FairFootball / FairSport / FairPlay

This website uses football as an exemplar to show how easy it is to modify sport so enabling the genders to fully participate and compete together; reversing the corrosive misogyny and gender stereotyping that many sports promulgate.

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Association Football has been played for over 150 years and is by far the most popular team game in history.   It is a game almost exclusively organised, played, supported, managed and profited from, by men.  Women were at first ignored, then banned, and latterly marginalised by being confined to their own game, even though they are just as skilful as men players; and despite the huge financial contribution, in one form or another, that they make to men’s football.     

There has been blind, cultural and an almost sacred acceptance of this segregation, with next to no questioning, debate or examination.   Indeed, even to raise the issue of men and women playing the game together, invites hostile disapprobation.

The only argument, of any substance, against men and women playing the game as a shared experience, is the perceived difference in physical strength between the genders.  Though the magnitude and scope of that difference is a matter of argument, it is nevertheless generally acknowledged as fact that women are disadvantaged; with the women’s game consequently viewed as ’inferior’.

Disgracefully, there has never been any effort to end this obvious and needless imbalance; a situation that has arisen from a lack of vision, misogyny, female passivity, male arrogance, gender prejudice, and blinkered corporate selfishness.

FairFootball challenges this status-quo by proposing modifications that would enable men and women to play the game together on a totally equal basis.  These are virtually cost free and remarkably simple, with the game retaining its essence; feeling the same to players, and looking the same to spectators.   The rhetoric for equality for women in football has been exposed as meaningless.

An added benefit of FairFootball is that it would open up the game to other dichotomous groups, such as age difference (mothers/daughters, fathers/sons etc.).  This would make football truly inclusive; an ideal community sport.


As football, very much a macho sport, is so easy to adapt, would others be as simple?  Generally speaking the answer is yes, depending on the type of sport.  Tennis, with its mixed doubles, is already there.  Golf… it is difficult to see why there is segregation at all!   Athletics, the obstacles are purely organisational: marathon running, for example, has demonstrated that mixed participation is highly successful.  And so on….

Team games are a little more problematical, but imaginative adaptations are perfectly feasible. For instance, simple pitch modifications would enable cricket to become compliant. Even the highly physical games of rugby and American football can easily be adapted. There is no excuse for any sport to be exclusively gender specific.

The early formative gender stereotyping that takes place through segregation, particularly at schools, is the principal obstacle.  It embraces and embeds gender prejudice, which in turn leads to segregation - the perfect cycle of reinforced behaviour!  


There is no shortage of women’s sports groups jumping on the feminist bandwagon, campaigning for the ending of gender discrimination in sport.  However, what they class as discrimination, turns out to be somewhat limited; restricted mainly to self-serving financial matters, such as greater access to sports’ top jobs, or more money for women’s sports.  They fail to see that they themselves are the major part of the problem by irrationally associating equality with women’s only sports.  The real inequality in sport is the ubiquitous segregation of the genders; it is straight forward, unabashed sex discrimination – precisely the same as Apartheid was straight forward, unabashed race discrimination. There is no logical difference.

So entrenched and normalised has gender segregation in sport become, that changing this narrow mind-set in adults is probably an impossible task.   The only way to break this stereotyping cycle is through children.

Fortunately in the UK we have the Equality Act 2010 which makes the segregation of the genders for school sport unlawful.  That this is still a universal practice in UK schools, is a scandal, and only exists because no organisation has yet had the vision (or is it gumption?) to support children in bringing a case to court.

When that happens, children will be freed from the damaging, insidious, stereotyping by sport.  Only then will women finally have fair play, as children grow up understanding how ridiculous and limiting gender segregation really is.  Women’s groups, instead of haranguing sports personalities who make crass sexist remarks, should be, more usefully, encouraging and helping their daughters to stand up for their lawful rights.

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FairFootball Rules

Below are detailed, simple changes to football that will remove from the game the physical advantages that men are thought to have, therefore allowing men and women to play the game together on a totally equal basis.   The cost of the changes would be minimal with the game itself remaining essentially the same; although, because they reduce the opportunities for defence, more goals should be scored, thus increasing the entertainment value to spectators.

In order to facilitate the changes the pitch has to be divided into two equal areas by adding a line between the left hand corners of the penalty areas (Figure 1.1).  This enables men to be confined to one designated area and women to the other (Figure 2.1) so that there is no direct physical contact.  Only the ball and referee moves freely over the pitch.

Figure 1.1 Showing additional line from corners of penalty boxes on a football pitch
Figure 2.1 Showing gender areas of pitch and positions at the start of game.

