Football

Should the women's World Cup be played alongside the men's competition?

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Earlier this year, the US beat Japan 5-2 in the World Cup final in Vancouver, it was seen by a record 25.4 million viewers (Nielsen ratings data) - dwarfing figures from any previous women's football fixture. This increased coverage has been of huge advantage to many female athletes, who have now begun to get sponsorship deals through the enhanced media coverage.

Alex Morgan is one of the players from that World Cup winning side currently benefitting from the soaring popularity of the female game. Sportsgoogly.com reports that she is set to earn $450,000 per year, making her the highest paid professional female footballer, earning twice more than the team salary cap set by the NWSL of $200,000. She is also expected to earn up to $1 million through sponsors in 2015, representing sportswear brand Nike in a series of recent adverts.

However, there is still a long way to go in the world of women's sport. It is still very early days, with some countries much further behind than others. It was only at London 2012 that Saudi Arabia first let a female athlete compete. Sarah Attar competed in the 800m and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in the judo competition.The Saudi authorities lifted a ban on women from the Gulf kingdom competing in the Games only months before the games.The public participation of women in sport is still fiercely opposed by many Saudi religious conservatives. 

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Less extreme, but much closer to home, Scottish football was reminded on the opening day of the football season it still has a way to go too. East Fife had to issue an apology, due to a section of their fans chanting sexist abuse towards a female physio. The chants were described as 'disgusting, rude and sexist" in a club statement this week.  

This isn't the first time football has got into trouble for sexism. Manchester United kit manufacturer Adidas hasn't got off to the smoothest of starts with its newest partners this year. The release of the women's home jersey has widely been lauded as 'sexist' due to it low cut neck design. The kit maker has recently signed a kit deal worth £750 million with the Red Devils for the next 10 years. 

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Maybe Adidas had listened a bit too closely to the head of world football's governing body, Sepp Blatter. The FIFA chief was quoted as saying "Let's get women to play in different and more feminine garb than the men, in tighter shorts for example" when replying to a question on how to make women's football more popular in 2004.

With Sepp Blatter soon to step down, after announcing his resignation days after being voted in for his fifth term, I am hopeful the next boss will do more to improve on the soaring popularity of women's football. The 2010 World Cup final between Spain and The Netherlands achieved 909 million viewers globally, and the 2014 final is thought to have surpassed that number, this would suggest that if the women's World Cup was to be run alongside the mens competition, the viewing numbers could increase ten-fold. 

Changes

It might be of benefit that this won't happen until after the World Cup in 2018, which has already been allocated to Vladimir Putin's Russia.  A place notorious for its racist and sexist chanting at football matches, one of the major concerns for the event. Zenit St Petersberg and Brazil forward, Hulk, was recently quoted by the Guardian stating that he encounters racism in 'almost every game' and that he is worried it will tarnish the tournament in 2018. The women's World Cup will be held a year later, taking place in France, home of the third highest paid female player from outside the USA, Amandine Henry of Olympic Lyon. 

Women's football may not yet be at a stage where it is as exciting as the men's game. But when watching, it is important to remember that many of these players have other jobs, if able to play professionally, the standard of the game would undoubtably rise, making for even greater viewing. Last season, Irish striker Stephanie Roche showed just how thrilling women's football can be, almost becoming the first female winner of Fifa's annual Puskas Award for the best goal of the year . Her 25 yard left-foot volley came close to winning, eventually losing out to Real Madrid and Columbia forward, James Rodriguez.  

FIFA's name sakes at EA Sports, have already responded towards this increase in popularity. Female players now feature for the first time in the games history, with National teams appearing on FIFA 16. Surely the next step would be a joining for the World Cups to be played in tandem to give the game even greater publicity and even more global popularity. 

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