As a feminist and a pessimist, 8 March is usually a day of disappointment, says Klara Nordstrom.

My social feeds fill up with depressing stats to remind me how nothing of importance ever changes and completely pointless and apolitical observations on modern womanhood. The football version is of course “can you be a woman who loves football and fashion?” Jesus Christ. YES YOU CAN. MOVE ON.

Anyways, it’s 8 March 2020 and here I am trying to make an observation about women and football. Bold.

To be honest it’s not so much an observation as a plea: I want everyone to read this equally encouraging as infuriating article on Ipswich Town FC, a 4-tier side, as they prepare to take on Manchester City in the Women’s FA Cup. A lot has been written on the rise of women’s football since last summer, but I have yet to read something that so perfectly captures what is still the state of play: women can have little a men’s football. As a treat.

Also known as the Tractor Girls, ITFC is currently top of the Women's National League Division One South East. The side is relatively young but their captain, Amanda Crump (who works at an electricity contractor) has been playing for Ipswich for 15 years. With an expressed ambition to progress but no money to do so, the players have taken it upon themselves to find ways to show the club’s owner the type of financial support needed for the club to go from tier four to Women’s Super League.

Recent successes on the pitch has resulted in a newly formed fan club, Tractor Girls on Tour, which aims to get more people involved, improve game atmosphere and generally support the girls. In an appropriately gendered twist, the founder is a man – IFTC men’s season-ticket holder Thomas Whitby – who inspired by the 2019 world cup attended his first women’s game last September, a derby against arch rivals Norwich, together with 761 (!) other fans. With their supporter group’s help, the Tractor Girls have attracted record audiences in every game since then. It’s heart-warming, inspiring stuff.

But back to the article and its less smile inducing elements. Because no matter how much momentum seems to slowly be growing, institutional support for women’s football still has a long way to go. As a way to reward ITFC for getting this far in the cup, the club is “pulling out all the stops” by letting the team have a taste of the treatment the men’s first-team gets – including travelling in their coach:

“There’s tables on it, USB ports, which are useful, I think there might be screens in the back of the headrests." Wilson’s ears immediately prick up, “Really?” she asks. “Yeah,” says Peake, “I think there is a kitchen at the back of the bus as well, it’s pretty kitted out.” Other novelties for the day include a pre-departure meal cooked by the men’s chef and training wear for the players to travel in."

You know how people say that women have to work twice as hard as a man to succeed? How women have to be grateful and not ever complain because you will come across as bitter or, god forbid, weak? Well, this is what that looks like in real life. And yes I know, we are talking about a 4-tier team here. I’m not saying they should have their own full-time chef or a massive coach.

But how the hell can ITFC’s women’s senior team not have travel training wear? There are teams in the grass roots league where yours truly plays that have ‘official kit launches’ in collaboration with Nike, literally two months after they have formed. And how the hell can a team who is clearly doing well and attracting record audiences still be forced to come up with their own financial solutions to be able to progress?

It’s all very well to get inspired by and applaud women football players’ grit and determination but come on. If we really want women’s football to develop, we can’t have a situation where women teams get to use men’s equipment literally as a treat. What’s needed is money and continuous support. You know, what most men’s team get all the time – no matter how poor their game.

So how did the Tractor Girls fare against Man City?

I mean it wasn’t great. But crashing out of the FA cup with a 10-0 defeat didn’t stop them. They bounced back by crushing their biggest rivals with the same numbers.

Tractor Girls til I die. Now give them official travel gear and some fucking financial backing.

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