If Jermaine Jenas is the ‘Women’s Football Ally Of The Year’ then it is time to scrap the award

Jermaine Jenas with his Women's Football Ally Award
Jermaine Jenas with his Women's Football Ally Award - Getty Images/Kate Green

Bemused women’s football fans have reacted with surprise after Jermaine Jenas won a ‘Women’s Football Ally of the year award’ despite it not being immediately apparent what he has specifically done to help the women’s game.

Jenas was awarded the prize at Thursday’s glamorous Women’s Football Awards event in London and baffled social media users, who created ironic memes and asked what the former England, Tottenham and Newcastle midfielder had done to merit the award.

In the rather more traditional categories, England head coach Sarina Wiegman picked up the Coach of the Year prize after guiding the Lionesses to last summer’s World Cup final, while Manchester City’s Jamaica striker Bunny Shaw was named Player of the Year after winning the Women’s Super League’s Golden Boot.

The Young Player prize went to FA Cup-winning Manchester United centre-back Maya Le Tissier, while Alex Scott collected the Broadcaster of the Year award. Fittingly, former England captain Steph Houghton was also honoured with the ‘2024 Inspirational Role Model’ prize after announcing her retirement.

More than 25,000 votes were cast by the public prior to the awards night. Jenas’ prize was one of the awards not voted on by the public, however, and he was instead selected by a sponsor, the Metro. It was one of four ‘special’ awards, another of which saw Kerry Davis, the first Black woman to represent England, receive a Lifetime Achievement award.

Speaking to the Women’s Football Awards social media accounts afterwards, Jenas said: “I’m really proud, actually. Personally, I’ve always just gone about things as who I am, as a person, so to receive this kind of ‘ally’ award to the women’s game, as special as it feels, I’m just a bit like ‘well, I’m just trying to be me’.

“I’ve always supported the women’s game, I’ve got three daughters of my own, you know, my Mum raised me, so I’ve always been kind of a strong advocate of women in sport in general, so it’s nice, I have to say, for being acknowledged for just being, I suppose, yourself. I’m really appreciative of it, so thank you very much.”

Becky Taylor-Gill from women’s football podcast Counter Pressed pointed out on X that searches for Jenas’ account accompanied by search terms such as ‘WSL’ or ‘Women’s Super League’ drew up blanks.

It is time to scrap this award

Jenas seems like a nice bloke, and by all accounts is respectful towards women. Great. But nobody should get a medal for that.

This is an award that has pleasant intentions but it really doesn’t need to exist. As Jenas said, he appears to have been recognised for just being himself. Sadly, there are thousands – possibly millions – of men around the world who treat women dreadfully, but that doesn’t mean the men who do not deserve applause merely for not being bad human beings.

There was similar bafflement among WSL fans when Harry Kane was awarded this prize last year, and many had assumed the award would be discontinued. But if the organisers insist on keeping this going forward, there are many far more worthy recipients who have made meaningful impacts on the women’s game.

Outgoing Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham, for example, would have been widely applauded if he had been recognised this summer after the off-pitch efforts he has made to make the Emirates a home for the Arsenal women’s team.

What about Paul Green, general manager of Chelsea and mastermind behind much of their transfer strategy, who helped Emma Hayes oversee a record seven WSL titles? Or Brighton’ Paul Barber who, behind the scenes, played an influential role in Brighton funding state-of-the art facilities for their women and girls teams? Or a vocal pundit like former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright, who is a genuine fan of the WSL and actively seeks to help promote it on a regular basis.

But I doubt that any of those men would want recognition for any of that. That’s not why they’re involved in the women’s game.

Jenas gave an acceptance speech on stage, described by multiple attendees as one of the longest of the evening, in which he did – to his credit – say that he hopes “there will be a day when we don’t even need this award”.

Well, that day has already arrived.

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