Stephanie Smith: Life lessons learned from watching the footie

Women are not themselves right now – not the ones I know, anyway. There’s much grumbling going on, growled sweary adjectives followed by the final expletive, “football”.

But not me. I have vowed to try harder for this World Cup. Now that my daughter has left for university, I am in a minority and there is no one with whom I can watch soaps, paint nails and argue about nothing. It’s been so boring that I’ve been joining the boys to watch the 2014 World Cup TV coverage. This is what I have learned so far:

1. Rio Ferdinand loves expensive fitted shirts and must work out… a lot.

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2. Thierry Henry still has a gorgeous voice and should do more Va Va Voom adverts, or any adverts or voiceovers, because he makes the dullest subjects sound fascinating.

3. Gary Lineker either tans ridiculously easily or he really does spend his entire life, when not on screen, being spray-blasted or playing golf in exotic sunny destinations, or both.

It’s not a lot, I realise. I start glazing over once the players come out and start kicking the ball, although I like the crowd shots (some Italian men enjoy dressing up as women – who knew?).

Truth is, it’s hard going, and my old resentment is creeping back. Football was all-consuming at home when I was growing up and sometimes the roar of the crowd from the next room is all it takes to transform me back to a stroppy teen, demanding to know why flipping football is so flipping important anyway.

Because I still want to know why. I understand that a lot of people like football. England’s opening game against Italy was watched by 15 million people in the UK, despite its 11pm kick-off.

All the hype and coverage football enjoys, it’s not surprising it’s followed, but how useful is it, how worthwhile economically? My internet research has gleaned that globally, football is worth $28 billion dollars (ticketing, media and marketing sales revenues, according to AT Kearney).

In contrast, fashion is worth $1.5 trillion globally and employs 75 million people (FashionUnited.com). In the UK fashion is worth £26 billion a year and employs 800,000 people. Equivalent figures are hard to find for football alone, but consider that the average attendance for a Leeds United match is around 25,000, while the nearby White Rose Shopping Centre attracts more than 200,000 visitors a week.

Yet compare the media coverage of fashion (a predominantly female interest) with football (predominantly male) and, well… there is no comparison.

What I have learned most from this World Cup is that there’s nothing quite like football coverage to ram it home to women that it’s still a man’s world, after all.

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