Christoph Kramer’s idea: women as fourth officials in men’s football

At the end of February 2022, a new episode of the Kicker podcast “FE:male” with Valeska Homburg and Anna-Sara Lange was released. The guest was Christoph Kramer, who reflected on his many free hours as a professional football player, but also talked about structural problems in men’s football. He also talked about the idea of appointing women as fourth officials in men’s football. A well-intentioned suggestion – but unfortunately not well done.

“I think women should be appointed as fourth officials because they have a more de-escalating effect,” he said. Taking a single sentence out of an interview is dangerous because the context is lost. But this single sentence serves as a good example to explain a common, mostly subconscious thing in an understandable way. Why is it only well-intentioned and not well-done? What is the problem with this sentence?

It’s great that Christoph Kramer doesn’t care at all about gender in football and that there should be more women in men’s professional football. He also repeats this several times in the interview: for him, gender doesn’t matter, what counts is competence.

The vexed topic of women’s quotas

The idea of having women as fourth officials is about making them visible, not about a quota. Kramer thinks it’s unfair if a woman is visible in sport and then it’s just said, “She’s only there because of the quota.”

Valeska Homburg and Anna-Sara Lange rightly interject at this point and report that they thought similarly ten to 20 years ago. In the meantime, however, both have been in football so long that they are aware of these structural problems and know that unfortunately it will not work without quotas. A change in attitude and awareness that they share with many women in football: We would be very happy if it works without a quota. But the longer you are involved, the more clearly you realise that it is a paradisiacal utopia, an illusion.

Why is that? Perhaps Christoph Kramer is right in assuming that his generation will become more diverse (meaning those born in the 1980s and 1990s). But they do not occupy the leading positions; that makes a quota inevitable.

The problem with Christoph Kramer’s sentence

Back to Kramer’s sentence. “… because they have a de-escalating effect,” he says at the end. Cringe – the youth word 2021 sums it up best. The subordinate clause consists of only four words, but it highlights a problem that few men are aware of: this is clichéd attribution. It happens all too readily. Yes, it is meant appreciatively by Kramer. But well meant is not always well done.

Kramer is well aware of his clichéd attributions. “You can’t generalise, but in general I would say that” women are more communicative and less ego-trippy. And with that, he does generalise and reproduce.

Actually, it’s the other way round: many women are not different, they were just brought up differently than men: to communicate, to care and to take on care tasks (bringing up children, household, charitable work). Qualities are not gender-related.

A few decades ago it was different: blue for the wild boy, pink for the tender girl – what nonsense. In Kramer’s generation, this attribution is crumbling more and more – thank God.

Kramer already has this awareness, as he shows in the podcast episode, for example, on the topic of burnout. Here he finds that the topic is being taken more and more seriously, but at the same time it is difficult to explain the significance of the illness to grandparents – because life has changed within the last 50 to 60 years. It is the same with the topic of gender ascriptions.

So what would have been a better subordinate clause? Kramer gives the answer himself in the podcast: “… because gender shouldn’t matter in football.”

N.B. – This article first appeared on WebDE in German as a FRÜF column on 11 March 2022.