England Women’s 20-0 defeat of Latvian women has raised questions about fairness in international sport, especially when part-timers are world-class professionals.

Although it was an amazing night for Lionesses (who racked up their largest-ever score), it caused fans, the England manager, and even one Latvian player to question the wisdom of these mismatches.

The parent’s comment, left underneath the report of the game on The Guardian website, read: ‘I am a bit biased (obviously), but everyone should know these girls should play at their own level and develop without unnecessary humiliation… there is something not quite wholesome about the whole business.’

These players, many of whom are not experienced and who have regular jobs in addition to playing football, might be ready to face larger countries like England.

The truth is that it cuts straight to the essence of the problem: Why are amateur athletes, many of whom still have teenagers, so embarrassed in front of large crowds inside the stadium, and thousands at home watching on TV?

Are they better off being matched up with others of similar skill so they can have a shot at winning? Is it really necessary to humiliate them so that they can one day reach England’s level of play?

The scoreboard tells a humiliating story as England Women's team thrashed Latvia 20-0

As the scoreboard shows, England’s women beat Latvia 20-0 

Latvia goalkeeper Alina Sklemenova can't bear to look after conceding the 20th goal

Latvia goalkeeper Alina Sklemenova can’t bear to look after conceding the 20th goal 

Some of the players from Latvia will feel the pain for longer than the 90 minutes.

Laura Sinutkina (18 years old), was the goalkeeper for Latvia at Doncaster’s World Cup qualifying match. She conceded eight goals in the first half.

Alina Sklemenova (17 years old), was not only embarrassed by her 12 conceded international debuts but also by the virality of video clips from her mistakes on Twitter.

One involved a clearance, which was kicked directly to Manchester United player AlessiaRusso. Alessia simply headed the ball back past Sklemenova into an empty net.

England had 64 shots on the Latvian goal on Tuesday, with 31 on target and 20 finding the net

England shot 64 times on Tuesday to beat Latvian, with 31 of those shots being on target. Twenty-seven were successful in finding the net.

This was England’s 18th goal for the evening, and came just 10 seconds after Latvia kicked off following the 17th. 

Sklemenova was so demoralized that her team is 20-0 down when she decided to score a goal kick, which brought amusement onto social media.

England managed 64 shots against the Latvian goal. On average, they had one shot every 84 seconds. 31 of these were on target. Twenty-six scored. Latvia replied that they had nothing.

This is not to say that such beatings are uncommon. England has dominated North Macedonia with 8-0, Luxembourg, 10-0, and Latvia away at home 10-0 in this qualifying group. On Tuesday, they doubled that total.

England has now scored 53 goals during six qualifiers for the tournament. It will be held jointly by Australia and New Zealand on 2023.

England have scored 30 goals past part-timers Latvia in two World Cup qualifier against them

England scored 30 goals in the World Cup qualifier against Latvia, beating part-timers Latvia by three goals

This isn’t limited to England. It’s not just England that is involved in this group. In one match, Northern Ireland defeated North Macedonia by 9-0 at their home and 11-0 away. Austria has scored eight goals over two matches.

France won 11 matches against Estonia, and Greece scored 10 against Greece. Georgia was defeated 11-0 by the Republic of Ireland, Spain beat Faroe Islands 12-2 and Belgium scored double against Armenia.

There is a widening gap between countries that have professional players, talent pools large and adequate facilities and those who lack them.

Commentators on Guardian said that only 200 Latvian women football players are available and that the team has limited training time because the players work full-time and sometimes go to school. Why is there such a gap?

It’s not a unique phenomenon in women’s football. Although the England men’s soccer team scored 10 goals in a recent match against San Marino, such achievements are becoming less common.

England also scored 10 goals in a match against Luxembourg earlier in World Cup qualifying

In a World Cup qualifier match, England scored 10 goals against Luxembourg.

Sarina Wiegman from England was left wondering if such games are worth it after the 20-0 scoreline.

“Ofcourse you want competitive gaming, but these are not competition games,” she stated.

“We want to create well-developed and less developed countries, so we want to make sure that women are able to play in all countries.

“But, I don’t believe it’s good that scores are so high. That has attracted the attention of FIFA, UEFA and FIFA. I believe that is a good thing because 20-0 doesn’t promote the growth of any person.

The problem is an issue for UEFA (European football’s governing body) and FIFA (global overseers).

Latvia, on one hand, and other nations that have suffered humiliation, are sovereign countries and as such can attempt to qualify for tournaments like the World Cup or the European Championship.

Even the England coach Sarina Wiegman questioned the purpose of such one-sided matches

Sarina Wiegman from England was even skeptical about the goal of one-sided matches.

The players of their football teams have the unbeatable opportunity to see the world and travel with their team, even though some players were unable to come over from Latvia due to work obligations.

UEFA and FIFA know that one-sided games can turn off viewers and those who purchase tickets. 

Interest can drain away and affect the commercial revenue that is used to develop women’s sport.

While the governing bodies have increased their commitment to players and clubs in countries where there is no professional player, they cannot guarantee that the gap will be closed.

There must be an upper limit on how many double-digit losses players can endure before giving up and falling in love with the game.

England reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup, losing to the United States

England was defeated by the United States to reach the semi-finals in the previous World Cup. 

A solution to this problem is for smaller countries to play against each other during pre-qualifying. They will then move on to the second phase, which will allow them to take on larger and more advanced countries.

This would allow for more opponents of comparable standard, and it could mean that countries like England will arrive prepared at tournaments having been tested against stronger competitors.

A men’s example, the UEFA Nations League, could be used as a model for women’s soccer teams.

It ranks every nation on its ability in 4 Leagues, and makes sure that all games are against opponents of the same standard. 

The minnows still have the possibility of qualifying for a tournament, so it’s not impossible to play in one.

To implement this split, however, would require the consent of a variety of smaller nations. These countries would also be unwilling to abandon glamour games that they have against France, Spain, England and other European countries, which are rich in interest and money.

However, we have now reached a tipping point and need to find a way to make it less humiliating for Latvians and to provide better competitions for English players.