While the men’s team of a leading European football club sat down to enjoy a three-course meal at a swanky gala to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the women’s side were hard at work.
Not invited to join the festivities organized by 20-time Swiss champion FC Basel, instead the women were busily going around tables selling raffle tickets to over a thousand guests.
Among those invited to attend were current and former players and coaches and representatives from other clubs – even fans could attend by paying 125 Swiss Francs ($125).
FC Basel told CNN Sport that the women’s football team had been contacted in advance and they “happily agreed to help,” with the tombola proceeds going towards youth and women’s team development.
“At our anniversary party many of our employees were helping in different ways,” said the FC Basel statement. “This included our women’s team.”
But leading Swiss politician Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter, who works in the country’s parliament as president of the commission for foreign affairs, said she was shocked by what had transpired at the gala.
“It’s really astonishing,” Schneider-Schneiter told CNN Sport. “I’m also astonished about the reaction of the young women that they didn’t say anything about that.”
As first reported by Swiss news organization Prime News, the women’s team were only given sandwiches to eat in an adjoining room once they had finished working.
Upon hearing that training had been canceled on the day of the gala, the women had wrongly assumed they were also being invited to the anniversary celebrations.
“They were not there as guests, only to work,” Prime News journalist Christian Keller told CNN Sport. “They had no dinner, only sandwiches.”
In total, 1,250 guests were in attendance to mark the 125th anniversary of the club.
Another observer, who asked for their name not to be disclosed, said: “We know the situation with the women from the club, that they were selling tombola tickets and that they were not included in the festivities inside.
“If the girls were not inside, the only way to get something to eat or drink was that separate room. I don’t really think the club was thinking about that fact, but right now they realized too they made a mistake.”
The women’s players were wearing FC Basel branded anniversary shirts, to make them “stand out from the crowd and you know where to get your tombola,” the observer said.
In its statement to CNN, Basel said that the club had made the decision to make “as many anniversary party tickets as possible available for the public. No departments – except for our first team, the board and the management of the club – were invited for this night.”
“Since it was our 125th anniversary it was clear, that our first team would take a part in it (for all the previous teams who wrote our history since the founding in 1893).
“There will be another big anniversary event exclusively for all our teams and employees next year.”
Schneider-Schneiter is an avid FC Basel fan, as are her husband and 16-year-old son, who travels to matches both home and away.
“I can imagine they (the women) are too young to see there could be a problem – I think they thought they are in a kind of role,” she said.
“I think football is a little bit of a macho sport and the fans are also a little bit macho.”
‘Against our constitution’
Schneider-Schneiter says she will write to the club’s president, Bernhard Burgener, to express her disappointment at the difference in treatment of the men’s and women’s teams.
While many countries around the world have made recent efforts to promote women’s football through funding and exposure, Schneider-Schneiter says Swiss clubs have some work to do in addressing issues of equality.
However, she believes this type of “macho” attitude does not reflect Swiss politics or society as a whole.
In the upcoming elections, Schneider-Schneiter’s party – the Christian Democratic People’s Party – will suggest two women as candidates to replace an exiting minister.
“In politics we have really equal rights,” says Schneider-Schneiter. “Socially in football, it’s a hard job for women to have the same reputation as men, especially in football.
“I would say they (FC Basel) are a very, very bad example for society because we have an article in our constitution which states equality between men and women.
“When our team does things like this that’s against our constitution, I would say as a politician. I’m really confused about that.”