Closing the Gender Gap for Women’s Footballers on Wikipedia
Gender bias is pervasive throughout football blogs on the encyclopaedic website.
The Women’s World Cup kicked off June 7, and has already earned itself a wildly captive audience.
England’s opening match against Scotland has suddenly become the UK’s most watched women’s football match of all time. There’s been a Brazilian hat trick; a celebration inspired by an Australian legend; and — hold me close, Jeff — did you see that Nikita Parris nutmeg?
The future of the game burns bright. So why is it that its past — a glorious success story filled with unreal records and unrivalled heroines — has been seemingly been edited out of history?
It’s 2019 — and that history is now in the hands of the internet’s biggest encyclopedia. Wikipedia has become a gatekeeper of knowledge, with over 40 million articles in 301 languages, at least according to the site’s page on, well, itself.
But when it comes to football, there’s a shocking disparity: just 3.5% of all its biographies relate to women players, while England’s male national team has 150% more words given over to it than its female equivalent.
I love this idea - what a fantastic project to close the gap and acknowledge the rich history of the women's game! Props to @adidas and @wikimediauk for bringing these women together to do this: https://t.co/IuBYuW0QRh#WomensWorldCup#WomenInFootball— Natalie Morris (@Nmozz) June 7, 2019
You heard that right: 96.5% of all football blogs on Wikipedia belong to men. Overall, just 18% of all biographies on the entire site are about women. Such gender bias could be down to who is writing the articles — a 2011 survey found that less than 15% of its contributors were female, despite readership being essentially equal.
And when it comes to the Lionesses — the nickname given to England’s national side, favourites to win the World Cup — the most written about squad member on Wikipedia isn’t one of the players. It’s their extremely male coach, Phil Neville.
That’s why Adidas and Wikimedia UK — a nonprofit dedicated to make knowledge on Wikipedia more equal, democratic, and accessible — have partnered up to ensure the game’s historic female stories are never forgotten.
The collaborative effort began by identifying 200 women who had made a significant impact on the sport, but weren’t mentioned on Wikipedia. Then with a team of female sports writers, journalists, and even former players, they’ve been getting to work — with 100 new articles already uploaded onto the website.
The Metro reports that one such article told the story of Florrie Redford, a trainee psychiatric nurse who played up front and scored 170 goals for the most successful football team of all time. Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C played in front of crowds of 50,000 at Everton’s Goodison Park, and reportedly went unbeaten for over 300 games. The best unbeaten record in the professional men’s game is 104 games, set by Romanian side Steaua Bucureşti in the 80s.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Adidas for this project, to shine a light on women footballers and their achievements,” said Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia UK. “As the UK charity for the global Wikimedia movement we are well aware of the gender gap online, which reflects systemic bias and historical inequalities, and are working with a wide range of partners to increase the representation of women on Wikipedia.”
On way to London for a Wikimedia Edit a thon supported by Adidas. They want more female footballers on their pages. Hopefully it'll be able to correct some mis-information while I'm there🤞😊⚽️ pic.twitter.com/cxBDRtrCPt— Gail Newsham (@GailNewsham) May 30, 2019
It’s a valuable correction of history. Women’s football has been under siege for decades by attempts to eradicate the game entirely.
Global Citizen has previously reported how women’s football grew immensely in popularity during the First World War. While male players had been sent away to fight, thousands flocked to watch the women play instead. When the war ended, more people still attended women’s matches than men’s.
The Football Association (FA) didn’t like that. Women’s football was banned by the FA for 50 years in 1921. It’s widely understood that the ban — spun as protecting women against the “physical risk” of football — was brought in specifically to convert fans to male teams. Almost a century after the women’s game was decimated, the partnership between Adidas and Wikimedia UK is attempting to right some of these wrongs.
“We know that girls are dropping out of sport at 1.5 times the rate of boys and one of the big drivers of that is the lack of visibility of female athletes,” said Nicole Vollebregt, senior vice president of global purpose at Adidas.
“We firmly believe that ‘you need to see her to be her,’ so we decided to bring the history of women’s football to Wikipedia – and make a collective commitment to keep writing the inspiring stories of women’s sport and sportswomen as they happen,” she added.
The Lionesses are back in action on Friday, June 14. England lead the group after edging out Scotland 2.1, and face Argentina in the second match of the group stages.