By Simon Allen
Let's go back to the early days of David Beckham at the HDC. I honestly remember being surrounded by women (not for the first time mind you) at the match who's sole reason for being there was to see David Beckham. One woman had her camera on DB32 for the entire match. Sex was selling and the stadium was full. Flash forward a few years and I'm not quite sure if those same women were at the matches.
One friend of mine, who wasn't a soccer fan lost interest after a few matches. She told me she really wasn't too thrilled about sitting for 90 minutes to get a few seconds glimpse of a player that she could see just leafing through a magazine at the local Barnes and Noble. When I was covering WPS, I would take along a few friends to watch the matches with me and almost all of them had to be convinced that the women playing were good looking etc.
After the match, the same lads could only talk about how fast the game was. How the tackles were bone crunching. How the passing was superb. How the players showed heart and left everything on the pitch. It was only after all the soccer topics, match analysis and amateur punditry was exhausted did one of my friends say something like “number 7 was pretty cute!” On the trip back home the question “when's the next match?” echoed in the car.
Women's soccer hooked a few of the lads. So the sex appeal got soccer fans into the stadium but the actual soccer made them come back. Of course, I can quote another die hard friend who goes gaga over US Women's National team member, Alex Morgan but couldn't care less about women's soccer. It's a tricky thing and a fine line when you try to sell sex with soccer. It can end up being as elementary as just getting the sport out there to the non-soccer loving general public or as head scratchingly offensive and absurd as the Russian Soccer team, FC Rossiyanka, making the squad wearing bikinis.
It's also the sign of the times. In the late 90's the Women's National team were almost like the girls next door. Flash forward to today some of them are just sex symbols. Will that get folks into the stadiums? More importantly will that be enough for folks to stay in the stadiums? Or come back for the next match? Personally I think the sport itself is sexy enough!