Football as work: the lived realities of professional women footballers in England

Culvin, Alexandra (2021) Football as work: the lived realities of professional women footballers in England. Managing Sport and Leisure . ISSN 2375-0472

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Research question
To date no studies have conceptualised women’s professional football as work. In 2011, the inception of the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL), created the opportunity for football as work for elite women footballers in England, in an occupational field tied historically to a highly masculinist and thus, gender-exclusive culture. Consequently, research exploring the impact of professionalisation and perspectives of professional women footballers is sparse. This research explores the lived realities of professional women footballers in England.

30 semi-structured interviews with professional women footballers currently competing in the FA WSL were undertaken. This research project adopts an interpretative qualitative approach, data were analysed thematically.

Data revealed that employment conditions of women have created both insecure, precarious work, and non-work conditions. Drawing on the thinking tools of Pierre Bourdieu data demonstrates precarity is increased based on gender, as women’s football suffers from material resource inequality.

The findings provide empirical evidence that professionalisation is not is not necessarily a linear, or even beneficial process to women footballers, offering a counterargument to the evolutionary narrative that underpins discussions around gender equality and women’s sport. Further evidencing consequences of precarious work and the experiences of professional footballers in their new occupation. The exegesis is to encourage researchers to consider the impact of professionalisation if we are to more adequately understand the complex lives of professional women footballers.

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