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Women’s teams can’t get a kick as men grab pitches

'Club of the year' says football field bookings must be made fairer

14 August, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Goaldiggers FC – waiting for an update on pitch bookings

A soccer team for women and non-binary people says trying to get a football pitch has been made impossible by male teams block booking all the slots.

Players at Goaldiggers FC say Islington’s leisure operators, GLL, should reserve some space for women’s football to make the system fairer.

GLL is looking to re-open pitches from Monday but have been warned that slots are overwhelmingly being allocated to men, a set-up which the club has branded sexist.

Fleur Cousens, who founded Goaldiggers FC, which was winner of Islington’s sports club of the year award last year, said: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic only men had access to the overwhelming majority of GLL pitch spaces in London.

“With zero per cent of bookings on flagship GLL pitches such as Market Road being allocated to women and only 1 per cent being allocated to girls, this allocation of space is sexist.”|

Only men had access because they block booked in advance and no spaces are allocated for women’s teams only.

Fleur Cousens

A review into pitch bookings began in January but Goaldiggers FC say they have been left waiting for an update.

Last year, GLL committed to reviewing the system and providing an update by early 2020.

Ms Cousens said: “It seems that when restrictions on pitch space are lifted, we will return to the same discriminatory booking systems – with no aim at achieving fairness or equality.”

She added: “It would be terrible if we were pushed out of the borough due to these discriminatory booking systems.”

GLL said planned meetings were taking place this month with the Football Foundation and the Football Academy to address the situation.

A joint statement from GLL and the council said the review had been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

It added: “Islington has a notable footballing heritage, great talent and strong interest, particularly in the women’s game from grassroots to professional level. It’s important to get this right and we’ll be reporting back soon.”

The council said it was also working on new “pitch development proposals” to create more space and that it was determined to “meet the rising demand for women’s and girls’ football”.

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