Earlier this week, former Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Chloe Morgan appeared on Sky Sports’ The Women’s Football Show to discuss her career, including her recent move to Crystal Palace after ending her six year spell at Tottenham this year. She spoke at length about her final season at Spurs, the team’s first season in the FA Women’s Super League, and how the women’s team felt like “second-class citizens” compared to the men’s team.
Morgan’s main complaint was that the women’s team still felt separate from the rest of the club, even after the club committed more resources to the women’s team. Her comments, per Sky Sports News:
In terms of equality and what I think Spurs should do better, I definitely think there are grounds there to really consolidate the women’s and men’s team and make it more of a cohesive team. I never want a situation where a women’s team feel like a second-class team or they feel like they are second-class citizens to a men’s team, so I think there is work to be done there.
I do think in some ways the men’s team were supportive but I definitely think there were occasions when the cohesion could have been a lot better. In terms of being part of the men’s setup I definitely think there could have been ways we could have used the facilities better, we could have been in a situation where we met the men’s team more a little bit more often. I just think there were things that were going on behind the scenes that I feel need to be addressed.
She did not get more specific, but clearly references the use of facilities and a possibly non-existent relationship with members of the men’s team. Tottenham sent a lengthy statement to Sky responding to Morgan’s comments, spending parts of it outlining what the club feels is a measure of how it integrated the women’s team:
Last year, we staged the first Women’s north London derby in the top flight at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which set a new all-time attendance record for the WSL of 38,262. We have also this week launched a new Female Talent Pathway, enabling us to help aspiring young female footballers develop their skills from a young age to play at the highest level possible.
Equality and inclusion is of paramount importance to us as a club and is central to everything we do. Our men’s players have shown cohesiveness with our women’s team by attending matches in support of the players, engaging with them on social media and appearing alongside each other at community events as we recognise that our men’s and women’s players provide equal inspiration to young people within our local area.
Our women’s team has a dedicated home at The Hive Stadium - training is split between The Hive and our training centre, based on logistical requirements and in compliance with regulations pertaining to gender appropriate changing areas.
Just about all of the moves the club mentioned in its statement are undoubtedly good ones — the best, arguably, is the launching of the Female Talent Pathway. That said, Tottenham seems to have a different definition of integration than Morgan, and it would be hard to argue the club’s is the right one. Outside of the talent pathway, the other moves mentioned are surface level. Doing community events with the men’s players is a great move, but Morgan’s comments make it seem like the two squads did not have a stronger relationship than that. As for the match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it was just one in a season when the team had 11 home matches scheduled.
#Equality is a deep-rooted issue extending much further than a stadium game. It is about fundamental respect and no women’s team being made to feel as if they are a burden or an afterthought #inthistogether #womeninfootball #WomenInSport #WomenSupportingWomen https://t.co/k3O5Ioer3T— Chloe Morgan (@Morgie_89) July 13, 2020
Perhaps the most alarming part of the Spurs statement, though, is the club said the women’s team splits training between The Hive and Hotspur Way “based on logistical requirements and in compliance with regulations pertaining to gender appropriate changing areas.” Shuffling in between training grounds is hardly ideal for a professional team, but the suggestion that one of these locations does not have women’s locker rooms is shocking, and may be what Morgan was alluding to in her comments.
Running both a men’s and women’s team equally at any given club requires a balance of tailoring individual strategies to each team and ensuring both have equal access to resources. It is a hard balance to strike, and not one that can be achieved overnight, but it should be the goal for any club with both a women’s and men’s team. Having a player publicly say she felt like a second-class citizen does not sound like the club has prioritized that balance, and a response that admits the men’s and women’s teams do not have equal training access is the most indicative of that.
It is clear Spurs hit some elementary achievements in supporting its women’s team, but I am reminded of a question I ask myself very frequently as someone who watches the men’s and women’s games fairly closely: Clubs recognize the effort it takes for teams to be successful, from building squads, stadiums, and training grounds to ensure maximum comfort for their players and coaches. Why do they forget those ideas when it comes to their women’s teams?