Do the American Outlaws Perpetuate the Gender Divide in US Soccer?
This is something that has been bothering me for a while, and I think so. This is my opinion based on various AO Twitter accounts and their website. This does not mean that all chapters do this, as I do not follow every chapter’s twitter accounts/websites. This is just from what I have seen from the ones I follow, as well as stories I have heard from friends about the experiences with their local chapters and their views towards the women’s game.
Now, I’ve been thinking about this a lot after seeing the first WNT Olympic qualifying match on Friday, January 20, especially in comparison to the MNT friendly match that was played the following day. Dozens of AO members traveled to Phoenix to support the men in red, white, and blue for a Camp Cupcake friendly. The WNT is currently playing in a tournament that determines whether or not they get to play in the 2012 Summer Olympics, and there was no AO section shown on either of the broadcasts I watched.
I am not discounting the value of the MNT playing a friendly that will help the coaching staff evaluate the team’s depth for this summer’s World Cup Qualifying. However, I find it extremely interesting that what is seen as the main US Soccer supporters group heavily advertised the men’s game, but barely mentioned the women’s game aside from their Twitter. I noticed that there were fans scattered all over the stands in BC Place during the WNT matches, as opposed to being concentrated into one supporter’s section. Contrastingly, you could see hundreds of fans in one section during the MNT match.
While this could be attributed to flight costs or whether or not members have passports, I highly doubt it. I was at the Stade de France in November for the MNT match against France, and there was a good amount of AO members in the designated section. AO even advertised organized travel for the games the MNT played in Europe in November. I know for a fact that there are people who fly out to as many games as possible. Yet I have never seen any organized travel, within the US and outside of it, for any WNT matches. Another note, there is currently a post-game article on their website about the MNT match from Saturday, January 21, yet nothing about the two WNT matches that have been played in the Olympic Qualification tournament.
As I said, this is something that I have been thinking about for a while, not something that just came into my thoughts after this weekend. I perused the AO website earlier today to see what was posted, and lo and behold, I found a lot. In the months of May, June, and July 2011, there was ONE post regarding the USWNT. This discussed the women making it to the World Cup final, and it urged people to head to their local chapter bar to watch the final. THE FINAL. Nothing for semifinals, the quarterfinals, or the group stage. There was no information regarding traveling to the World Cup to support our ladies. I find this very interesting considering the organization and planning that went into traveling to South Africa to support the MNT, and the fact that they are already planning on chartering a plane for the 2014 World Cup.
Now, I understand that less people watch women’s soccer so there would be less interest in traveling to Germany for the tournament. However, I don’t think it would cause any trouble on their part to promote the tournament for our ladies and show support, especially since they claim to support the US National Team, not just the US Men. The group is even planning on having supporter’s groups at the Men’s U23 Olympic Qualification tournament at the end of March.
In the months after the World Cup, there was no mention of the WNT’s post-WC Welcome Back series they played in Kansas City, Portland, and Phoenix, or any sort of ticket deals for these games. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with their relations with US Soccer, but I doubt that. I went to a couple San Diego AO watch parties last year and overheard some of the chapter leadership comparing the women’s and men’s team, and discussing the time they organized a group trip to see the WNT play at the USD stadium about a year or year and a half ago. I know that the Austin chapter is also very proactive in supporting the women and organizes as many events as they can. And there was a watch party for the first WNT game in their Olympic Qualifying campaign in Phoenix organized by the national group. So again, I’m not saying that this is something ALL AO members/chapters do.
But many chapters have little to no visible support for the WNT, and it turns me off from being in AO/attending AO events and I think it turns others off too . For instance, a friend of mine has experienced the Phoenix AO chapter completely neglecting the WNT, even when they were in town to play a game a couple months ago. How does that qualify as being a US Soccer supporter?
One of the best things about supporting US Soccer is that we are one of the few federations that actively supports our women’s team and wants them to succeed as much as the men. Because of this, I think it is our duty as fans to support both equally. I understand that not all people want to watch both. However, I don’t think that an organized supporters group that has ties to the US Soccer federation (granting them privileges such as discounted tickets) should perpetuate the gender divide.
I will say that whoever runs the AO Twitter account provides more balanced coverage than the website, but again, it’s not the same. They promote article and headlines of the WNT but not the way they do with the men. For instance, on their twitter account, you can see updates from the current Olympic Qualifying tournament, but no articles about the matches on their website like they have for the men’s friendly matches. And there are fewer tweets regarding the women’s team than there are for the men.
After posting my initial thoughts on the subject on my personal blog, I received a lot of comments and dialogue that got me thinking. Sam brought up the point that supporting one team does not necessarily mean you support the other, but also brought up the idea of national AO having someone in their group who focused on the women’s game. That is, promoting it on the website, twitter, and helping to organize watch parties and supporters groups at games. After all, it is still a young organization and they have to build up, but it does not excuse how the WNT receives little attention from them. I for one think that this is a great idea, as it continues their support for the MNT while expanding the same tactics to the WNT.
I don’t see or know everything about US Soccer or its fan base, but this has been bothering me for a while and has been my experience with AO. You may not agree, and I welcome (respectful) responses to that effect.