Gordon Parks gets his boots on after women's football article

Written by Colette Carr.

GORDON Parks caused quite the stir last week with his Daily Record article on women's football.
After the backlash, and some persuasion from the Accies' Helen Templeton, Parks came along to join Hamilton Ladies at training on Thursday night.

Templeton (Dibsy to her team-mates) contacted The Record and invited him down, urging the sports writer to come see what women's football was really all about.
Word quickly spread throughout the Accies camps, with the premier side being joined by the U17s and many of the backroom staff turning out to put on a show for Parks.
They hoped to change his perceptions and opinions on the “ladies’ version of a game played in men’s shorts”. 

After the meet and greet with everyone involved with the club, Parks changed into his boots, ready to be thrown into the lions’ den.  With three bases set up at Ravenscraig, Parks took part in the circuit, involving passing and running drills, of which he appeared to be struggling to keep up with the high standard that the Accies Ladies had to offer.
A sheepish Parks faced the music at Hamilton's training session Photo courtesy of Hamilton Ladies

With a grilling both on and off the pitch for Parks, it was clear he had been impressed with the setup of the club, and after being put through the paces already, he then took part in a training game.

There was no doubt amongst the club that Parks coming to the training session was a great opportunity for Accies, with staff from the Daily Record also attending to produce video and print content, the women had the chance to showcase their talents and women’s football to Parks and the Record’s readership.

Before leaving the complex, Parks promised to attend their game in Edinburgh on Sunday and commented on his time with the Premier League side, explaining how, while he was impressed by the team, his comments on the funding still held strong.

He said: “I knew when I was writing the piece there would be some kind of backlash to it, I knew there would be a wee bit of outrage, but I honestly didn’t realise when I wrote it the strength of feeling for it that people have for their sport.
"I think women’s football is an environment where they feel very strongly about it, and I have been blown away with it.

“It was a two point column. The first was can the average Scottish person identify women sports people in Scotland and my experience is that that point still holds which probably tells you a lot about the sport and the lack of success that the women have had. 

“This has created the debate should there be more profile given to female athletes and women football players, and I believe that it’s up to women to try and justify that there should be. I don’t think that their attendance rate at the games is strong enough to justify giving it much more coverage than it’s actually getting.
"I think the £1.2million they’re putting into women’s football is too much money, given the fact that there’s other areas of sport. There is grassroot level who could be using the money better.”

One of the longest serving players at the club Gill Inglis also spoke of her reaction to the article and the evening.

She said: “I think I speak for everyone when I say we were probably disappointed and probably weren’t that surprised to an extent, but still quite disappointed and wanted to make a point and prove him wrong.
"I think some of the things he said were justified but I don’t know if he really knew all the facts before he published the article.

“I didn’t actually realise he was coming down to train, but I thought fair play, credit to him for coming down and it would have been easy for him to just ignore all our emails. Fair play to him coming down and he joined in and I hope it’s made him realise what it’s like and the effort that we put in four nights a week.”

When asked whether she thought they had done enough to change his thoughts on the sport, Gill replied: “Yeah I think it probably has to an extent, I hope it has anyway, we’ll see on Saturday if it has.”

Manager of the Premier team Kevin Murphy was also delighted with the evening’s success.

“Obviously when I first saw it I thought it was a bit tongue in cheek but I knew it would spark a massive reaction in the women’s game," said Murphy. "Obviously I’ve been involved so long I know all the commitment and time that girls put in, so I wasn’t surprised at the reaction given, but to be honest it’s also been great because its put women’s football at the forefront of the media which is obviously always a good thing.

“Dibsy pulled me aside just before training started on Tuesday night, obviously the story had come out by then and people had been talking about it, and Dibsy pulled me aside and said “look I was angry and I’ve sent an email to the Daily Record and Gordon’s coming down on Thursday for training,” so initially I was a wee bit shocked and taken aback but at the same time I was really glad because it gave us an opportunity as a club to show Gordon and the media the commitment, technical ability of the players that we have and how woman’s football is in Scotland.
"So it’s been great and fair play to Gordon coming down tonight, he’s a good sport and I think he has thoroughly enjoyed it."

He added: "I think having watched Gordon leave the pitch he was soaking in sweat and I think the girls that were walking off the pitch didn’t have a bead of sweat on their heads so I think that says it all.”

With the controversy catapulting the female game into the mix of the media, and with the night spent with Parks being covered in many channels of the press, it can be now hoped that Accies Ladies and the Scottish game can receive both the recognition and coverage that many believe it deserves.
Of course, the number one place to follow women's football is here at The Away End, where we'll continue to give you the best coverage of the game; from match reports, previews, features and interviews, to match highlights and video features.
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