Mistaken identity

The Lionesses may have been particularly successful recently, but Roy O'Brien asks if the Lions even care

Two perspectives on women’s place in football, both provided by Millwall FC. In May, the Lionesses football team are given a civic reception by Lewisham Council to celebrate their most successful season ever, which included winning the Women’s FA Cup. “They’re helping to raise the profile of the sport and continue to push the standards of women’s football higher and higher,” says local MP, and minister for women, Joan Ruddock. A few days later, the press are invited to see Millwall’s new strip modelled by the club’s “latest international signing”, Anne Marie Foss, L!ve TV’s Norwegian weather girl. Anne Marie reads the weather in Norwegian with a subtitled translation. It’s quite a giggle.

First, the press conference presided over by Millwall’s new chairman Theo Paphitis, flanked by Kelvin McKenzie of L!ve TV and a bemused looking Billy Bonds. It’s a new era, we’re told, an exciting time for the club. It turns out that the shirts were going carry a slogan about topless darts, L!ve TV’s most famous show, but there was a rethink. So now it’s ‘The Weather in Norwegian, Live TV’.

Out onto the grass, with Anne Marie and another blonde model in Millwall’s home and away strips. Billy Bonds is brought in for a few shots and squeezes out a smile.  Across the pitch in front of the home end, an advert is being filmed, with male model footballers leaping around having water sprayed on them.

The gaggle of photographers are clicking away at Anne Marie, but can’t decide if her shirt should be tucked into the shorts or left hanging. Someone produces bulldog clips which are pinned to the back of the shirt so that it stretches more tightly across her chest.

More pictures with Millwall’s lion mascot and L!ve TV’s best-known performer, the News Bunny, who sits behind the newscaster and gives a thumbs up or thumbs down according to whether the news being read out is funny or serious. It might be satire.

No-one from the Lionesses is at the photo shoot, but then women playing football doesn’t really fit in with the club’s corporate ideas, still stuck firmly in the middle of the 1970s.

At the press conference, Anne Marie was asked if she’s a football fan. “No,” she smiled.

From WSC 127 September 1997. What was happening this month