Equality: Women’s Football League In Finland Gets A Gender-Neutral Name Change

So much to learn from Finland…

The first country in the world to elect a woman to parliament, a little over a century ago, 34-year-old Sanna Marin, who has become the world’s youngest sitting prime minister.

Now, in another step towards equality, the Finnish Football Association has decided to officially rename its top women’s division, removing the word “women” from it.

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Formerly known as the “Women’s League,” from the start of the upcoming season, the highest level of competitive football for women will be called Kansallinen Liiga.

Heidi Pihlaja, head of women’s football development for the Football Association of Finland talked about the important move Finland was making towards equality in the sport.

“It is common within the sports community to talk about sports and women’s sports as if the latter would be less worthy when this, of course, is not the case. Football is football, no matter who kicks the ball.”

“Some might see changing the name as insignificant but actually it is a strong statement that symbolizes a bigger cultural change within the sports community and our society,” she said.

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Yet, this is not the first measure the Finnish football authorities have taken to become more equal. Last year, they announced equal pay for both men and women players who compete for the Finnish national teams.

“Last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup proved that people do not base their interest in football on the gender of the players,” said Ari Lahti, president of the Football Association of Finland.

“People come to the games to see top athletes play quality football. That is why women’s football should be treated equally with men’s football.”

With the help of its new sponsor Subway and redefined goals of “equality, competitiveness and the courage to act as a role model” for 2020-23, the Finnish football community is hoping to be the catalyst for a big change around the globe.

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In many other countries, it is the norm for women’s football leagues to reference women in the title. For example, in England, the top division of women’s football is called the “Women’s Super League,” while Germany’s top division is called the “Frauen-Bundesliga.”

“Reaching full equality in sports still demands a ton of hard work,” Lahti said. “Our sincere wish is that other leagues both in Finland and globally will follow our lead. We aspire to be a pioneer of equality in the eyes of the whole sports community.”

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