Each team consists of 6 female players and 6 male players, with 2 of the players being goalies of differing genders. The players wear kit that readily distinguishes between male players, female players, and goalies.

At the start of the game a coin is tossed, with the winning captain deciding the direction of play. However, the loser then decides on which goalie, female or male, to deploy first - thus designating the areas of play, as each goalie defends against their own gender, whilst the other sits out until half-time.

The game is played conventionally except that men and women are restricted to playing in their designated areas; being penalised if they do otherwise. At half time the players swap ends and change goalies to the other gender, but stay in the same designated areas.

The game is played out using traditional rules, with the addition of the following:

1. No player is allowed to play the ball, tackle any other player or deliberately obstruct the passage of play outside his or her designated area of the pitch (players are allowed however to overrun into a non-designated area immediately after playing the ball, as long as he or she does not interfere with play outside his or her designated area). If a player transgresses this rule, a free kick is awarded to the opposing team at the point of transgression, except if the transgression is incurred by a defending player in the penalty area, whereby a penalty shot at goal from the penalty spot is awarded to the attacking team.

2. A player is allowed to retrieve a loose ball from a non-designated area only if the player does not touch the ground inside the non-designated area.

3. The taking of free kicks and penalties must be taken by an appropriate player from the area in which they are awarded.

4. Throw-ins and corners must be taken by an appropriate player from the area which they border.

Children, Sport & Equality Act 2010

Section 195 (4) of the Equality Act 2010 protects children from the Section 195 (1) sex discrimination opt-out for adults.   Sports would need to have good reason to segregate children by gender, the lack of which is why the FA recently raised the age limit for mixed football from 11 to 16 – thus conveniently absolving itself of legal consequences by passing the buck onto clubs.

The situation in schools is different. Part 6 of the Act imposes a general duty on schools not to discriminate. There is no opt-out for sport, so a school that segregates pupils by gender for sport is acting unlawfully. Furthermore it is free to offer any sport, therefore if a sport that could be interpreted as gender biased in any way is used for physical education, it would additionally fall foul of the indirect discrimination provisions of the Act (Section 19).

Copied below, is what used to be the advice from the EHRC website.  This was recently changed into a more generic, less understandable, form.  One possible reason for the change could be to cover-up their embarrassment, as this had been their advice since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975…. a rather long time to be caught looking the other way!

Taking part in sport at school

Girls and boys must have the same access to the school curriculum and must be given exactly the same subject options and the same amount of subject teaching. This includes physical education courses.


A girl is told she cannot take part in cricket and football during school games lessons, because these are deemed to be ‘boys only’ by her school. This is very likely to be unlawful sex discrimination.”

Possible Rule Changes for Rugby to Enable Shared Gender Participation

The game is played traditionally except that the players are restricted to either playing exclusively backs or forwards depending on their gender, with no tackling or physical contact between them.

Each team consists of 8 male and 8 female players wearing kit that readily distinguishes the two groups. The forwards are either exclusively male or female whilst the backs, exclusively the opposite gender (with the extra back sitting out if the traditional 7 backs are used). 

Before the start of the game a coin is tossed and the winning captain decides on the direction of play whilst the loser decides on the starting gender of the forwards.

The game is played in 20 minute quarters (or other suitable time, or just two halves as now) with the forwards and the backs swapping roles between each quarter (half). The teams swap direction of play at half-time.

The game is played traditionally except for the following

1. All scoring and all penalty kicks can only be done by the backs.

2. Opposing forwards and backs of different genders are not allowed to tackle, obstruct, or attempt directly to take the ball from, each other. A penalty is awarded against any transgressor at the point of incident.

3. In an equal challenge for a loose ball the male player always gives way to the female player otherwise a penalty is awarded to the female’s side at the point of incident.

4. No player is allowed deliberately to contact or obstruct another opposing player of the opposite gender whilst holding the ball. A penalty is awarded against the transgressor at the point of incident.

5. A five-metre scrum, adjacent to the point of grounding, is awarded to an attacking side should an attacking forward ground the ball between the try and dead-ball line.

6. A player or substitute cannot be used more than once during a game except where a temporary ‘blood’ substitution takes place.

7. A penalty try can only be awarded if a back was unfairly denied the opportunity to score a try.

By allowing the backs only to score, the forwards cannot hog the ball and must feed the backs if their team is to score. This should make for a more open, fluid and possibly safer game. 


Possible Changes for Cricket to Enable Shared Gender Participation

To facilitate these rule changes, in, mid and out-field zones are required to be marked out as suggested in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Suggested Layout and Dimensions of Zones of Play

Each team consists of 6 male and 6 female players, with each gender being assigned a wicket-keeper. At the start of the game a coin is tossed, where the winner fields first. The batting team decides the end and gender of their first batter, with the supporting batter being the other gender. Likewise the umpires are of differing genders.

The game is played traditionally except for the following -

1. Once the bowler makes his/her run the in-field zone must all be of the same gender (i.e. batter, bowler, fielders, wicket keeper and umpire), with the exception of the supporting batter. The batting gender fielders have unfettered use of the field. The other gender fielders are confined to the out-field zone, but are allowed to step into the mid-field zone to field, catch, or throw the ball once it has been batted. If they step into the in-field zone a not-out is given and 6 runs awarded to the batter.

2. After each run(s) the batters must return to their original creases.

3. A dismissed batter is replaced by the same gender until there is none available, whereby is then replaced by the other gender. All-out is declared when there is no replacement available.

4. After 12 overs the batters swap ends but with the next bowler then bowling from the same end as the last.


Possible Changes for American Football to Enable Shared Gender Participation

To facilitate these rule changes an out-of-play zone (a suggested 6 foot wide) is required and marked down the centre of the pitch, with a line marked out at its centre, as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Suggested Layout and Dimensions of Gender and Out-of-Play Zones

Each team consists of 6 male and 6 female players on the pitch at any one time with each gender assigned a quarter-back. Male and female players are confined to their designated zones, with only the ball and referee moving freely across the zones. At the finish of the first and third-quarters the genders swap sides and at half-time the teams swap ends. To start the game a coin is tossed with the winner having first kick-off whilst the loser deciding the opening ends and gender play zones.


The game is played traditionally except for the following –

  1. All players are confined to their gender zones, except for centres and quarter-backs at play-from-scrimmage. Should a player tackle, or interfere in the play of the other gender, that period of play is nullified and a 10 yard scrimmage penalty awarded against the transgressor.

  2. There is a strict rotation of female and male centres at play-from-scrimmage, on and between teams throughout each quarter. The team with first play-from-scrimmage decides the pattern for each quarter.

  3. The centre stands astride the centre line at every play-from-scrimmage but cannot be tackled or play any further part until she/he steps back into her/his zone of play, which must be done immediately upon her/his release of the ball. That play- from-scrimmage is nullified and a 5 yard scrimmage penalty awarded against any transgressor. The centre can snap to either quarter-back.

  4. At play-from-scrimmage the quarter-backs stand behind the centre astride of the demarcation line between their appropriate play zone and the central out-of-play zone. On receipt of the ball she/he must step back into her/his play zone before the ball is played. That play-from-scrimmage is nullified and a 5 yard scrimmage penalty awarded against any transgressor.

  5. After the quarter-back receives the ball, no player is allowed to step into the central out-of-play zone unless as a result of a tackle or from a failed attempt to receive the ball. Play is not stopped but a 5 yard scrimmage penalty awarded against the offending team at the end of that play.

  6. Should the ball come to rest, or be held by a player touching the ground inside the central out-of-play zone, a dead ball is called at the yardage point where the ball came to rest or held. A touchback is awarded if it happens in the central out-of-play zone adjoining the end zone.

  7. Free-kicks, other than kick-offs from the central out-of-play zone where either gender can take the kick, must be taken by an appropriate gender from the area which they are taken.

  8. An extra-point-attempt must be taken by the gender that made the touchdown.


Consequences of Equal Accessibility for Women in Sport

For the UK, and similar countries with mature and accepted attitudes to gender equality, the outcome would be minor – the final major step towards total equality.   In other countries, where women are still viewed as second class citizens, the sight of women playing team games with men would be dramatic and societally challenging.   If it was permitted, there is a high probability that it would raise their women’s profile and self-esteem.   Worth noting is that birth rates are closely linked to the social status of women, so the consequences could be surprising and profound.

Would FairFootball be a Commercially Viable Sport?

At face value FairFootball should be a superior commercial model to that of Association Football.  Women are demonstrably just as capable as men at playing the game, with the fan-base theoretically being at least double.  Additionally the game itself has more potential - on all sorts of levels…. spectator interest, sponsorship, human interest, media coverage, etc..

Against that however are imponderables.   Women in general seem to have significantly less interest in sport  - football in particular.  Whether or not that is nature or nurture, is a moot point.  Also there are many men who are aggressively defensive of a game that they see as theirs, even though the Association Football rules were themselves initially derided as an affront to masculinity.

What is obvious however is that the first developer of the game would be commercially advantaged.   With its Victorian vision and entrepreneurship, it is why it was the UK that became the mother country of football!

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