sexualising women's American football - is it really Necessary?
I was sitting in the pub last week, absent-mindedly watching TV with friends when this sport flashed on screen. The Legends Football League - commonly known as the Lingerie Football League - is a national sport in the US. It is essentially women's American Football wearing scantily clad outfits.
Needless to say, most of the men in the pub were immediately hooked watching these women wrestling for the ball, wearing little more than red panties, a bikini top and flimsy shoulder pads.
Men were hooked, watching these women wrestle for the ball in little more than red panties and a bikini top
Now in surfing, it is understandable to see women in bikinis but this was something else.
Within minutes, debate was raging across the pub. Women argued that it is irritating to see women's sport valued, just because the players are semi-naked. The men couldn't see the problem.
One member of our group even remarked, "Isn't that what they all wear to play women's American football?" Errrr... No.
The Legends Football League is broadcast across 195 TV territories including Sky Sports, ESPN International and Setanta Sports. It's booming as a result of increased viewing figures.
Meanwhile sports like netball struggle to get television airtime due to lack of popularity.
I would like to think that I am not the only one who wants to watch the women's American football for their athletic skill and strength. But do the majority of viewers really only value women's sport - if they are wearing skimpy outfits?
After delving a little deeper into what the sport is all about, I discovered some interesting facts.
The women who compete don't get paid a penny. The businessman that runs the Legends Football League says because it's an amateur sport, they don't have to pay the players.
The competitors have no minimum training session attendance requirements and many have never played American football before, according to The Guardian.
Safety in women's American football is also a major concern. Since the uniform doesn't cover much skin, the players are prone to injuries.
Marirose Roach, a player for the Philadelphia Passion, broke her neck in one game. Broken wrists, nasty astro turf burns and shoulders dislocations are also common injuries.
"I remember leaving a game one day, just drenched in blood," Deborah Poles, a former player for the Chicago Bliss, told Inside Edition.
Here in the UK, the Lingerie Football League UK was launched in Manchester last month. It is similar to the American version except with football (or soccer) played instead of American football.
Founder Gemma Hughes defended the sport saying it was a great way to bring attention to women's American football and attract sponsorship money.
"All money made is going to be put back into women's football and to the players," she told the Manchester Evening News. "This is not about the players looking beautiful or sexy, it’s about women looking like women."
I remember leaving a game one day, just drenched in blood
However, Chelsea Ladies founder Tony Farmer launched a petition last month against the Lingerie Football League's first match, stating it was "on the verge of setting women's football in the UK back at least 25 years."
"Lingerie Football is all about making the game sexual titillation for spectators and could expose players, especially young girls starting off in football, to people who view them as a sexual object rather than sportswomen."
Back in America, the players themselves have mixed opinions on the sport. Some of the women said: "I just appreciate playing football, I don’t care what they put me in."
Others accept it as part of the game. "Maybe one day, girls won't have to wear lingerie to get people interested [in women's American football]."
In 2011, the entire Toronto Triumph team walked off the pitch after just one game. They said protective hard shelled shoulder pads used in practice changed to foam pads on game day to show more cleavage, according to Inside Edition.
While the debate still rages in the world of women's sports - some like surfing, for example, lend themselves to sexualisation more than others.
Now the phenomenon of lingerie football is spreading to the UK, what does the future hold for women's sports?
Ultimately, Legends League Football in the US is growing - but whether it's for the right reasons is for you to decide.
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