Sunday, 13 April 2014

Player Interview: Georgie Giddings

Reading midfielder and captain, Geogie Giddings, talks to Ruth Dacey about her move from Sweden and her work coaching in the community.

Georgie Giddings returns to England to join the Royals revolution as the team aim to make a big impact in their FA Women’s Super League début season.
Giddings is joined by an array of glittering new additions including Welsh internationals Helen Ward, and Nicky Davies and former Republic of Ireland captain Ciara Grant.  
The former Chelsea player was with the London side for seven years before moving to America and playing for the University of Connecticut Huskies between 2009 and 2012.
After returning to England Giddings signed for Ashford Town (Middlesex) Ladies before quickly making the move to IK Sirius based in Uppsala, Sweden, but has returned to captain the Reading side.
“The whole atmosphere of the club appealed to me - there is a great sense of solidarity within the club and the team is filled with confidence after winning the South division last season,” the 23-year-old said.
“Everything has been coming together well, and Jane [Ludlow] has made sure she’s implemented her own philosophy about how we should play.
“We want to be competing at the top of the table but this season brings the unknown for all the teams in the division because of so many signings at all the clubs.
“As skipper I want to make sure there is unity in the team so everyone understands their roles and how important it is to contribute 100% if we want to succeed.”

The Royals will face a tough test with fixtures against the likes of Doncaster Rovers Belles, Aston Villa Ladies FC, Sunderland AFC Ladies and Watford Ladies FC in the second tier of the newly formed league.
With so much talent in the squad ambitions are high, and Giddings is confident Reading will be challenging at the top of the table come the end of the season.
“Looking around the team I don’t think we have any weakness at all- even anybody that would come on as a substitute is capable of making a big impact,” the central mid-fielder said.
 “We have real quality especially Helen [Ward] who brings such a fantastic reputation up front- and her goal scoring record and work rate will make a big difference.
“Also Ciara’s [Grant] experience at the back is also going to help in key moments during matches and Lois Roache in mid-field brings great technical skill with her.
“For me Doncaster Belles and Sunderland are the two teams to watch but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up there competing with them.”
Giddings, who is coaching for Reading in the community, hopes she can inspire youngsters to participate in the game and increase the number of supporters watching female matches.
“I’m loving coaching because it’s such great experience and my game is benefiting because I am working with a lot of boys that have experience playing,” the former Chelsea player said.
“I get to work in schools as well and it great because this encourages more people to come along and enhance the atmosphere whilst we’re playing.
“The women’s game keeps improving and I hope attendances and participation in the sport continues to increase.” 
By Ruth Dacey

Player Interview: Chloe Jones

Aston Villa striker, Chloe Jones, talks to Ruth Dacey about Villa's title chances, life outside the game and her transfer from Liverpool Ladies FC in February 2013.

Q. Do you see yourselves as title contenders?

We can definitely be contenders to win the division, with the young team that we have- a lot of them are home grown players that have played in the development squads. The club allows young players like that to get a chance and see all their hard work pay off which they have been working towards for years.

We have a great combination of youth and experienced players. We have definitely got the ability and the skills that we need to make a really good team and contend for the top spot.

Q. Aside from playing a part in the team, what are your personal goals?

I want to keep improving as a player. I would like to think that I am not at my peak yet. I'm aiming to be as fit as I can and as strong as I can so I'm working really hard on and off the pitch in the gym.

I want to be one of the best midfielders and one of the best players in the league. I want to score a few free kicks and penalties.

Q. After a recent cup defeat to Doncaster Rovers, are you looking for revenge against them in your first league game?

We have learnt a lot since playing them in the FA cup and since that game we have just been improving more.

By the time that we go into the first league match against them we will be a completely different side for the better. We will go there more positively knowing what we have to contend with. We know how to beat them and just how good we are because of how we’ve been playing in the last few weeks.

