Ballon d’Or organisers France Football want you to think they’ve embraced equality simply because they added an award for women’s players in 2018 but, in reality, arranging this year’s ceremony in the middle of the women’s international break gives the game away: For the Ballon d’Or, the women’s game remains an afterthought.
Because next Monday, November 29’s glitzy event at Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet by the banks of the river Seine is set to be missing something fairly basic – the presence of the nominees for the women’s award.
The national teams of all 20 of the women’s players who were nominated will either be playing matches on the night of the award ceremony itself or on the following day, which will certainly diminish the occasion for the players after their stellar performances in 2021.
Of course, awards ceremonies clashing with fixtures is nothing new in sport, and it’s hard to avoid entirely with the hectic global calendar. However, women’s players’ salaries don’t tend to be compatible with the private jets that the men’s game’s biggest names can afford with ease. And with their players away with their national sides, the agents of six of the women’s nominees have already told Telegraph Sport they’re not expecting their clients to be allowed to or even able to attend, and the real number of absentees is likely to be far higher.
For starters, the timing makes it impossible for Australia’s Sam Kerr to be in Paris next Monday, as her Matildas side face the world champion United States in New South Wales around 12 hours later (9.05am GMT on Tuesday, November 30).
Holland’s Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martens will be in the middle of a match during the ceremony itself, taking on Japan in a friendly on Monday night, while Lyon goalkeeper Christiane Endler will be captaining her Chile side in Manaus, Brazil, as they take part in a four-team tournament.
And England – for whom Lucy Bronze and Ellen White have both been nominated – will be preparing to face Latvia in Doncaster the following evening, one of many Women’s World Cup qualifiers involving the rest of the potential award winners.
It is a bad look for an institution that sparked huge controversy and accusations of sexism when its first female winner in 2018, Ada Hegerberg of Norway, was asked to “twerk” live on stage by the host, DJ Martin Solveig, who later apologised.
For an award that had completely ignored women for 62 years since first recognising the best men’s player in 1956, that incident in 2018 was a woeful start to say the least, and now it seems the women’s game remains a second-class citizen. Thankfully, this year’s winner is unlikely to be disrespected in such a way on stage – largely because they probably won’t be there.