If We're Taking Women's Sports Seriously, Why Can't I Get A Jersey?

It’s pretty simple. I just wanted a football shirt.

Not a potato sack made for men. A nicely fitting, comfy supporters’ shirt made specifically for women.

I wanted a Socceroos one because like many people, I support our national men’s team. And I wanted a Matildas one, because like just as many people, I also support our national women’s team.

But I couldn’t find the one I wanted.

Every store I went into only had them for men. Every online place including official websites didn’t have them either.

What I specifically wanted was an away strip. The green one. I had the home yellow strip but I wanted the full set. Because I’m a fan. And real fans gladly throw our money away on as many items of fan wear as possible.

I own close to 40 jerseys and I’m proud of it. This is why I don’t own a house. It’s not avocado on toast for me. It’s supporter wear. And I’m glad I spent every single cent.

Just a few of my collection. Image: Jessica Dunne

Most of them are men’s, and that never bothered me. I really didn’t care if they were a bit loose in the shoulder and tight in some of the wrong places.

It wasn’t until I went to buy the national women’s team jersey and couldn’t buy it in a women’s fit that I thought ‘this is wrong’.

Now, a nice thing happened the other day. A colleague was sent a beautiful Nike Jersey, and he passed it on to me. It’s great. It’s the new exclusive women’s World Cup strip, and it has Captain Fantastic Sam Kerr’s name and number on the back. I went to sleep in it dreaming of playing up front with her.

But it’s a man’s item. And damn it, I want to wear a shirt that doesn’t drown me.

We’ve seen so much progress in women’s sport in recent years -- so much so that it seems silly to call it “women’s sport” rather than just sport. The Matildas are now as mainstream as the Socceroos, and are probably more popular (they’re definitely more successful).

Now it’s time to respect our female fans just as much. The very people they represent can’t buy merch.

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Erin Phillips of the Crows celebrates with fans during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final. Image: Getty Images

National retailer Rebel Sport told 10 daily this was the "biggest year" it had seen in merchandise sales and sponsorship support for women's sport.

"Our commitment of delivering greater exposure to women’s sport in Australia extends to our merchandise range in-stores, where we are proud to stock options across the major codes," said Wayne Tozer, Acting Managing Director Sports Retailing at Super Retail Group.

"In particular, for the W-League, we are proud to range the Brisbane Roar home jersey, through Umbro. We also carry the A-League jersey for the both the Brisbane Roar, and the Central Coast Mariners in a women’s style across the home, away and the charity jerseys."

This is also the first year Rebel has stocked WBBL jerseys for women, to add to its women's options for the AFLW across all teams, as well as the Australian Diamonds and the Matildas.

Emma Inglis of the Renegades signs autographs for fans. Image: Getty Images

Football Federation Australia told 10 daily the A-League and W-League clubs are responsible for the styles and ranges available for fans.

"The Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League clubs are responsible for working with their kit suppliers in relation to the styles and the range of sizes available for purchase," it said.

"Football Federation Australia encourages all clubs to provide a suitable range of replica shirt options to satisfy all their stakeholders."

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Sam Kerr poses with fans. Image: Getty Images

But back to my away jersey.

Nike told 10 daily all its focus was on the new home jersey, with the exclusively designed jerseys "everything we could have dreamed of" for the Matildas' World Cup campaign in June.

"The Home kit is a brand new, Matildas exclusive, for the nation to wear with pride to rally behind these incredible athletes," it said.

"The new kit features a bespoke cut crafted around the unique needs of a female footballer and the design represents an exuberant aesthetic reminiscent of the early '90s, when many of the athletes were born."

Nike also highlighted its growing involvement with women's football in Australia.

"Football Victoria recently announced that Nike is the official naming rights partner of Football Victoria’s Women’s State Knockout Cup, which is now called the Nike F.C. Cup," Nike said.

To be fair, Nike is correct -- it has invested in women's sport around the world and continues to do so.

So maybe I am being harsh. The availability of a particular jersey in a particular size is realistically a small issue as women's sport continues to grow in popularity.

I'll take the small wins, and be proud of the kit I have and wear my Sam Kerr jersey with pride. But if they had an away jumper as well as a home one, hey, I wouldn't argue.