If the Football Association (FA) could come up with just one campaign that could get more girls into football, this is NOT it! They are trying to banish typical stereotypes of what it means to be a princess by teaming up with Disney. Isn’t it the very fact that girls are aspiring not to be princesses that gets them into football in the first place? I can assure you, that when I first started playing football it was nothing to do with Cinderella.
The campaign involves current England captain Steph Houghton and several other Lionesses giving out advice to young girls alongside a number of short films where they talk about the attributes that have helped with their success on the pitch. Girls are also encouraged to share their own motivational images using the hashtag #DreamBigPrincess.
Despite being ranked higher than the men’s team – the women are ranked at 5th in the world and the men’s team is ranked at 13th – the former England captain, Casey Stoney, earned £25k last year compared to £13m earned by her male counterpart. Surely, the FA’s time would be better spent doing something about the pay gap than coming up with non-inspiring creative PR campaigns? There are a number of reasons that girls don’t choose to play football; girls have not experienced football being anything other than a man’s game. If they were provided with the opportunity to be as successful as men and sport was deemed to be a successful career aspiration for women then more of them would get involved. For boys, being an athlete is achievement enough, they don’t need to dress up as princes!
The FA can take a lesson from Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan campaign which has increased girls participation in exercise by 2.8 million according to their own figures. The campaign was about real women and their real fears – why they feared going to the gym, why they fear playing sports resulting in “sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox” and “I kick balls, deal with it” being among the hard-hitting lines used. And let’s face it, it’s been everywhere and it’s clearly worked in getting more women active.
Athletes or princesses?
There are a huge number of things that the FA could do to better involve “princesses”: close the pay gap, sponsor more local women teams, desegregate the sport, and ensure television rights are equal. The problem here is the inequality of the sport that has been caused by the FA and its dubious links to what they perceive young girls aspire to be.
Women’s sport is just starting to get the recognition it deserves and it would be a shame for this PR campaign to cause it to take a backward step. Being able to play football shouldn’t be a “dream” for girls, it should be a reality – we don’t need the challenges we face to be decorated with crystals, we just need the FA to lift them.
Senior Account Executive