By Emily Rees, Sociology Student at The University of Sheffield
TikTok was the global digital entertainment sponsor of UEFA EURO 2020 and aimed to establish itself as a home for football fans to share their passion for the game – as well as driving awareness with new audiences. There was a combination of official and unofficial voices expressing their passions, interests and reactions towards the tournament through the short-form video medium.
TikTok provided a base for younger, female audiences to subvert and ridicule archaic, misogynist tropes still active in the football conversation. The female fan community on TikTok revealed a new football experience where girls share their interest in the matches and players in a unique format. Popular hashtags #EurosForGirls and #girlsfootball attracted significant new audiences on the official digital fan entertainment channel.
The girls behind the Euro 2020-related TikToks used popular platform features like greenscreen filters, overlayed with TV footage and contextualised by TikTokercommentaries throughout. TikTokers such as Abi Sykes delivered serious messages by using a disarmingly humorous tone of voice. Abi confronted haters with a TikTok entitled Only been going to football since I was 4, which blended classic TikTok dance and music formats with clichéd, gaslighting put-downs such as, ‘name all26 players / you are only watching because you fancy them all / what is the offside rule’.
Football players, like Alice, expressed what it feels like to be a girl in football by exposing ancient prejudices towards women’s football. The video I hope this clears some stuff up lists the questions people ask her as a girl who plays football, ‘Are you gay/ Do you do it just for boy attention/ Do you actually enjoy it though’. Each dumb question on-screen is answered with her reductive, acerbic retorts.
The female gaze on TikTok trended with #grealish and #therealreasonwewatchfootball attracting the most attention. Top female TikTokers, like Grace Keeling, received 6.3m views for her two-part comic video series, How many shots would it take me to get with the England team, which irreverently attributed England players’ attractiveness, using the humble shot-glass as the metric. Jack Grealish was the most popular England footballer with female football TikTokers during the England-Denmark game.
Off-the-ball footage of the attacking midfielder with his hands on his head, eyes seductively fixed on the TV cameras was repeatedly played back in highly engaging TikToks from influential female fans. The Grealish image quickly became an iconic centrepiece for many TikToks, such as Me thinking about that one clip of Jack Grealish.
TikTok claims to be the destination platform for fan engagement, where people can enjoy a new type of football experience. UEFA is the first football organisation to partner with the digital entertainment platform. With the world’s biggest sporting event the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022T coming soon, we can expect new voices and audiences emerging as fans continue to celebrate sport in creative ways with unmissable content.
This piece is part of the Mediacells Summer of Sport report