Women's football is more popular than ever but online sexism remains rampant

Women's football is more popular than ever but online sexism remains rampant
Soccer star Alisha Lehmann: 'Very well-known' celebrity offered me $110K for one …
New York Post / VideoElephant

Women's football in England has been reaching stratospheric levels of popularity since the Lionesses won the Euros at Wembley in 2022 - but sadly sexism online remains rampant.

Since England beat Germany 2-1 in extra-time in front of 87,192 fans on that fateful day in July 2022, domestic attendance records have been swelling as the popularity of the game continues to boom.

The 2023 FA Cup final set a record for the biggest-ever attendance for a club game in a domestic competition, with 77,390 watching at Wembley as Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0.

The Women's Super League attendance record was broken this season, with 60,160 tickets sold at The Emirates Stadium for Arsenal's 3-1 win over Manchester United on February 17.

Even at non-league level, attendances are soaring.

Newcastle United Women currently play in the third tier Women's National League North and hosted Portsmouth in a non-league cup semi-final at St James' Park on February 25, which Newcastle won 2-1 in the 90th minute in front of a crowd of 22,307.

Nottingham Forest Women set the non-league record for the highest-attended league match on October 8 2023 when 6,037 watched the Reds lose 2-1 to arch-rivals Derby County at The City Ground.

But while the women's beautiful game is enjoying crowds in England never seen before, the ugly, abhorrent and disgusting sexism spread on social media continues to fester.

It's reared its head again this week after a new AFC Bournemouth Women player simply said hello to fans.

20-year-old defender Kelci Bowers signed for AFC Bournemouth on loan from Portsmouth on March 11.

The club posted a short video of Kelci saying: "Hi guys, Kelci Bowers here, I'm here at AFC Bournemouth and I can't wait to get going."

The video has 21.9m views on X / Twitter alone at the time of writing - but the number of sexist comments on the post, and the level of crudeness on some of them, is nothing short of shocking.

Peterborough United forward Tara Kirk is another player who's been subject to a long-running trend of abuse online too.

When Posh usually post a player video online to show they've scored, it usually gets tens of thousands of views.

When the prolific forward scores, her videos get millions of views, including a post on March 13th when she scored against Notts County which got 2.9 million views.

While a number of comments are supportive, some of the comments are completely deplorable.

And someone who's been relentlessly targeted online is Aston Villa's Alisha Lehmann.

The 25-year-old Swiss international forward is the most followed women's footballer in the world, with 16.5m followers on Instagram and 10.3m on TikTok at the time of writing.

But she has to put up with torrents of sexism whenever she posts and while she has previously said 'it's hard' to deal with, she doesn't let it impact her.

Speaking in May to Sky Sports, Alisha said: "For myself, it gives me strength I would say. Because I think '100 percent you want my life'.

"So why would he say that? So it is probably like jealousy, or people just don't want to see it, or they are just bored in life.

"Behind the computers, it is easy to say stuff. I don't feel like someone would stand in front of us, in women's football, and say you are so bad, women can't play.

"I don't really care, to be honest. I don't read the stuff, I mostly feel bad for my family."

This is what authorities say is being done to tackle the problem.

A spokesperson for the FA said: "Incidents of sexism and misogyny have no place in football or wider society and we are very concerned about the rise in online abuse in recent years.

"We worked closely with the Government to ensure that the newly introduced Online Safety Act effectively tackles offensive and discriminatory abuse online and better protects social media users.

"We continue to urge the Government to ensure that the independent regulator, Ofcom, has sufficient powers to hold social media companies to account - while also imploring social media companies to introduce better tools so users are free from unwanted and damaging discrimination."

The government is working with Ofcom, the communications regulator for the UK, to crack down on this through the Online Safety Act.

It was passed by MPs in 2023 and requires providers of online services to minimise the extent of illegal and harmful content.

A Government spokesperson said: "The internet should not serve as a sanctuary for sexist abuse and online hate directed at female athletes is simply unacceptable.

"Harassment affects not only the person on the receiving end but can spread a culture of hate, deterring our young people from pursuing their goals.

“Enough is enough.

"Once fully implemented, our landmark Online Safety Act will legally require social media companies to protect users from the scourge of illegal abuse online or face fines totalling billions of pounds."

When the legislation comes into effect, the largest platforms will also have to remove content that is against their terms of service.

If they do not, they could face huge fines reaching 10 per cent of their global annual revenue, totalling billions of pounds.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: "Sexist abuse has no place in society, whether that happens online or offline.

"When the Online Safety Act comes fully into force, services will have to assess the risk of illegal content on their platforms - such as harassment, stalking, threats and abuse - and take steps to mitigate those risks.

"We’re moving at pace to implement the Act and are engaging closely with various organisations to ensure that victims and survivors will be represented.

"Further proposed measures to protect children from sexist hate and abuse specifically will be announced in May, and early next year we’ll also propose additional steps the largest platforms can take and publish draft guidance on protecting women and girls."

Peterborough United responded to a request for a comment but did not wish to make one at this time.

Aston Villa and AFC Bournemouth were also approached for comment.

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