Football: Now it's a game for both halves

Trevor Haylett discusses how football can gain a bigger squad for its distaff side

HAD Harry Redknapp paid more attention to the changing face of the football fan he would not have blundered down the path of political incorrectness and could have avoided the wrath of Mrs Sandra Redknapp, the new Mrs Louise Redknapp, as well as a large portion of the rest of womankind.

Redknapp was casting strictly one eye only over the debate surrounding Mrs Unsworth's perceived role in her defender husband David's decision to seek an immediate move from Aston Villa to Everton, having made his longed-for departure from West Ham only a few days beforehand.

"Wives," said the Upton Park manager, with his tongue racing some considerable distance ahead of his brain, "should concentrate on looking after the kids and the house. There was a time when a bloke would go home an say, `Pack the china, I've got a better job and we are moving.'"

Leaving aside the question of how far his new daughter-in-law - the pop singer Louise, recently married to Jamie - conforms to Redknapp's cosy ideal of domesticity and willing subservience, he is some way wide of the mark in failing to recognise that the game, and all its side-shows, play an increasingly significant part in today's liberated world of the distaff side.

During the World Cup more women "discovered football" than was the case for previous big international events. In the United Kingdom 95.2 per cent of women and girls over the age of four saw at least part of a televised match during France 98, an increase of six per cent compared to Euro 96.

Those figures correspond with the trends inside grounds. In each of the four Premier League seasons in which records are available, the female followers have been flocking to the all-seater, well-catered, musically enhanced stadia in ever- increasing numbers.

Mike Lee, spokesman for the Premier League, said they were confident this growth could be maintained, citing enhanced comfort, the reduction in hooliganism and the existence of family areas as factors behind the trend.

At the same time he points out: "We must not lose sight of the fact that what people, both male and female, find most attractive about the football experience is what happens on the pitch," he said. "We have to strive to maintain both the quality of the game and its marketing appeal."

However, Shiela Spiers, a Football Supporters' Association committee member, remains concerned that unless a greater share of televised football is given back to the terrestrial networks then the game's new summer fans will just as quickly drift away.

"It's significant to me that the World Cup matches were shown on both BBC and ITV," she said. "If you consider those to be an appetiser for new football enthusiasts they have no chance of moving on to the first course let alone the main course unless the number of games shown only on Sky is reduced.

"The vast majority of people who subscribe to the satellite sport package are football supporters now or were so in the past. You won't find any new fans taking it up."

Talk about appetisers and main courses was a convenient cue to bring Delia Smith into the discussion. Since taking over as Norwich City's majority shareholder she has worked hard to entice more women into Carrow Road. The celebrity cook wants to introduce a "women's day", offering free or reduced admission (assuming the sex discrimination legislation does not defeat her). Another initiative includes bringing out a range of women's clothing tailored specifically for the football fan.

She said: "What annoys me more than anything is when women write off football when they have never been anywhere near a game. They still think it's a spit and sawdust environment but they don't realise what they are missing.

"I want more women to come to the games because I know what a joy it is for me and what a difference it has made to my life."

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss