Why it is so hard to be a feminist and a footy fan.

In a recent article for Women’s Agenda Marina Go, Chair of NRL club Wests Tigers and Founding Publisher, wrote: “Sport is an emotional commitment and that’s why our belief system is challenged when we suddenly find ourselves reading about players we admired displaying different values to our own.”

She is a proud feminist and has a real stake in the game. It was nice to read that she can struggle with loving her sport and her feminism.

I love my AFL and there are days that our relationship feels dysfunctional. In fact if Aussie Rules was my boyfriend my girlfriends would be on my case to dump him because of his at times misogynist, sexist and even downright abusive behaviour.

The AFLW has just lost some really exciting female talent from their coaching ranks. Why? Because they weren’t afforded the same professional development opportunities as their male peers, despite proving they can win a Grand Final.

In this Guardian piece by Sam Lane, she repeats what she also wrote in her book about the inaugural AFLW season Roar; “I fear we’ve created a women’s competition for women to play in and men to manage.”

While women have found a place on the field they are struggling to find it off the field.

Both Rugby and Aussie Rules are successful because of their male competition and their women’s competition is the poor sister. She is not afforded the same benefits nor the attention.

On and off the field male behaviour dominates the codes. Off the field the behaviour can really challenge your feminism. Players who threaten women are awarded Brownlow Medals or slapped on the wrist for their violations.

And of course Rugby has its fair share too. But as Go states: “rather than feminist fans, which the sport desperately needs more of, giving up on rugby league when a player behaves badly, we should be ensuring that NRL clubs and the governing body are given a clear message about how that behaviour makes women feel about the sport.”

But how do we do that when women are not really invited in?

Women’s leadership in the sport is key to making sure it can hear us when Go is asking us to speak up. Ye while the AFL has loaded the internet up on good news stories about women’s participation in playing the game, you don’t see one talking about the number of women in leadership roles growing too.

She can’t be it if she can’t see it.