Presented by: Daniel Svensson

In the emergence of Swedish women’s football, the pioneering team Oxabacks IF, from a rural village of about 900 inhabitants, were instrumental. From the start in 1966 un+l the dissolving of the team due to financial problems in   1999, Oxaback was one of the top Swedish football clubs. They won seven Swedish Championships and six Swedish Cups and played an important role in advancing national and international women’s football through   exhibition matches and tours to England and the Soviet Union. How was this possible for a small rural club? In what way did the players themselves think about gender boundaries and the right to play?

This paper analyses the strategies used by the Oxaback players to convince the Swedish Football Association, the press and the public that their ambition to play football was serious and should be supported. Why did they succeed where others had previously failed? What aspects of sportification (Ynergren1996, 2012, Gunmann 1978, Goksoyr 1988) did they try to achieve, as Swedish women’s football went through a rapid sportification process in the  late 1960s and early 1970s? We argue that concepts related to sportification, such as rational training, regimentation and equalization, can and have been used both to advance or resist gender equality in sports. Oxaback used such strategies to challenge established gender boundaries in sports (Barker-Ruchti et al. 2015) and to secure recognition of rights (Andersen & Loland 2015) such as access to playing fields, administrative, organizational and financial support. The experiences from the Oxaback case are important to shed light on similar processes in currently emerging sports, and highlights how sportification have been used as a tool for gender equality.

Article © Daniel Svensson