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Women's football shutdowns: 'It's unfair boys' academies can still play'

By Levi Jouavel
Newsbeat reporter

Published
image copyrightOlivia Moore / Caitlin Furniss-Roe

Fake crowd noises, socially distant changing rooms and no handshakes allowed - football in 2020 has been weirder than ever.

But now, during England's four-week lockdown, most female academy players will not be able to play football.

This is because most girls' football academies are not classed as an 'elite' sport - while boys' academies are.

The FA says if an academy meets the governments elite protocols then it can reopen.

But as women's football generally has fewer resources, it's unlikely many - if any at all - will be considered 'elite'.

"I understand the anger and frustration, but it's about the human and financial resources to meet elite protocols," Kelly Simmons, director of women's football at FA tells BBC Sport.

She says elite protocols under Covid-19 include proper medical supervision, daily temperature checks and being able to manage symptoms and players.

"If the clubs could do that, they could operate but it's a big challenge for the women's game," she adds.

So, even if you play at the same club, girls are likely to be told to stay home whilst boys continue as normal.

The FA is being criticised for encouraging inequalities between women's and men's football and promoting gender bias.

Manchester United Women boss Casey Stoney called the move "really disappointing".

'We're treated differently when there is no difference'

It's upset many female footballers, like Brentford's Caitlin Furniss-Roe.

"I haven't been able to play football and it makes me upset to see the boys playing, it's really not fair," Caitlin, 20, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

All of her training sessions and matches have been cancelled.

"We were always washing our hands or using hand sanitiser. We weren't allowed to hug or even high-five.

"They should allow us to train - there's literally no difference apart from the fact that the boys are boys and we are girls."

image copyrightCaitlin Furniss-Roe
image captionCaitlin wants the FA to reverse their decision

Caitlin understands that financial differences between men and women's football play a big part in the FA's decision.

"As female footballers, we have to understand why we are treated differently.

"We don't get a lot of exposure and there's not really a lot of money into women's football, so I kind of understand why it's different.

"But it shouldn't be, because we're literally doing the same thing as them."

'Give women more of a chance'

Like Caitlin, all of Olivia Moore's training sessions and matches have been suspended due to the lockdown.

She's 19 and plays for QPR where the boys' team is still playing.

"Everything is just revolving around the men. Women are as good and we deserve that equal opportunity," she tells Newsbeat.

image copyrightOlivia Moore
image captionOlivia signed to her first academy in 2018

Olivia says her team has been really helpful by sending the girls fitness plans and football drills to work on during the lockdown.

"Football is a big outlet for me, I definitely found my feet playing football.

"When the lockdown is here, it's really hard to motivate yourself because football is a team sport."

Like Caitlin, Olivia is frustrated about having to start again after four weeks off.

"Everyone was getting back into the memo and back into training to just get shut down again.

"Every time that happens, we lose motivation. It's disheartening.

"They need to give women more of a chance and let us in as much as they let the boys in - we're all trying to get to that elite state."

#IsItBecauseImAGirl

The hashtag #IsItBecauseImAGirl has been used on Twitter to highlight the problems the shutdown is causing female players.

It was started by the group Womens FC, which works on promoting female football from around the world.

"Same age, same club, same tier in the football pyramid - the difference is gender. We were appalled by this decision, as it shows inequality to girls who play," they tell Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"To us, this felt like a massive step backwards and we wanted to do whatever we could to raise more awareness of this decision & how it has affected young female footballers.

"These young girls are playing football to aspire to be the next Steph Houghton, Ellen White, Beth England. They will want to play for club and country, however, they are being prevented from continuing with their training during this lockdown period which is wrong when boys can continue to play."

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Related Topics

  • Coronavirus lockdown measures

More on this story

  • Casey Stoney: Girls' football academies deserve 'elite' status