FA are wrong to keep mum on girls’ football participation

Last week the Football Association asked fathers which sports they would prefer their daughters to participate in. Laura Jones wonders where are the mum’s thoughts on this sporting subject?

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To coincide with Father’s Day, the Football Association released statistics on daddy/daughter sport participation. The survey, conducted for the FA’s We Can Play campaign, revealed that dads would encourage daughters aged 7-11 to play certain sports. Swimming came in first with 59 per cent, athletics in second (44 per cent) and gymnastics in the bronze position with (41 per cent). Football finished in seventh with 19 per cent of the dad vote.

The reasons dads gave for not encouraging their daughters to participate in football seem to be a variation on a theme, that the sport isn’t suitable for women.

Twenty-five per cent of dads said that other sports are better suited, 24 per cent said that they believed girls would prefer to play other sports and 22 per cent said that football is a “man’s game”.

The perception of the physicality of football seemed to be a concern for the fathers asked, with 16 per cent saying that it would be “unladylike” for girls to play football, 14 per cent were worried about other people perceiving their daughter to be “butch” and 13 per cent said women just aren’t built to play the game.

This may have been a themed survey released for Father’s Day but the emphasis has been put on the importance of dad’s opinion on what sports they would prefer their daughter to participate in. Where are the mum’s opinions on the subject? Do they think differently to the men in the family? Would they be more likely to encourage their daughter to play perceived ‘unladylike’ sports?

By putting the emphasis on what dad’s think, the FA are assuming that they are the driving force of sports participation within the family unit. Mums may think very differently or they may very much agree with what the dad’s believe. How do we know that mums aren’t as much of a barrier to sports participation than dads? Some mother’s may also believe it is unladylike to grace a mud-laden pitch on a weekly basis.

From the results it’s also interesting that dad’s found individual sports more suitable than team activities. Only netball broke into the top five. Did swimming, athletics and gymnastics come higher because they have stronger role models for women like Rebecca Adlington, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Beth Tweddle? Or is it because these sports are perceived to be more aesthetically pleasing than a Jill Scott slide tackle?

The We Can Play campaign is aiming to canvass 100,000 girls and parents in its drive to “boost participation”. Although 1,000 dads completed the survey, we need to hear from both parents and the girls themselves about what can help to encourage them to step foot on the pitch.

Read more from Laura Jones here!

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