Call for Participation | Sport and gender: lessons from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup | Free event, University of Bath, October 5, 2023

Sydney Opera House lit up in support of the Matildas Australian soccer team during the 2023 Women’s World Cup (Photo: Nick-D. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand (Aotearoa) has been the subject of global attention. While celebrated for its record attendance and media coverage, it was also marked by controversies that raise questions about the future of gender equity on and off the pitch. What are the challenges faced by the sport? What are the lessons from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup? What might this mean for advancing gender equality?

Please join us for an evening of talks and discussion where we explore these questions and consider how we can achieve greater equity and inclusion. The event takes place between 6:30pm and 8:45pm BST at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Bath, Somerset, and is free, but places are limited. Please complete our registration form to book your place.

Event schedule

You can read details about each individual talk below the event schedule

Time Session Host/particpants
6:30–6:45 Registration and refreshments (tea and coffee)
6:45–7:00 Welcome and opening address Dr Polly McGuigan (Head of Department for Health, University of Bath) and Professor Emma Rich (Director of Centre for Equality in Sport, Physical Activity and Health, University of Bath)
7:00–7:15 Keynote: ‘Kiss of Death? Gender and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup’ Emeritus Professor David Rowe (Western Sydney University, Australia)
7:15–7:30 Talk: ‘Navigating the coaching context in contemporary women’s football’ Dr Luke Jones (University of Bath)
7:30–7:45 Talk: ‘Conversations around menstruation and sport: Breaking the taboo?’ Jess Harvey (University of Bath)
7:45–8:15 Panel discussion and Q&A Speaker panel
8:15–8:45 Networking and close

Talks and abstracts

Kiss of Death? Gender and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Emeritus Professor David Rowe
Institute for Culture & Society, Western Sydney University

In the 21st century, men’s historical domination of sport is under challenge as never before. But, professional team sports (in particular) have been slow to grasp the concept of gender equality, while the powerful commercial media organisations underwriting them have predominantly treated women’s competitions as niche, loss-making offerings.

This industrial ‘wisdom’ has been exposed as prejudice by highly successful women’s sports competitions, including the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship hosted (and won) by England and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

However, this tournament was ‘bookended’ by the threat (albeit empty) of a FIFA-imposed television blackout in the major European markets and the (inevitably named) ‘Kissgate’ controversy during the presentations at the final, which largely obliterated the sporting achievement of the victorious Spanish women’s team. In this instance, a globally-visible, media-relayed, real-time reminder of asymmetrical gender power preoccupied media organisations normally predisposed to focus on the football.

The scandal forced the media to look past the pitch to prevailing patriarchal practices, routines and assumptions. Does this constitute a watershed moment for sport’s unequal gender order, or a depressing replay of a game that, while perpetually promising progress, predictably defaults to stalemate?

Navigating the coaching context in contemporary women’s football

Dr Luke Jones
University of Bath

The recent popularity of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a great example of how the sport has entered a new global and professional era (Culvin & Bowes, 2023).

In this new era, there are now far more opportunities for female players to participate in football as a high-performance sport. These developments have also led to an increasing demand for highly qualified coaches of high-performance female teams.

Moreover, this evolution has given prestige to coaching positions once considered less favourable, and competition for these coaching positions has sharpened – enticing more coaches to cross over from men’s football to the female sport.

This is a trend that has many implications, including that it limits opportunities for female coaches and renders the female sport vulnerable to the importation of problematic attitudes and approaches surrounding gender.

This talk highlights how socio-cultural thinking about ‘gender effective coaching’ in female football can help coaches identify and navigate common challenges – in particular those challenges that can arise when male coaches import problematic assumptions about female players into their coaching context.

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