“It’s a step forward but it’s tiny steps”: Sheffield United Women’s goalkeeper on progress made in women’s football

Written by Liv Hill

Sheffield United Women’s goalkeeper has spoken up about her experiences on the pitch and the progress being made in the world of women’s football.

Fran Kitching, 23, from Maltby, returned to her childhood club, Sheffield United at the start of the season after representing a number of Women’s Super League teams including Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

The divide between men and women’s football has always been significant but Kitching suggested it is getting better compared to when she was young when it was almost impossible to watch a women’s game on TV.

She said: “My dad has always been football mad so I started playing with my brother. There was probably only one other girl that played football at my school because football wasn’t very popular with the girls when we were young, we mainly played out with our brothers.”

Kitching started playing football when she was seven-years-old when she joined Wickersley, which was her local team before signing for Sheffield United when she turned 10.

When the goalkeeper transferred to Chelsea at 17, Kitching began to experience the struggles of being a woman in a stereotypically male-dominated sport as some of the bigger players on the team were subjected to abuse on social media.

“I didn’t experience much hate because I was so young and not as well-known as some of the bigger players in the team but I know some of the bigger players that were on social media more did experience social media abuse saying stereotypical things like “stay in the kitchen”. I have actually had that one quite a lot with my name being Kitching.”

In comparison to men, female players are frequently scrutinised for playing football, especially on social media because due to a lack in game coverage.

The coverage of women’s games is improving, said Kitching.

She added: “When I was younger growing up you could only watch a match if it was a big game. Preliminary rounds of men’s football are on TV and then you have the women who are in the Champion League and you struggle to get the games on TV and if they are on TV they aren’t on the main channels.”

WSL games are set to be broadcasted more regularly on BBC and Sky Sports.

“This is a massive step but it is still only the top league. It’s a step forward but it’s tiny steps,” said Kitching.

Over the past few years, clubs have started to announce men’s teams will be sharing their facilities with their women’s teams.

Kitching said Sheffield United have good links with their men’s team and this shows in the league tables.

“Sharing facilities with the women’s team is a big step, this is something everyone should be aspiring to do because they are all still professional footballers, whether they are women or men.”

Sheffield United Women are currently third in the FA Women’s Championship table and are set to play Charlton on 14 March.

 

Written by Liv Hill

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