Sunday, 31 August 2014

Publicity stunts in the wrong direction...

Article originally wrote for

Early in August, it was briefly reported in the media that Italian Serie A side, Sampdoria FC, had replaced their matchday ball boys with 'ball women'. Club president, Massimo Ferrero, initiated the move in an attempt to combat sexism within the game. 

The new 'ball women' were introduced during Sampdoria's pre-season friendly win against German Bundesliga side, Eintracht Frankfurt. The club, like most other clubs currently do, had been using young boys from the city or the local academy on match days to retrieve balls. 

Sampdoria's club website stated: "Massimo Ferrero wants to be a promoter of positive messages, of fair play, sport and social sensitivity."

Ferrero took over ownership of the club this summer and has already expressed his determination to take the team into European qualification, saying he would do "anything and everything" to get them there. Which begs me to ask the question: Is this all just a publicity stunt?

Let's not forget the Clermont Foot media shock which saw Helena Costa become the first female to coach a professional men's side in France, only to be replaced by Corinne Diacre shortly after quitting her role. Many said the original appointment of Costa was a publicity stunt, whether it was or not, the club certainly got the attention from the football world.

More evidence in the sports media becomes apparent of how women have been used for the wrong reasons, in order to gain public attention. For example, in 2013, thirty models were selected to join a team of 160 ball boys at The Mutua Madrid Open. More recently, English newspaper The Sun, which is renowned for intensive football coverage, fail to relate to their female audience. They run a fantasy football league in which one prize is a date with a page 3 model.

Overall, I can slightly understand Ferrero's intention to reduce sexism within an Italian league which is never far from controversy. It is great to see more women getting involved in football, no doubt about it. But for young girls in Italy, seeing 'ball women' at these matches, might have a negative influence. From a wider angle, it comes across that women are only there to be a pretty face on the sidelines of a male dominated sport. The club does not have a women's side, let alone junior girls' teams, so unless they are also part of Ferrero's longer term plans, it goes to show that the new 'ball woman' incentive is merely a gimmick.