THE first ever scientific comparison of men and women’s elite football have found significant differences in the amount of energy expended during matches.

Researchers at Sunderland University also found that women gave the ball away more frequently than their male counterparts and had a lower pass completion rate.

The research team analysed the performances of 54 male and 59 female football players in the UEFA Champions League.

The research team found during the course of a typical UEFA Champions League match, male players covered approximately three to five cent more distance in total than females but covered around 30 per cent more distance at high intensity.

The study also showed female players did not cover as much distance in the second half at a high intensity as they did in the first half, while male players did manage to maintain their running performances.

There were no gender differences shown between attackers and central defenders; however male full-backs, central and wide midfielders covered more distance at high intensity compared to female players in the same position.

The research also showed the difference in technical ability.

Senior sports and exercise lecturer Dr Paul Bradley, who led the research, said: “We can clearly see that the male and female game at the top level is very different both physically and technically.

“It was very interesting to see fairly similar total distances but substantial differences at high intensity between gender. The larger drop off in running performance in the second half for females could be due to their lower physical capacity thus, the demands of the game cause fatigue in the second half.”

Perhaps the brightest star the North-East women’s game has produced is Steph Houghton, from South Hetton, who plays for Manchester City and recently captained England. 

Jen O’Neill, editor of the Gateshead-based women’s football magazine, She Kicks, commented: “The women's game is constantly improving but there are massive differences in fitness levels and playing status from team to team, even within the Women's Champions League.

“Only a handful of teams across Europe could be said to be 'professional' and this can sometimes lead to very lopsided results, never mind comparing it to a men's competition where every side contains players who are paid to play full time.

“It goes without saying that full time players will be able to sustain high intensity physical performance for a more prolonged period. “

The study is published in the journal Human Movement Science.