Football is one of the most popular and profitable sports on the planet. With the previous English premier league TV rights deal generating £8 billion for its teams over a 3-year period, attention and investment in the game has never been higher. Nor has the gender pay gap. Despite its incredible financial rewards, football remains a sport trapped in an old, outdated age, where the talented young boys and girls who pursue the sport in all its glory are destined to follow two very different paths: one of immense reward and recognition, another of struggle and survival.
In 2016, SSE (Scottish Energy Company) became the major sponsor of women’s football in Scotland, providing vital investment across women’s football and marking the energy company as an official partner of the Scotland Women’s National Team and title sponsor of the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup. With Thursday 8th being International Women’s Day, we couldn’t think of a more important company to spotlight.
More than an opportunity to maximise exposure as another progressive brand pushing another progressive cause, SSE’s commitment and vision for women’s football runs far deeper, with the real impact being felt across England. With the aim to remove barriers and call out to girls across the nation to join the other 2.9 million young girls playing football across England, SSE are fully investing themselves in shaking up this traditionally male-dominated sport.
Working with 200 clubs across England, they have already provided funds to set up coaching sessions and teams for girls aged 5 to 14. But creating real change in a society that lives and breathed football, yet are rarely exposed to anything outside of the men’s games, means delving deeper into the problem. Men have a fundamental role to play in encouraging girls to pursue the beautiful game, and SSE are already championing this role through their Dads and daughters campaign.
With 83% of boys aged 10-16 playing football, yet only 36% of girls being involved, SSE understood the importance of dads being a major motivating force for their daughters. While only 20% of dads actively encourage their girls to take an interest in football, the campaign aims to shift attitudes and celebrate the important role every father plays in encouraging their daughter to take up football and sports in general.
This year, the men’s premier league will distribute around £2.5 billion alone in prize money amongst the 20 currently competing teams. As it stands, even the bottom placed team will walk away with around £100 million, yet in the female-equivalent Super League, prize money isn’t even offered to the league winners. The top-tier of female players in England earn under £18,000 a year, and more than half considering ending their careers for financial reasons. When the average male player receives £200,000 a month, there is major work yet to be done.
83% of sports now give women and men equal prize money. The gap is narrowing across sports worldwide, yet in football it seemingly continues to grow. If we cannot even support and reward those few women who manage to make it to the most elite levels of the game, how can we expect to inspire the next generation of talented female footballers to come?
By becoming an official partner and sponsor in Scotland, SSE have brought a cash prize to the Scottish Women’s Cup for the first time since its inception in 1971. There are still strides and leaps to be made, but through SSE’s support, women’s football in the UK is one step closer to a future where a footballer’s opportunities are shaped by their talent, not their gender.