Tick a box. Move on.

In a world obsessed by optics, this week’s Ballon d’Or ceremony hardly portrayed the women’s game in a positive light as it brought into sharp focus the disparity that continues to resonate.

As she showcased all the juggling skills of the modern multi-tasking woman, Aitana Bonmati managed to collect her award after squeezing a flying visit to Paris to do so.

Called up for international duty, she had to leave the Spanish camp in between games and dash back before to take her place in the squad who dismantled Switzerland 7-1 the following night in Zurich.

First off, holding the showpiece event for the winner of arguably the most prestigious individual award in football in the middle of an international calendar was baffling enough.

But to have Bonmati, have her trophy - that was clumsily placed by a stagehand at her arrival - presented by Novak Djokavic, was truly head-scratching. No harm to Djokovic, who has been fairly vocal about matters pertaining to women’s sport particularly when it comes to ensuring men continue to reap most of the financial rewards, but it was difficult to understand any commonality he might have had with the winner of the female award.

Assuming those who historically broke new ground in the women’s game like Mia Hamm or Marta - the female equals of David Beckham who presented Lionel Messi with his eighth award in terms of stature and respect if not fame - were unavailable there would have been better fits within tennis to present.

Indeed, Scotland’s own Andy Murray would have been a significantly better option.
Back in 2018 - the first time that a female Ballon d’Or winner was on offer - French DJ Martin Solveig ensured the moment hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons as he asked Ada Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk.

Of the criticism that followed, and the inevitable defence of people not being able to take a joke, Murray used his platform to offer his own take.

"What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?" he wrote on Instagram. "I'd imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I'm overreacting and it was just a joke ... it wasn't. I've been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal."

Women’s football needs its allies like this.

Crucially, though, the timing of the ceremony was an equal bug bearer. It is difficult to imagine scheduling this showpiece event in the middle of a male international window - and equally difficult to imagine managers and coaches sanctioning players swanning off to enjoy themselves in the middle of important games.

England had four nominees who could not be in Paris because of their Nations League commitments. 

"It's unfortunate we couldn't be there," said Georgia Stanway. "That's something we spoke as a player group [about], and we just kind of said it would be nice in the future if it wasn't on a matchday -1, so that we could enjoy the experience.

"It is [frustrating], because it's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You never know if you're ever going to get selected for such an accolade like that again, so it would be really nice to enjoy the experience and be there and feel like a star amongst the stars. If it was planned a little bit better, then maybe it would be easier for a lot of female footballers to be there."

Back in 2018, before twerk-gate, the announcement of the Ballon d’Or Feminin was regarded as a pivotal moment for the women’s game, a recognition that they too deserved to be celebrated for their achievements.

Crucially, it offered an unquantifiable boost to visibility with the opportunity to share a stage with global players such as Messi, Neymas and Ronaldo and tap into the career and commercial opportunities that have always been thin on the ground for female players.

Monday night’s ceremony concluded with Messi and his exceptional eighth Ballon d’Or. Before we got to that point there was also the Kopa Trophy for Jude Bellingham, Erling Haaland claiming the Gerd Muller award, the Yachine Trophy was given to Emiliano Martinez and the Socrates award went to Vinicius Jr.

There are no women’s equivalents. No award for goalkeepers, strikers or emerging young talent.

There is a while to go before it will feel like anything other than offering the bare minimum.


Three postponed games in the SWPL have been rescheduled for later this month but in a league where only select clubs can afford to offer full-time contracts, there are some concerns over the practicality of the games.

Partick Thistle are due to head to Aberdeen for a 7.15pm kick-off next Wednesday night (16th) but for a team that is made up of players who also work ‘normal’ jobs such as teachers, NHS staff and firefighters, this is a considerable ask to get to another side of the country while also juggling work commitments.

It further underlines the importance of a financial structure that would open the door to top flight clubs moving towards full-time contracts.


Rebecca Welch became the first female referee for a Premier League game after working as the fourth official at yesterday’s game between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage.

The first reactions to this news on social media prompted the usual classy witticisms - ‘someone go down and tell her the offside rule!’ and ‘opportunities in the name of ‘diversity’’ would offer a small sample. Progress will be measured when news like this is no longer regarded as news.