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FIFA’s Recent Actions Against Sexism Are Long Overdue

206   //    13 Jul 2018, 13:27 IST

Sweden v England: Quarter Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Every four years, football fans around the world are treated to the grandest spectacle in international sports. And, like clockwork, every four years fans of the beloved sporting pastime must also deal with the creepy habits of broadcasting professionals, who insist on ogling women in the crowd and dedicate absurd amounts of time to close-up shots of attractive young fans.

Recently, FIFA finally took action and ordered broadcasters to stop their targeted efforts at focusing on women to boost ratings – and the move is long overdue.

Sexism at the World Cup isn’t new

Anyone who’s been paying attention to the world’s most popular sporting pastime will understand that sexism at the World Cup isn’t anything new; after all, every World Cup tournament inevitably sees claims of sexual assault skyrocket near the match venues, and broadcasters have longed been chided for their overt focuses on the attractive women they fancy in the crowd. It should come as a relief to many that FIFA’s recent warning to broadcasters to stop cutting away to “hot women” as often as possible, but it shows how sad things are when such a thing must be requested in the first place.

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As welcome as FIFA’s most recent move is, too, it also doesn’t go nearly far enough; FIFA essentially profits off the gross injustices that plague each World Cup and has done little to sate the concerns of an activist trying to combat sexism. As a matter of fact, sexism at the World Cup is a bigger issue now than ever before; according to the anti-discrimination experts FIFA hired for the championship, there have been more issues of sexism on the street than other such incidents like racism.

For countless decades, women and other visitors to the World Cup have been assaulted in the streets of the world’s most famous cities as, mere meters away, cameramen ogle female contestants in the stands, treating the audience at home to close-up shots of fans as they please. Is there any real doubt that these two things are connected? While FIFA’s recent warning to broadcasters were stern and should be celebrated, the organization clearly only know to pay lip-service to a sexism problem that’s run rampant for decades.

Football fans are sick and tired of being treated like looks are the determining factor of whether you’re a true fan; until the treatment of women in and around the World Cup betters, FIFA deserves all of the criticisms that will be levelled at it.

Commentators are part of the problem

The rot at FIFA runs deep, so those of us expecting meaningful progress to be made shouldn’t hold our breath in the short-term. After all, even the commentators get in on the action, frequently commenting about how sad it is to send pretty female fans home sad because their teams lost. Working women who are trying to cover the game, too, have to watch out for rowdy fans; female journalists are no strangers to getting kissed, groped, and assaulted on live television.

Women players, too, routinely face intense discrimination both on and off the field, with FIFA profiting all the while. It’s important to recognize recent efforts taken by FIFA to shun and punish broadcasters who routinely cut away to women, but to assert that the world’s premier football organization has ever meaningfully combatted sexism is laughable. The creepy trend of cameraman desperately scouring the crowd with a signal amplifier for a crying female fan is just one minor facet of an overlapping trend during the World Cup.

If fans of football are serious about enabling everyone to enjoy the sport we all love, they’ll start complaining when broadcasters keep up this disgusting habit, as many will do regardless of FIFA’s warning. That’s because FIFA is mostly only interested in this issue insofar as it’s a PR dilemma for the organization, meaning it will ultimately be up to the fans to encourage meaningful progress to be made when it comes to fighting the ogling of female fans. The women-in-the-crowd shots that have been forced on us by broadcasters will only end when those same broadcasters are hit in their wallets.

Sexual assault at the World Cup needs to be combatted with vigour, and the sexist broadcasting policies that have been forced on fans for far too long are desperately long-past their due dates. As FIFA’s own anti-discrimination experts illustrate, these aren’t minor issues besetting the World Cup, but crises that have existed for years with little being done about them. If we really want to make football a global sport worthy of love and great contests, we need to start paying more attention to the everyday sexism that helps enable the worse kinds. As long as the only women who are broadcast are those attractive young fans who the cameramen pick, the World Cup will always be for only half the world’s population. 

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