position of power in a women’s sport is not a sign of respect. However well-intentioned Vogel’s attempts at redemption are, this is not a move that makes women feel safer or better.
Vogel needs to learn how to educate himself the right way about how not to be sexist. Calling Black people to learn about racism is not how you solve your racism. Coaching a women’s team for six sessions is not how Vogel is going to solve his sexism.
Not new news
Time and time again, women are having to fight battles in and around sport. Whether it’s over pay, support, opportunities or respect, women are having to spend just as much time battling on the field of play as they are justifying themselves off of it.
Just this week, female college basketball players in the United States were reminded of this when they were provided with outrageously fewer gym facilities, fewer meal options and less tournament equipment than their male counterparts during the end-of-season March Madness competition. A colleague of mine whom I respect hugely recently revealed that one of the main reasons why she left her homeland was because of a sexist working environment that repeatedly overlooked her.
On Sunday morning, the DFB posted a video saying football was for all. Professionally edited videos, equality campaigns and hashtags are great, but they mean nothing if they are not supported by tangible action. It is one thing to talk about women inspiring another generation and another altogether to not respect the current one.
For women to feel respected, supported and not ridiculed, leading sporting organizations will need to make tangible changes and take decisive actions. That will also require men such as Vogel to do the work.
It’s long time he did, because for too long men have outsourced their emotional labor to women.