Much has been discussed about the impact of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on girls taking up soccer– but what kind of experiences will they have once they pull on a pair of boots in community sporting organisations?
Victoria University PhD student Elsa Mangan is trying to find out by investigating the experiences women and girls have playing football in the community.
“In the study, I’m looking at aspects of equality, treatment at clubs, club culture, how girls and women are valued, what opportunities they have, recognition and respect, spaces they have at the club, it’s really all encompassing,” she said.
Five soccer clubs from around Victoria) are participating in the study, ranging from a juniors-only club, a women’s only club, a community club, a National Premier League club and a regional club. Each club has a different existing level of engagement with girls and women.
“I’m at the beginning of my project, so collecting baseline data from focus groups from each of the clubs. I’m asking them what their experiences have been up until now, what they are expecting from the Women’s World Cup and really trying to get a clear picture of the ‘pre-World Cup experience’,” Elsa explained.
She will then speak to them again in three to six months after the World Cup, then again at 12 months to really assess the legacy of the tournament.
“Previous studies around major sporting events show a lot of excitement at the time of the events and a slight increase in participation immediately following the event. But these participation rates typically plateau, or go back to what it was before the event. There is a real lack of evidence about the social impact of global sports events,” Elsa said.
I’m personally really excited the World Cup is in Australia, and I’m optimistic it will have a positive impact on the participation level and social experience of girls and women in soccer, and hopefully in sport generally.
That said, there are barriers women and girls still experience so there is work to be done on how these can be overcome so we can all move forward.
A player and a coach herself, Elsa also works at Football Victoria as Women and Girls Project Manager - she sees this as an important project for Football Australia’s ambition of achieving 50-50 gender equality by 2027.