FA Could Be Missing Opportunity With England Women Merchandise

June 9, 2015

By Christian Radnedge

A familiar sight at a men’s football match for many years now has been the replica shirt with a respective players name on the back being adorned by thousands of fans, anabolics men, medicine children and women.

Around a World Cup it is even more prevalent, with many “Rooney 9”s for instance being seen while watching the England team in their exploits over the past ten years.

However, that trend has not yet made its way in a big way for women’s football.

As the England women begin their FIFA World Cup campaign on Tuesday against France in Moncton, Canada, it’s fair to say that the number of flags or shirts seen in pubs or on the street in the UK will be in the minority.

This is of course symptomatic of the fact that women’s football is still very much a growing sport, and is not on the same level as the men’s game.

But there has been a massive push to grow the game and make it more visible, and indeed make the stars of women’s football more recognisable to inspire young players to get involved.

Since the record 70,584 who went to see the Team GB women’s football squad take on Brazil at Wembley during the London 2012 Olympics, players like Steph Houghton and Casey Stoney have become household names.

The FA has been very good at putting the England women on the same level as the men, so players will appear alongside each other on all branding and marketing for FA events.

They even welcomed 45,619 people to Wembley last year to see England women take on Germany and the London stadium will also host this years’ Women’s FA Cup final.

Yet for anyone wishing to idolise their new stars by personalising an England shirt bought from the FA website, will find it hard to see the same kind of level pegging.

It’s odd that from a merchandising point of view, there isn’t a clear strategy to capitalise on a growing interest in the game which has seen participation in women’s football increase by more than 20,000 in the past two years.

The FA state their aim is to make women’s football the second largest team participation sport in England. Currently it is fourth in terms of participation among women nationally.

Visibility and promotion are modest aids in goals such as this, but they are aids. Women from a young age should, arguably, be made to feel that it is entirely normal to buy an England shirt and get their heroine’s name on the back of it.


The FA maintain that you can personalise an England shirt with any name from the website and that the ones suggested on the site are simply “those which are big sellers, but you can get any England women’s player name and at the same price,” a spokesperson said.

How to do this is unclear, as all you can do on the website is select from a list of players names – all men.

Even when you have clicked on the women’s home team kit option, there is no visible option for choosing “Duggan 18” as your preferred choice.

As mentioned, this strategy seems counteractive to the wider campaign of the FA to market the women as equal to the men.

Perhaps an Italia 90 moment is needed from women’s football; a figure like Paul Gascoigne needed to capture the imagination of the whole country and spark a “mania”.

In terms of performance, England are seeking to get past the quarter-finals of the World Cup – something they have never reached before going out on penalties to France four years ago in Germany.

If they last more than six days in the competition in Canada, they’ll at least have done better than the men in Brazil last year.

Perhaps that would be enough to make one feel proud to wear an England shirt again.