Sunday, 26 October 2014

Male by default...

...the issue with club merchandise and its male dominated marketing.

Having just had a shower, I dry myself in my Arsenal towel, then head to the kitchen to make a cup of tea in my favourite Arsenal mug. My Arsenal blanket is on the sofa, ready for when I cosy in to watch a film later on, a film which I'll select from my Arsenal DVD wallet. I'm not one to usually buy club related items, I think it's just easier for my friends and family when it comes to buying presents for me, that I happen to support one of the countries biggest teams with a wide range merchandise available.

From alarm clocks to curtains, bottle openers to oven gloves, football clubs stick their logo on any item possible. Merchandise is a major income stream for clubs at any level, with high street shops and online stores selling fashion, homeware and equipment branded with club logos.

Due to the rising cost of club merchandise, I stopped buying replica football shirts years ago, £50 just isn't affordable anymore for many supporters. I find myself waiting until the end of a season to venture into the jungle that is the clearance section of Sports Direct. Dreading the crowds but excited at the prospect of finding a bargain, even if it means searching hundreds of racks to do so.

With online shopping being more popular than ever, there has been a new wave of fashion wear become available from football clubs in the last decade, with shirts, suits and coats to name a few. Unsurprisingly, these online stores (as with the sport itself), are male dominated by default. Although most clubs have a 'ladies' department, there are a limited range of items available, many of which are pink and purple. We all know women make up a large percentage of football supporters across the globe, with participation levels in women's football also increasingly growing. But why are football clubs still failing to relate to a massive section of their fanbase?

Chelsea FC for instance, have nightwear and underwear sections for men and women. However, there is a noticeable difference between the pictures for men's boxers and women's lingerie. With the latter being displayed by a half naked model.

I'm also unclear as to why Tottenham have lacy thong and bra sets, I'm sure very few women want to unwrap that present on their birthday or wedding anniversary.

Aside from Arsenal, who have one picture of Rachel Yankey and Danielle Carter in club hoodies, I couldn't find any pictures of players from Premier League clubs promoting any clothing in the womens range. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa and Sunderland all have mens and womens teams in the top flights of English football. Most clubs follow the same website format, with one page dedicated to women and one page to girls. As opposed to multiple pages for men and boys of all ages. Even on the page for Arsenal 'girls', there is a picture of two boys. I understand that at the end of the day, it boils down to income for these football clubs, whatever they can get away with selling, they will. I just find it disheartening that in the most popular and progressive sport in the world, there is still obvious sexism from the grassroots to professional playing levels and boardrooms to merchandising. 

Personally, I think the online stores should be all inclusive, no gender-specific sections. Training gear, replica kits, fashion items, should all be offered in mens and womens sizes, on the same pages. All it would take is for some extra titles to be added to the drop down menu under the 'size' option. Junior clothing can be categorized into age ranges, rather then exclude young girls to the limited pink variations. Women's football is fighting for media coverage enough as it is, so the more we see or hear about it, the more it will grow. If that means England Captain-Steph Houghton, wearing a Manchester City hoodie posing with Sergio Aguero. Or top England goalscorer-Kelly Smith, sat in a onesie alongside Oliver Giroud. These players become more known, they become a household name. If football wants to be truly inclusive "for all", then it needs to portray that in all areas.

Below are some examples of the websites and menus I've come across, which are generally the same for most clubs: