OPINION - Why we have to talk about Alessia Russo’s record-breaking transfer offer
You know it’s a good day when Alessia Russo makes the headlines. Who can forget her iconic backheel goal against Sweden in the Euros last summer? As a Swede, I certainly can’t. Today, she’s trending as she was offered a record-breaking transfer offer from Arsenal. The previous highest transfer for a female player was Barcelona paying £400,000 for England midfielder Keira Walsh in September. Russo’s offer is understood to be even higher than this, and while it’s nowhere near what clubs offer male players (Jack Grealish held the British record with his £100 million move from Aston Villa to Manchester City – but then, what wouldn’t you pay for those calves?), it’s a start.
Being a woman in football is an uphill climb – there’s no doubt about that. Let’s not forget that the FA banned women from playing for 50 years, so no wonder we have a bit to catch up on. However, we’re in a place now where the interest in women’s football is picking up in popularity – and doing so rapidly. It’s only within the last few years that transfer fees have reached the £100,000+ mark, and it doesn’t look like the numbers are going to drop. And while most of us are celebrating this progress, there will always be men who see this as a threat, which may be why they think they’re within their rights to spew out as much hate and sexist comments as they want online. Last summer’s ‘Not her problem’ campaign was an important initiative to highlight the blatant and unprovoked hate female players receive, but it also saddens me that it was needed in the first place.
And before you start shouting “not all men!”, let me beat you to it. Of course, not all men. Who can forget Snoop Dogg’s iconic rant about fair pay for the US Women’s National Team – a team which now actually has equal pay (Snoop Dogg’s impact on this decision is however unknown). While we might not have arrived at the stage of equal pay here in the UK, things are moving in the right direction even on this side of the Atlantic. The interest in women’s football has never been higher. Last year we saw record after record being broken, and sold-out stadiums from Wembley in London to Camp Nou in Barcelona. And with increased interest and ticket sales, more money will be invested in the women’s game.
No, Alessia Russo’s offer was most likely not in the same ballpark as Jack Grealish’s. And the road to the multi-million-pound transfer bids is still long and filled with injustice, sexist trolls and hard work. But I remain hopeful and dream that one day I will see the young WSL players flash their cash like the newly signed Premier League players. Because we all know that money talks, and when this happens, it will say “we made it”.