GUILLEM BALAGUE: Perception of women's roles in football is beginning to change
In his latest Chronicle column, the Biggleswade United chairman focuses on the growth of women's football and the recent success of the club's own ladies team
There is nothing that I can think of about today’s football that make me happier than the exponential rise in the popularity of the women’s game not just nationally but especially here at Biggleswade United
The winds of change are blowing fast and furious in the world of football and not just on the pitch but behind the scenes as well – and not before time. When I started appearing on television more than 25 years ago there was barely a single women commentator or pundit involved in the game.
These days on media outlets like CBS, BBC Radio Five, La Liga Sports and Fox Sports I am privileged to be able to work regularly with supremely talented people, like Kate Abdo, Gabby Logan, Alex Scott, Kelly Cates, Rhemesh Chowdhury, Caroline Barker and Semra Hunter to name just a few, top notch sports journalists picked not because of any attempts to make up the numbers in a display of tokenism, but rather because they are blisteringly good at their jobs.
Winning something with our ladies side is a further example of how people’s perception is beginning to change as regards to women’s roles in football.
While winning Group D of the mini-competition set up the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Women’s League following the cancellation of the main competition because of COVID, may not the biggest triumph in the world it is still nonetheless an absolute thrill for all of us at the club and bodes well for the future.
While we certainly made hard work of our 2-1 victory at the Keech Hospice Care Stadium against Letchworth Garden City Eagles Ladies, Tash Simms’ winner right at the death means we won our league with a game to spare.
But what makes me most proud is not the victory per se but rather the fact that it has been achieved at our club primarily because of the strong focus we have placed on youth at the club, a policy which is now paying dividends with young players graduating from the junior sides and enhancing an already successful team.
No fewer than six of our squad for Sunday’s game came through our girls’ sides into the ladies first team. Helen Spencer, Beth Spavins, Freya Wren, and Tash Simms were all in the starting line up while Holly Mattingley and Ellie-May Clements came on as substitutes.
Hopefully we can now use this mini-triumph as a springboard onto bigger and better things as we look to raise the standard of our women’s game and build a side that can next season compete at the higher level that is the first division – the second tier – of the Eastern Region Women’s Football League who have invited us to join them from next season. We are currently waiting for FA approval.
We will of course need more players although I am reliably informed by our coaches that the word is getting around and we are being joined every week by more ladies hoping to join us on our journey.
If we want to play at a higher level we are obviously going to have to look seriously at creating a second side because the ramifications that come with playing in a more competitive league will require a commitment to longer, more intensive, more frequent training sessions, increased travel time to and from opponents’ grounds, plus of course, higher levels of proficiency that will ensure we will be able to look and feel at home in a more demanding environment.
There will of course be players who because of their personal circumstances will not be able to give that level of commitment and as a result playing in a second team will be perfect both for them and also for the club that can also use the side as a perfect stepping stone into the first team for young players coming through.