Did you know that it’s technically possible for a man to congratulate women on their success without saying, “I have a daughter”? Of course, you wouldn’t know from how the most powerful men in England spoke about The Lionesses.
England’s national women’s football team faced Spain in the World Cup final, losing 1-0 after playing an incredible tournament. Their success, however, was not properly recognised. Neither William, the Prince of Wales, nor Prime Minister Rishi Sunak managed the challenge of complimenting women without making it about themselves and their genetic relationship to a woman or girl.
Prince William, in a video shared on social media, apologised for not being able to make the game (he’s on holiday) and wished the team luck. For no apparent reason, his eight-year-old daughter Princess Charlotte was sitting next to him holding a football, mute, until the last few seconds, where she said, “Good luck Lionesses”.
Prince George, pointedly, was missing from the video: Are boys not allowed to watch and enjoy women’s football? Is it deemed beneath them? Just for the girls?
The gender gap for sports is present in childhood and continues right to the top, creating a world where everyone is expected to take an interest in men’s sport, while sidelining women’s sport as just being for girls. A recent count of leaders in the top 20 sports by participation in England showed that across the roles of CEO, Chair and Performance Director, just 23% were women. Women in Sport report that in team sports, 7% more men than women play and that there is a shocking 22% gap between girls and boys.
Prince William, in this video, has done nothing to help change that. In fact, he reinforced it.
The video was met with strong disdain, with many commenting that had it been the men’s World Cup Final, the entire family would be present. Specifically, William, given he’s the President-Designate of The Football Association – a title many are now calling for him to give up.