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Last Updated: Friday, 17 June 2005, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Backlash over Johansson's remarks
Uefa president Lennart Johansson
Johansson did also hail the Euro 2005 tournament as a success
Lennart Johansson's claim that sponsors of women's football could cash in by promoting the players' physical attributes has provoked angry reaction.

The Uefa president said on Friday: "Companies could make use of a sweaty, lovely looking girl playing on the ground, with the rainy weather.

"It would sell," he told BBC Five Live.

Ex-England star Sue Smith said: "It's disappointing someone high up in the game said something like that. You want people to watch for football reasons."

Johansson did condemn his Fifa counterpart Sepp Blatter for his comments last year when he called for players to wear "tighter shorts".

But Johansson himself is now the subject of criticism from several leading lights in the women's game, who feel his remarks are ill-advised and ill-timed on the back of a successful Euro 2005.

People must appreciate us from a football point of view and come to see us because of the way we play
Ex-England star Sue Smith

Helen Donohoe, head of policy for the Women's Sports Foundation, said: "I cannot imagine some other president of another sport like swimming or athletics saying something so crass.

"We're not prudes - we recognise that sex sells from stars like David Beckham to Freddie Ljungberg and Serena Williams - but it's not the grounds for a sustainable growth of the sport."

Smith continued: "You don't want people just to watch us for aesthetic reasons.

"Yes sex sells, and people buy things because Beckham promotes it and he's very good looking but that is up to the individual and should not be the way the whole of women's football is viewed.

"There are much better ways of saying it rather than talk about girls coming off the pitch sweating and then looking lovely."

Swedish international Frida Ostberg added: "I get really fed up with this sort of thing.

"In a superficial world it is what is on the surface that sells, but we should be interesting for what we do on the pitch."

The Football Association's Euro 2005 marketing campaign was partly designed to dispel the "old-fashioned view that women footballers cannot be feminine".

"The promotion was around the game as a sport and the players as athletes," explained FA media officer Alex Stone.

"And our catchphrase - 'a more beautiful game' - acknowledged their marketability as females.

"But we see this as only one part of a broader strategy to widen the appeal, from grassroots to the elite game."

Johansson's comments came during an interview in which he actually attacked Blatter and made clear promoting the players' physical attributes was only one way of helping to broaden the appeal of the game.

"Some people are only happy if they have something being published about them every day in the newspapers, so I hope you understand I took his comments as a joke and not a clever one," Johansson added.

He also praised the quality of the current European Championship which is being held in England.

"I always enjoy ladies football because they perform better and better every year - compared to what it was 10 years ago it is quite something else," the Swede said.

"The crowds for the England games have been fantastic and it shows we made the right decision bringing the tournament to that country."

Germany and Norway meet in the final of the European Championship at Ewood Park on Sunday.

Interview: Uefa president Lennart Johansson

FA takes long view
14 Jun 05 |  Women


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