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Becca’s Blog: Getting shirty - Is this a step in the right direction for women’s football?

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“Having names on the back of shirts is a niche area of football, and doesn’t seem too important in the grand scheme of things. Arguably though, it is the small steps that help achieve equality in the modern game.”

Twitter: Sunderland Ladies

Last week news broke which saw a small, but nonetheless significant, step forward for women’s football. Despite many international teams already donning their names on the back of their shirts, Wales’ women’s team were finally able to achieve this when they played Italy last week.

Midfielder and Welsh veteran, Jessica Fishlock, wrote an emotional tweet after the game saying that:

After twelve years of fighting, we finally have our names on our shirt.

It’s extraordinary, given the leaps and bounds that women’s football has taken in recent years, that a developed footballing country like Wales has only recently put its player’s names on the back of their shirts.

Having names on the back of shirts is a niche area of football, and doesn’t seem too important in the grand scheme of things. Arguably though, it is the small steps that help achieve equality in the modern game.

Welsh midfielder Angharad James made the point that having names on the back of shirts pushes women’s football in the right direction as it encourages more young girls to take part and watch their heroes play with their names on the shirt.

Additionally, it’s a boost for both boys and girls interested in the women’s game, as they are able to identify their idols on the pitch and get their favourite player’s name on the back of their shirt when they go out to play football. Everybody wants to play like their footballing hero on the pitch, and on the field it’s especially empowering for youngsters to play with that name on their shirt.

As mentioned previously, women’s football has developed enormously in recent years, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise that in the top two flights of English women’s football, all the teams have their players’ names on the back of their shirts.

It might seem like a trivial detail, but this just indicates how far the sport has come professionally for women.

However, the further down the leagues you creep, it’s a jumble as to which teams play with their names on the back of their shirts. In the Northern Premier Division, in which Sunderland are currently sat second, four of the thirteen teams in the league play with their names etched across their backs - Sunderland Ladies do not.

However, funding is a big issue in football, especially in the women’s game. Sunderland Ladies Head Coach Melanie Reay stated that having names on the back of shirts looks more professional and should be done at higher levels of the game in terms of both a marketing and promotional stance, but at the other end of the spectrum there is a cost issue for clubs.

As ever in sport the issue boils down to money.

During the FA reshuffle, clubs were being reallocated in different leagues primarily due to funding. Sunderland Ladies were demoted as a result of failing to meet these funding standards, so having names on the back of their shirts probably isn’t a top priority for the Lasses.

The top priority, realistically, is striving to climb up the leagues and re-establish themselves as a top flight club.

Ultimately it isn’t a case of getting shirty about this topic, it’s about making sure that equality can be achieved in all aspects of the game.

Women’s football has become more professional in recent years, and the Welsh squad getting names on the back of their shirts after a long period of time reflects this on an international level.

This has also been achieved on a domestic level regarding top flight football clubs, but it is important that lower league clubs are also able to flourish and develop.

Seemingly small and niche things like names on the back of shirts are rather important when increasing the professionalism of the game.