Joey Barton says women's football needs to have smaller balls, goals and pitches or it will always be inferior to the men's game
Former Manchester City and Newcastle footballer Joey Barton believes major changes need to be made to the women's game if it is not to 'remain inferior'.
He says smaller goals and pitches, as well as the ball, should be introduced to improve women's football as a spectacle, because it is 'fundamentally different' to the men's game.
The 37-year-old, who currently manages Fleetwood Town and is no stranger to controversy, said: “If you tailor it, women’s football could take a lot of strides tactically and technically - way beyond its current limitations.
"You have to accept that men and women are fundamentally different. Women’s football isn’t taken as seriously by men as women’s football is taken by women.
"It's a different sport though really, in essence - women's football should be adjusted for women, physiologically, biologically. The goal sizes and the weight of the ball should be [changed].
“If we’re going to make women's football better, as a spectator sport, to stand on its own in the marketplace, if you keep playing on the same size of pitches as men with the same size of football as men and men’s rules, you’re always going to have an inferior product - because men are bigger, stronger and faster than women."
A number of top women players have previously opposed those who believe decreasing the size of goals would be a positive move, namely England keeper Karen Bardsley.
“It is an interesting theory but I don’t really know,” she said. “As a goalkeeper, selfishly I would like it as I would cover more ground but it is hard to say if it would be better for the game."
But Barton thinks it would be a successful move and that even small changes such as reducing the size of the ball could benefit women players' 'physiological state'.
“Let’s be realistic about it. The size of a football for men’s a size five, say we moved the size of a women’s football down to a size four, would anybody really notice the difference?
''No, but I guarantee you in terms of the physicality, the output, the level of passes and the range of passes, some of the women players would then be able to do because the ball’s a bit smaller and the ball’s more suited to their physiological state.
“We adjust pitches all the time. We’re not talking about moving it to a five-a-side pitch, we’re talking about a couple of metres either way. Making the goal a foot shorter either way.
''It’s not much and it’s not hard. I think it would help the goalkeepers for women.''
Barton's comments were made in Alastair Campbell's podcast, entitled 'Football, feminism and everything inbetween'.