With this week being Women’s Sports Week the age-old topic of Manchester United and Women’s Football has reared it’s head again. Manchester United are one of only two teams in the Premier League currently not affiliated with a senior women’s side along with Southampton. This has been a major source of criticism in the past few years with an increased focus and effort to push women’s football into the mainstream. A column published today on BBCSport by Rachel Brown-Finnis said it was ‘shocking’ that United did not have a women’s team and hinted she hoped in the future they may be able to ‘force’ United to establish one.
So with all the pressure in the media stating with United should have a women’s side I decided to take the opposite stance and list reasons why it’s fine United don’t have a women’s football team.
Lack Of Interest
Despite a major push in recent years to bring Women’s Football forward including broadcasting of games on BTSport and increased media coverage and investment there continues to be a fundamental lack of interest in women’s football in the UK.
The average attendance for the Women’s Super League in 2016 was an abysmal 1197 people. This is with Manchester City averaging over 2000 per game thanks to their massive investment in Women’s Football which will no doubt be coming at a big financial loss with only 2000 fans coming through the gates. Across the entire season the Women’s Super League attracted 78,000 fans, or just over 2000 more than go to Old Trafford for a single game.
Despite the push Women’s Football is yet to capture the imagination of the British public. With stories like FC Dallas Under 15’s beating the world champion American Women’s Team coming out it seems the poor standard is failing to attract credible attendances to warrant significant investment from United.
Rachel Brown-Finnis states that women’s football is a big ‘commercial asset’ however United would question whether average attendances of under 1200 really is a massive asset when you consider they would be paying for professional contracts, coaching, travel etc etc.
As touched on in the last point there is a cost to having a women’s football team. Manchester City have widely praised for their commitment to women’s football. They have magnificent facilities, fantastic coaching and a fully professional squad of players on very generous salaries. Although the cost of Manchester City’s women’s team is not public it is reasonable to assume they make a loss on their investment in it, if not a significant loss. There is pressure from women’s football advocates to make the entire league professional because er, well urm, they deserve it for erm, being women? Having a squad of fully professional players bringing in minimal money in return is a bad financial decision. Manchester United are a publicly traded company with an obligation to make smart financial decisions for their investors to deliver a return. Opening up a women’s side to appease critics and giving them professional contracts and new facilities would be the opposite of what investors demand.
There is already professional standard women’s football in Manchester
Manchester City have featured heavily in this post. Arch-rivals of United the clubs are polar opposites in their position on women’s football. While United do not have a women’s team and have no plans to introduce one City have invested massively and fully backed the Women’s Super League.
Manchester City’s women use the same facilities as the men, are all on professional contracts and won their first league title last season. It goes without saying that for young girls in Manchester growing up dreaming of becoming professional footballers their dreams can be realised at Manchester City.
If Manchester was dearth of any professional women’s football maybe critics would have a point but the opportunity is already there.
Forcing United to have a women’s team isn’t equality, it is entitlement
If equality is the issue at hand would men in Manchester be right to demand that the Manchester Thunder netball team have a men’s senior side with their games broadcast on Sky Sports? Equality is supposed to work both ways. If you want it to be mandatory for United to have a women’s side it would have to be mandatory for every sport’s team to have equal opportunities for both genders regardless of whether it makes sense or not.
Or we could stick with the system of ‘if there’s sufficient interest, we’ll do it’. If women’s football is a massive commercial asset I would have expected someone else to have established a second high level women’s football team in Manchester to capitalise on this, but it’s not true. Women’s football at the highest level is a massive money pit and feminists are hoping to bully United into bank-rolling it at their own expense.