By Chris Macmillan
THE Football Collective 2018 conference is underway at Scotland’s national stadium and promises two days of academic insight into every form of football.
The theme for the conference at Hampden Park is that of ‘challenging the narrative’, and in line with such a theme, the conference was opened with an opening presentation from keynote speaker Solvejg Wolfers, a PhD candidate currently exploring the positioning of female researchers in the footballing world, followed by an all-female panel, consisting of Dr. Stacey Pope, Premier League Education Manager Lucy Ward and Slavia Praha player Kylla Sjoman, critically discussing the state of female football in England.
Leading the keynote panel was ex-professional footballer Alex Culvin, who represented Leeds United and Everton amongst others during her playing career. Culvin’s research focuses on football as work for women, with the context being the ‘employment concerns of elite women footballers in England.’
She said: “Today we put a panel together, I was leading the panel, so we had a current professional footballer, somebody in the media, and an academic so we had a fairly well-balanced panel.
“We were looking at the current and being critical of the current state of women’s football in England and we talked a little bit about the media, it’s impact on players – both positive and negative, the challenges that professional women’s football face in the media.”
Culvin believes that the challenges faced by professional female footballers is something which should have more devoted research and that work still needs to be done for the women’s game to increase as a spectacle.
The former AZ Alkmaar defender continued: “There seems to be a growing crisis in mental health and a lot of research done on mental health and men’s football that attention doesn’t extend to professional women’s footballers.
“That sort of stems from my research, I asked the players, and today the panel, about what are the priorities of the clubs and the FA; and then finally we touched on the current state of the game, which means what can we do to improve the game as a commercial product, how can we get more investment, how to improve women’s football as an entertainment spectacle.”
The two-day conference will be showcasing papers and presentations that, as Culvin explains, will challenge myths and misconceptions, commonly held attitudes and positions.