Why is the Man United men's team allowing the women's team to be moved into demountables?

What is it with “state of the art facilities” being a priority for clubs and sporting bodies for men but not women athletes?

What is it with “state-of-the-art facilities” being a priority for clubs and sporting bodies for men but not women athletes?

News has been circulating over the last few days about UK football club Manchester United announcing that the women's team will be moved into portable buildings at the Manchester United training complex this season, so that the men's squad can use the women's building while their own indoor facilities are being renovated. This is alarming but sadly not a unique story. 

In Australia, women’s soccer teams in the National Premier League (one level below A-League) have reported being forced to play on grounds without facilities for the visiting away team - who as a result have to get changed in car parks. Men’s teams would never have to do something so humiliating. In AFL club footy, female players in NSW report not being able to train until late at night because the men’s and junior male teams have priority use of the field. 

Last year I was at a sporting luncheon where men’s Sydney Swans co-captain Dane Rampe was giving a talk and in it he was asked about the Swan’s men’s team moving to new state of the art facilities - a hub with a price tag of $70 million. During the chat a guy, face shiny with sweat, leaned across the table and whispered to me, “and the women’s team get the old facilities, isn’t that fantastic?” he beamed. I wanted to spit my drink at him - why do women not get state of the art? How on earth do we expect women athletes to deliver the same performance level when they’re operating out of sub par facilities?

The Man United men’s team should just say no. They should tell the club that forcing the women’s team to make way for the men is not OK - this fight shouldn’t be always left to women. Recently the Danish national men’s team turned down a pay rise in solidarity with the women’s national  team - this show of support shouldn’t be unique, it should be the norm. No one wants to train out of demountables - if it’s not good enough for men, then it’s not good enough for women either. Or, if they’re going to force the women out of their facilities for a season, give them the state of the art £50 million new build. 

The fight for gender equality in sport always feels like two steps forward, three steps back. There has been so much hype around women’s football in the last few years - particularly in the UK as the Lionesses brought home the Euro Cup in 2022 and made the final of the World Cup in 2023. Meanwhile, as the men’s Euro carries on in Germany at the moment, the male Lionesses have only managed to win one match in the group stage in a performance that is being described as an “unimpressive snoozer”. Yet, there are whole institutions of people who think that doing something like displacing the women’s team for the men’s team, which Man United described as their “first” team, is acceptable. 

Women deserve state-of-the-art as well. There is no way to explain this away. It’s not about “who brings in the most money” as the armchair economists on X (formerly Twitter) who haven’t played sport since they came last in the 100 metre sprint in their high school sports carnival but love to mansplain the sports industry to women who are actively involved in it say, it’s about the fact that state of the art facilities help increase performance level. By not giving women these facilities, we’re just placing another barrier in front of them to slow down the huge growth that women’s sport is experiencing. And that’s just straight up gender discrimination.