The Action Replay column from the June 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
The laws of football don’t say much about what players can or must wear. Shirt and shorts, no jewellery (on safety grounds), no undershirts that contain advertising (though of course in the professional game the shirts themselves have the sponsor’s name or logo prominently displayed). But in some sports the players’ clothing is a controversial issue – the clothing of women players, we mean.
It was recently decreed that women in badminton tournaments above a certain level must wear skirts, supposedly ‘to ensure attractive presentation of badminton’, which presumably involves making the players look more comely and so enticing more spectators and TV coverage. The ruling means skirts as opposed to shorts, though in fact the new regulations do allow skirts over shorts or tracksuit bottoms, so it’s not clear how effective they will really be.
Naturally there have been objections, some on religious grounds. Others are not against shorts, just against making them compulsory. It’s probably no great surprise to learn that the whole idea came from a sports marketing firm.
The sport with the most controversial clothing regulations has to be beach volleyball. In 1999 it was decided that both men and women had to wear swimsuits, with women players usually wearing skimpy bikinis. In Olympic events women’s bikini briefs have a maximum side width of 7 centimetres and must be ‘a close fit’. What next? That the players have to be blonde with a bust over a certain size?
In cricket, the Indian Premier League has been featuring cheerleaders in short skirts and with provocative routines. One team recently tried to replace these with traditional dancers wearing saris, but many supporters thought the sari was ‘not sexy enough’.
Sadly the sexism of those who run these sports is often reflected in the attitudes of the paying public.