Q. What were your reasons for leaving future league winners Liverpool last year in pre season?

It was for personal reasons. I changed my job to become a teacher in Birmingham and the travelling to Liverpool was just too much to keep going there every day.

Also, I know Aston Villa have always been a really good team in the Midlands and they are on the rise. It is a team that is developing and getting stronger and stronger and the whole club appealed to me. I knew they were going places.

Q. And how do you find it balancing football and your teaching?
Along with all the marking that I have to do, I generally try and train in the mornings and the evenings. So I would get to the gym at 6a.m, have a full day of work and then have a second session straight after work. 

I always give myself the week nights and weekend free because its an important to have that social work balance.
Q. How do you feel the women's side of the game is progressing, in terms of becoming more professional and moving forward?

The clubs all have to work towards becoming professional because of how the game is now. We look to the backing of men’s clubs and local sponsors- and this is the way it has to go for teams to keep up with those at the top.

I possibly moved from Liverpool at the wrong time because I missed out on being involved in their league title winning side but I had to make the move because of the personal situation at the time.

Q. Who would you say are Aston Villa's key signings this year?

Alicia Robinson is the main signing for us this season, she will make a real difference to the team. She’s a very creative player and I would like to think we will work well together. I hope the pair of us in midfield can help Aston Villa become more of a creative team and the team can build around players like her.

Emma Follis and Sarah Mayling will be key players in attack and then defensively I think we will be rock solid with Jade Richards, Erin Vaughan, Danielle Petrovic and Lauren Walker.
Lauren Walker has been a great signing, she's our left back.
Q. How has preparation for the upcoming season been going?
I don’t think it’s been a good thing that we have had such a long break since we finished our last season.
We finished in May time last year and we haven’t had much time off but because of so many players changing around. We focused on fitness up until the Christmas and then from January onwards, we have really focused on playing football.
It has taken time for us to get to know each other and fully understand how we are going to play but I think we have got there now.
Q. And lastly, who would you say is your biggest threat in the league?
I would say Sunderland and Doncaster pose the biggest threat to us this season.

By Ruth Dacey

Player Interview: Jordan Nobbs

Arsenal Midfielder, Jordan Nobbs, talks to Ruth Dacey about Arsenal and the upcoming FA WSL season.
Jordan Nobbs is determined to make a big impact in midfield for Arsenal Ladies FC as they aim to win the FA Women’s Super League this season.
Nobbs joined from Sunderland in 2010 and made a big impact in both European and early Super League matches.
The central midfielder has captained England at the Under-17s World Cup and made her senior debut in 2013 where she has become a prominent member of the team.
After winning the FA Young Player of the Year award in 2010, the central midfielder has continued that form with some fine displays and goals in 2012 and 2013 and hopes this season will be the best yet.
“I want to play a major role for Arsenal this season and be part of the main England team,” the 21-year-old said.

“A main aim is to keep getting goals for the side and I’ve put in a lot of hard work which hopefully will pay off this season.

“With the team we have we are serious contenders for the title this year, although of course I think it could be very unpredictable because of all the changes and signings that all the teams have made.

“We are a confident team- we just need to push ourselves as players and we will try and do everything this season to win trophies and push ourselves to the very highest level.”

Arsenal have strengthened their squad with stellar signings including the two Japan internationals Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno who helped Japan win the World Cup in Germany in 2001 and were silver medal winners at the London 2012 Olympics.

Other signings include England captain Casey Stoney, Holland international Anouk Hoogendijk, and Scotland international Christie Murray and Nobbs believes the tough competition for positions will greatly enhance the team’s performance.
“You can’t go wrong when you bring in two world class Japanese players who have won major trophies- I’m sure they will be a massive asset to the team this year,” the England international said.
“Bringing world class foreigners in like we have will strengthen the league further and improve the performance of English players- what ever can strengthen our league and strengthen our game can only be a good thing for the women’s game.

