Women’s football misses major viewing goals

The European Champions League final was decided in Munich on Thursday, with a German team losing 2-0 to a French team. But even though it was broadcast live on television most people missed it – because it was women’s football.

Women's football misses major viewing goals
Photo: DPA

Just two million people tuned in to watch the match between FFC Frankfurt and Olympique Lyonnais – nothing in comparison to the 300 million expected to watch Saturday’s men’s equivalent between Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

The situation infuriates those organising football for women and young girls, who say female football is discriminated against in Germany, by both the organisations designed to promote it and the public at large.

“I believe that if FIFA (the international football association) would support women’s football more and not just talk about supporting it, a lot more would happen,” said the manager of the women’s division of a Berlin football club who asked to remain anonymous.

“And I see that with the DFB,” she said, referring to the German Football Association. There’s a lot of lip service that is given toward promoting girls’ football, but when it comes down to it, the boys are favoured, she said.

Thursday’s match was shown at 6pm on the public broadcaster ARD. A spokesman for the channel said this was not a bad time, given that Thursday was a holiday, but he noted that men’s matches are broadcast live at 8pm, a more convenient time for many viewers.

World Cup interest not sustained

ARD broadcast last year’s women’s World Cup matches live for the first time and they drew about 10 million viewers or 32 percent of the market.

But those numbers have not been sustained. Thursday’s two million viewers who saw Olympique Lyonnais beat 1. FFC Frankfurt 2-0 amounted to about 11 percent of the market.

By comparison, a men’s international friendly would pull in around 11 million viewers or about 35 percent of the market, the ARD spokesman said.

Last year the Women’s World Cup took place in Germany, prompting hopes for a huge boom in female football star-wannabes, but this has failed to materialise and the sport remains marginal compared to the overwhelming popularity of its male counterpart, football experts say.

“It’s not what we thought it would be,” Kevin Langner, spokesman for the Berlin Football Association told The Local.

Vastly out-numbered

Figures from the Berlin association show there remains much to do if female participation in the sport is to come anywhere close to male interest.

As of the beginning of this year there were 4,378 girls playing the sport in a Berlin club, up some 500 from the year before. The figures are for girls under 16 who play in one of the 126 clubs or Verein in this age group.

But 31,552 boys were trying to score goals in one of the 1,505 clubs – and those figures are for boys under 14.

Langner said the trouble came not only from fathers who do not want their girls to play football – but from a wide variety of sports alternatives, like swimming, volleyball and handball.

For boys, football is number one, way ahead of other sports like basketball.

Those involved with girls’ football say the situation has developed into a vicious cycle. The boys get more sponsors, which in turn allow them to hire additional trainers and related personnel, like physical therapists. They earn more and there are more opportunities.

How did the women’s team get so good?

Carina Sophia Linne, a professor at the University of Potsdam and author of a book about women’s football, says discrimination against women footballers goes way back in Germany. In 1955 the DFB banned women from all its clubs in west Germany – a prohibition that wasn’t lifted until 1970.

Today, with relatively few girls going out for the sport, it is sometimes hard to understand how the German women became so good. They won two World Cups back to back – something the German men have yet to achieve.

Linne says girls stay in the sport because they love it and they are not trying to compare themselves with the boys.

“It always comes down to a comparison with the men,” she said. “Women’s football is a different sport.”

And once the public understands that, she says, the sport is likely to be better accepted.

Miriam Widman

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LIST: Sweden’s biggest seven ‘me-too’ cases

The Christian Democrats' former Party Secretary Johan Ingerö, who was dismissed on Tuesday with immediate effect, is the most senior politician in Sweden to lose his job to a sexual misconduct allegation since the 'me too' movement exploded in 2017. Here's a quick recap of 'me too' in Sweden.

LIST: Sweden's biggest seven 'me-too' cases

The ‘me-too’ movement broke out after a report on the extent of sexual assault accusations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017, and saw women across the world name-and-shame high-profile people in politics they accused of behaving sexually inappropriately, sexually assaulting, or sexually harassing them. 

In Sweden, as elsewhere, the movement has had by far its biggest impact in the cultural sphere. We look at some of the biggest cases. 


Tomas Eneroth (Social Democrats)

The former Social Democrat infrastructure minister, Tomas Eneroth, was in November 2021 accused of groping a female colleague at a party congress. Eneroth apologised for making his accuser uncomfortable and said he had not intended to touch her inappropriately. 

Eneroth’s home district in the Social Democratic party investigated that accusation and decided not to take any action against Eneroth. 

A public prosecutor dropped the case after interviewing witnesses present, saying that the contact had been “a fleeting touch” that could not be considered sexual harassment.

Kjell Ekelund (Social Democrats). 

Kjell Ekelund, a Social Democrat regional politician in Jönköping, was found guilty in court and fined for slapping a party colleague’s bottom during a party conference in 2022. Carina Ödebrink, the regional chair of the Social Democrats, only called on him to step down after he was found guilty, but he was not expelled from the party. 

Peter Lundgren (Sweden Democrats) 

The former Sweden Democrat MEP Peter Lundgren announced that he was leaving his party in March 2022, after he was found guilty of sexually molesting a party colleague in a hotel room three-and-a-half years previously. 

“After talks with Peter Lundgren we have come to a decision that the judgement in the high court makes it impossible for him to represent the party. He is therefore going to leave his membership in the party,” Sweden Democrat press secretary Christian Krappedal told TT. 

The Sweden Democrats party took no action to expel Lundgren until he was found guilty in court. He continued in his role as an independent MEP. 


Jean-Claude Arnault and the Nobel crisis

The accusations against Jean-Claude Arnault, the French husband of Katarina Frostenson, a senior member of the Swedish Academy, caused the award of the Nobel Price in Literature to be postponed for a year, and ended with Arnault being jailed for rape. 

The accusations against Arnault were first published in a series of articles in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in which some 13 women, most of them anonymous, came forward to accuse Arnault, who had significant power in Sweden’s literary world through his cultural club Forum, of aggressive and inappropriate sexual behaviour, and even rape. 

One of the women later reported him for rape to the police, and he was found guilty both in Stockholm District Court and when the case went to appeal at the High Court. 

Martin Timell 

The Swedish TV presenter Martin Timell was removed by the broadcaster TV4 from the programmer Äntligen hemma (finally home) in 2017 after he was accused of sexual harassment, and the channel later stopped any work with Timell. 

Timell was reported for rape in November 2017, and was found innocent of all charges both in court and at appeal.  He received 8.9m kronor in damages from TV4. 

Benny Frederiksen 

Frederiksen was CEO and theatre chief at Stockholm City Theatre. He resigned in December 2017 after he was hit by accusations of presiding over a culture of sexual harassment at the theatre. He committed suicide in March 2018, after which a preliminary report from the investigation the theatre launched into the allegations concluded that there were in fact no one at the theatre had accused him of sexually inappropriate behaviour. 

Fredrik Virtanen

After Jean-Claude Arnault, Sweden’s most high-profile ‘me-too’ case have been that against the culture journalist Fredrik Virtanen. 

Cissi Wallin, an actress and feminist commentator, on October 16th 2017, accused Virtanen of raping her in 2006, even though she had reported the alleged rape to the police in 2011 and the case had been laid down. 

Virtanen was first suspended from his job at Aftonbladet, then deprived of his column, and then fired. 

In January 2018, Virtanen sued Wallin for libel. She was found guilty, fined, and ordered to pay Virtanen 80,000 kronor in damages. When she appealed, Sweden’s high court increased the damages to 100,000 kronor.