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Adding Women Into the Fifa Game Series Is Long Overdue

29/05/2015 19:04 BST | Updated 29/05/2016 10:59 BST

While attitudes have changed in the more modern era, football is still not an area of life that's the safest of havens for anyone who isn't a white, British, heterosexual male. Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of that debate, the very fact the sport has had bouts of racism, sexism and homophobia throughout the last few years tells its own story - there's still some way to go.

Meanwhile, the world of computer gaming isn't adverse to good ol' bout of misogyny. A quick google search of sexism in gaming culture points to a vast number of results surrounding what's been dubbed Gamergate, an incident where a number of women were subjected to attacks including, but not limited to, harassment, rape threats, and death threats.

Yet, the image of a typical gamer being a teenage boy, sitting alone in a darkened room, crunching on snacks should quickly be disappearing. A report in 2014 from the Entertainment Software Association showed that almost half of those playing video games in the USA were female, while women aged 18 or over represented a significantly bigger proportion of the gaming population than boys aged 18 or under.

Armed with that knowledge, you'd expect a tits and teeth approach to marketing a studio's latest offering will soon become a thing of the past.

So, step forward EA Sports, who have decided to throw a long-overdue equality hand grenade into both camps and sit back to watch the resulting explosion with a big grin on its face. On the release of Fifa 16 - which will be the 23rd version of the game to feature in the series, excluding any of the 'street' and World Cup editions - there will be an option for players to take control of women's teams.

The most baffling aspect of the announcement was that it was done at a time when the Fifa organisation, entirely separate from the game series, is coming under fire over allegations of corruption by some of the most senior officials.

Cue the clamber for male players to win the title of Quickest Misogynistic Joke before the deadline of midnight passed. Imagine injuries like a broken nail stopping a star striker from being part of your career mode. Imagine pregnancy causing a defender to be out for the season. Imagine all the players are rated below 30 (out of a maximum score of 100).

Funnily enough, these comments all come from people who are most likely vastly inferior to the ladies on the game when it comes to playing skills - and I'm willing to bet most of them have also built their own self in the game's career mode at some point in the past, greatly exaggerating their own ability.

The move by EA Sports is one that should have been done a long time ago. How many female football fans would have loved to have put themselves into the game in years gone by? It took Sports Interactive long enough to allow players to be female in its Football Manager series - where it just assumed the person playing was male and used the him/his pronouns automatically in the news feed for years.

There has been something of a surge in women's football recently, however, and it's very timely for EA to embrace it. It's the fastest growing team sport in the country and has a richer history than many would initially believe, with records of it being played as far back as 1890. It peaked in 1920, as 53,000 people watched Dick, Kerr's take on St Helens - but an FA ban stopped future games being played at association club's grounds, following complaints that the sport was "quite unsuitable" for females.

That attitude has hung around for too long.

Equally, the reaction to the announcement by EA has had its puzzling elements. Some argued that there were much more fundamental flaws with the Fifa series of games that needed ironing out before taking on something like adding women's teams; matters like making sure online play was more stable or improving the artificial intelligence of players so they didn't fall over their own feet or boosting the responsiveness between pressing buttons on the controller to watching the action on the screen.

It's something of a moot point, though. A game like FIFA isn't created new every year, there's far too much work to be done to start from scratch on an annual basis. Sure, the engines are refined and touch-ups are made to improve the playability of the game and it's given a brand new skin to make it look slicker than it did before, but they're minor compared to the launch of a completely new system.

On top of that, there's no reason those known issues can't be sorted out at the same time as new features are brought into the game. EA won't be working on just one thing at a time.

It's sad that it's only going to be at an international level that the women's teams are added, though in a World Cup year where every match will be broadcast on the BBC it's entirely understandable why that was the focus. You'd certainly expect the Women's Super League to be making an appearance on Fifa 17.

It will now be interesting to see if EA goes the whole hog and one of the England women joins the likes of Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the front cover. Here's hoping they do.