“The likes of Casey and Anouck who made the move from Ajax have come in to so this year it’s going to be fierce competing for places but this can only be a good thing.
“We’ve also brought in some youth players who are part of the England set-up who have the right mentality needed at this level so I think we have the balance just right.”
Last season Arsenal finished third in the FA Women's Super League (WSL), behind winners Liverpool and runners-up Bristol Academy but they remain the most successful team in the English game and won the WSL in 2011 and 2012.
“We want to back up there challenging for all the trophies and I believe our style of play can do that. We have always been a passing side and we will stick to that,” the former Sunderland player said.
“We have to look at all the title contenders and Liverpool poses the biggest threat for me- they won the league last year and they have strengthened their team again with the likes of Gemma Davison."
“But this year we will try as hard as we can and hopefully we will reap the rewards with lots of trophies.”
By Ruth  Dacey

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sexism in football, the real facts you need to know...

A survey conducted by the networking group Women In Football has produced some important figures with regards to the level of sexism still existing in the footballing industry. 661 women (60% of the full amount asked to participate) from all areas of football responded, including: coaches, match officials, media, physios, administrators, etc.

In a press release, WIF stated:

"The problems run throughout football with a female referee being told a men’s team did not want her to officiate because of her gender, to a respondent being slapped on her bum on her first day by a senior figure in the game.
Women in Football are a networking group supporting professional women working in football. We celebrate women’s achievement and offer mentoring opportunities to the next generation.
We have conducted this survey to:

·     Provide a ground-breaking study into the experiences of women working in the football industry.
·     Identify why women are not achieving their full potential in this sector and what could be done to address this.
·     Explore the prevalence of gender-based discrimination within football.
·     Look forward to the future: 90% of respondents told us they believe opportunities for women working within the football industry are increasing/improving"

Chair of The Fa's Inclusion and Advisory Board (IAB), Heather Rabbatts, made these comments in reaction to the survey results:

“Whilst we know there has been significant progress in women's participation in football and great strides made with the Women’s Super League, we know there is more to do. Women remain still significantly under-represented in executive and board positions in the sport industry. Surveys such as this help to focus all our attention and The FA alongside all of the football bodies are committed to tackling discrimination at all levels”.

Rabbatts was The FA's first female board member in it's 150 year history and this year she was named The Guardian's 9th 'Most Influential Woman in British Sport', a list composed to celebrate International Women's Day 2014

The IAB was set up in December 2013 as part of a The FA’s commitment to its Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan 2013-2017. The Action Plan aims to:
  • Widen football's talent by tackling under-representation and so increase the diversity of football's talent pool.
  • Clarify anti-discrimination regulations and sanctions, to create clarity and understanding around the regulations and sanctions related to discriminatory behaviour.
  • Instil confidence in reporting discrimination and to generate confidence in the reporting and subsequent handling of discrimination cases and to be transparent with the outcomes.
  • Increase knowledge, awareness and understanding of equality and inclusion-and what constitutes discriminatory behaviour within football, providing information, guidance and training.

The FA's IAB is a positive step forward on the road to eliminating discrimination and abuse within the game. It's still astonishing though to read that 66.4% of women have experienced sexism in the football workplace. This includes: sexual harassment, sexist banter, women being barred from certain areas, being told they can't do their job due to gender, discrimination against mothers and most shockingly, 1.41% have experienced physical abuse.

These are the environments most of us reading this now actually work in-football clubs, offices, pitches, press conferences, etc. The places where we share a passion for the beautiful game, the places we earn our living, the places we go to share our mutual interests and work alongside each other. These women have said they feel pressured, they are treat unfairly, paid unequally and overlooked for career progression in football. How would you feel going to work on a morning worrying about the day ahead due to discrimination like this? Knowing that on top of all the added job stress, you also have to constantly prove yourself in what is still regarded as a 'man's world'. 

