The growth crisis in women’s football



This is the story of a series of nervous breakdowns which football France would have done well. Accustomed to the foucades of boys, the French public discovers that the division can also reign within the French women’s team, engaged in the final sprint of qualifying for Euro 2022.

We will have had the right to everything. Statements by the captain questioning the management of coach Corinne Deacon, criticism by her of Lyon striker Eugenie Le Sommer, immediately supported by its president Jean-Michel Aulas, mediation announced by the president of the French Football Federation Noël Le Graët, on the occasion of this France-Austria on Friday, November 27, which takes place in his stronghold of Guingamp … The chronicle of the Blue, has largely gone beyond the sporting framework.

“They must first bring back titles”

After having charmed France at the 2019 World Cup, ended with a disappointing elimination in the quarterfinals, would the Blue be won by the big head syndrome? This is the opinion of Laurent Nicollin, president of the association of professional women’s football clubs. Everyone has to show a little more humility, that everyone works and shuts it down, and then that they bring back titles ”, he declared in The team. His word weighs heavily, because his club, Montpellier, is one of the very first with Lyon to have seriously invested in women’s football.

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“We are witnessing a growth crisis. The players are more and more professional, no longer want to be treated like kids but have not yet proven much in the national team ”, analyzes football economist Richard Duhautois. He has just published with his college Luc Arrondel an essay on women’s football, whose mischievous title “Like boys, the economy of men’s football” (rue d’Ulm editions), resonates in the context of the moment.

1% of the French football economy

With the 2019 World Cup, French women’s football was the object of a tremendous craze exceeding its real influence ”, completes this specialist who has calibrated the economic impact (budgets, salaries, media coverage) at… 1% of its male equivalent. This tiny figure, which takes into account salaries, attendance at women’s D1 matches – 1,000 spectators on average – is to be seen in relation to the number of licensed players: around 150,000, or 10% of members of the the French Football Federation.

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“1% against 10%. It’s all in this difference, no wonder girls want to be heard. And while the image returned lately isn’t very good, it wouldn’t have made the headlines ten years ago, he continues. This story proves that women’s football has grown in importance ”. This is also the opinion of Fabien Safanjon, vice president of the UNFP, the union of professional players and in charge of women’s football. “The girls had the image of wise players, fair play, respectful of the referee, it was their trademark, he said, but why should they be perfect? They are fully-fledged professionals, they must be treated and judged like men. “

Towards a professional league

According to the latter, “Women’s football is still infantilized, it is high time we created a professional league worthy of the name”. In fact, the players, including those playing for comfortable salaries at Olympique Lyonnais or Paris SG – two clubs monopolizing titles and finals in the Women’s Champions League – are statutorily… amateurs.

They have so-called “federal” employment contracts, exactly like the semi-professional boys evolving in the third, fourth and fifth divisions. They are under the supervision of the French Football Federation and the twelve D1 clubs, nine of which are backed by male clubs, do not have much to say about their calendar, nor the broadcasting of their matches on Canal subsidiary channels ( Foot + and Canal + sport).

“The good side of this supervision is that French women’s football has been little impacted by the Covid, the modesty of salaries has made it possible to support them in the partial unemployment scheme, observes economist Richard Duhautois. When you don’t have much, you don’t lose a lot, but I’m not sure if you don’t have to be happy ”.

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Two qualifying matches for Euro 2022

Initially scheduled for 2021, the Women’s Euro has been postponed by one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are two games left for the French to ensure their participation in this European Championship which will take place in England. France-Austria, Friday 27 at Guingamp (9 p.m., W9) and France-Kazakhstan, Tuesday 1er at Vannes (9:00 p.m., W9).

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