Playing for Bohemians has always been a dream for striker Aoife Robinson.
When she was younger, there was no women’s team set-up – so she would have to settle for playing for the men’s team, Robinson tells me with a wry smile.
While the set-up of the Bohemians women’s team in 2018 has been seen as a progressive move, there still remains potholes and inconsistencies facing women’s football’s road to equality.
Today, women still face discrimination on and off the pitch – overtly and covertly – from the top down.
Robinson may have achieved her dream of playing for the Bohemians, but she has encountered gender-related obstacles along the way.
“It always seems like the boys get first pick on anything,” Robinson says. “We are looking to just be considered equal. Like on match days – if we both have a game, the men’s team will be given the earlier time. And the women’s game is always later when everyone has gone home for their dinner and no one is sticking around to watch,” she says.
Robinson continues: “Or even football gear. For one of my old clubs one time we did a sponsorship campaign and raised loads of money for gear. And the boys took the money and they got the gear. The boys would always be given new tracksuits and we’d just be given nothing.”
Another bone of contention that raised a lot of eyebrows was the relocation of the FAI Women’s Cup Final between Peamount United and Cork City last December – it was set to be played in the Aviva Stadium but was changed to Tallaght Stadium.
The FAI made the decision in order to secure more match day revenue. However, as the country was still under level-5 restrictions, the match was already scheduled to go ahead behind closed doors.
“That annoyed me and it shouldn’t have happened,” Robinson laments. “But with the no-fans situation, it could very well have been in the Aviva – because at that time, there were no fans at Tallaght anyway.”
Games will remain behind closed doors for the foreseeable future for both men’s and women’s teams. But, strides have been made to secure that more streaming coverage is made available for fans.
On Thursday 25 February 2021, the FAI announced that all SSE Airtricity and Women’s National League matches will be made available to stream on LOITV for season ticket holder. The Women’s National League (WNL) matches will be made available free to view without a paywall.
While a welcomed decision, Robinson still feels this could have been done much sooner.
“If the men’s matches are on the tele , why can’t the women’s matches be on the tele?” Asks Robinson. Especially now that women’s matches are being played in the stadiums. So you can’t be saying that we don’t have the facilities for cameras and stuff. It’s there.”
Robinson continues: “Streaming it on Facebook and YouTube is good, that’s brilliant. But you’re only gonna watch it if you’re told about it. But if a match is showed on RTE, you know it’s there, you’ll leave it on. You literally have to be dedicated to go looking for it, and women’s sport shouldn’t be at that point anymore.”
“If the men’s matches are on the telly, why can’t the women’s matches be on the telly?” asks Robinson. She welcomes this decision but says it could have been done sooner.
“Especially now that women’s matches are being played in the stadiums – so you can’t be saying that we don’t have the facilities for cameras and stuff. It’s there.”
Robinson adds: “Streaming it on Facebook and YouTube is good, that’s brilliant. But you’re only gonna watch it if you’re told about it. But if a match is shown on RTÉ, you know it’s there, you’ll leave it on. You literally have to be dedicated to go looking for it, and women’s sport shouldn’t be at that point anymore.”
The state of women’s football remains an overlooked entity of Ireland’s sporting landscape. The skill and desire is clearly there, but the reluctance to recognise its potential leaves many feeling like the pitch is slanted against them more than ever. With Vera Pauw signing a contract extension until 2023 and the new FAI CEO calling for more promotion of the women’s game – time will tell if change is on the horizon.
- The SSE Airtricity League WNL 2021 season will kick-off on 27 March – with Bohemians facing Treaty United at the Oscar Traynor Centre in the first of two 2:00pm kick-offs. Galway Women’s FC play Cork City in Eamonn Deacy Park in the other early kick-off.