Why are 54.3% of women still worried about their appearance in the football workplace? Why do 24.91% feel they need to look glamourous? Think back to grassroots football, it's all about muddy tracksuits, dishevelled hairstyles and your favourite pair of worn/tatty football boots. Admittedly, it has grown more aesthetically pleasing in recent years, with fancy new trends coming in, contemporary boardrooms and state of the art playing facilities.  But nevertheless, the origins of football remain the same. What does it matter on someone's appearance as to their knowledge of the game or their ability to carry out their job?

The Director of Football Governance and Regulation, Darren Bailey, responds to the survey:

“Women have a vital role to play in all aspects of the game. We are determined to eliminate negative attitudes towards women. We want those who see or are subject to harassment or discriminatory behaviour in football to report it to us directly, or via the Kick It Out app, which offers discreet reporting.” 

It will take time still for football and most other sports to become truly inclusive of participants regardless of gender, race, age and other factors. Remember, these are you mothers, girlfriends, wives, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends, who are experiencing this in the workplace. We are all responsible to make the stand against discrimination and abuse.

Listed below are statistics and quotes retrieved from the survey results, all of which are displayed on the Women In Football website:

On sexism in the workplace...
“I've pretty much experienced it all. I've been slapped on the backside by a colleague, and asked to 'get the tea'; you can imagine my response.”
“I experienced direct sexist and derogatory comments, and intimidation. I didn't report it as I was scared, I was told I would never work in the game again.”
“A men's football team did not want me to referee because of my gender.”
“On my first day at work a senior figure in football slapped my bum when walking past. I didn't want to make a complaint before I had even met the rest of my colleagues.”
“I was told in a job interview that it was an issue that I was female.”
“I don't want to rock the boat at work by complaining, I wouldn't want bad feeling. It is done to other women too. It isn't physically or mentally harmful but it is putting us in a different category from men - which is shameful.”
“You can't report it every time someone says something derogatory as it's so common place.”
"Women being talked over in meetings; being excluded from working groups or selection panels; having their qualifications and input trivialised."

What women in the game want...
“To have a female changing room!” [A number of women asked for this, from female medics to match officials, with even some of the biggest clubs not providing female changing facilities for staff or visiting professionals]
“More diversity in senior roles, the entire senior management is white, male and middle class.”
“More female representation on the FA Council and Board of Directors.”
“People to acknowledge that although I am a woman I do know what I am talking about with regard to my job.”
“Less sexist discrimination and prejudice. I have to work hard to gain the same amount of respect as male counterparts.”
“I would like not to have to prove that I know about football every time I come across someone who hasn't worked with me before.”
“More senior women - mainly for the balanced decision-making it would create at a senior management level but also so I knew I was being taken seriously as a candidate for senior roles. There aren't many opportunities to progress in my career here, women tend to leave rather than move up.”

Football needs to modernise...
“I didn't get invited to a dinner because it was a 'men and wives' dinner. It feels completely old-fashioned to have events like this - and football is littered with them!”
“I was turned down for a job in men's football because the club wanted to 'keep a male feel'.”
“It is a very sexist environment. Women tend to only be employed in administrative roles.”
“Stop the ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality which is not based on talent.”
“A greater acceptance that women in the industry are as knowledgeable about the game as men. My junior male colleagues are often sought out ahead of me to answer questions on the job.”
“To be taken seriously, and for men to not make inappropriate comments towards me such as commenting on my appearance, or thinking that I will tolerate sexually inappropriate comments.”
“Football has a highly active misogynistic wing. It's getting better but slowly. Other sports have profoundly improved.”
On discrimination against working mothers...
“I have been told by my employer that my job is incompatible with motherhood.”
“Since having my children my role has been totally marginalised and I have had no opportunities to progress.”
“I was demoted from my job on the birth of my first child. I lost my job after the birth of my second.”
“I don't see football as an environment which helps or encourages working mothers. Every working mother I see struggles (unless they have a nanny) and most drop out of the industry. How many senior women are there who are working mums? Not enough.”
Statistics and comments obtained from Women In Football and The FA.