A Woman's Place Is At The Match

Fans for diversity panel December 8 2015

The Fans for Diversity “A Woman’s Place is at the Match” event saw around 40 people (men, as well as women) taking part in a lively and entertaining panel discussion of women’s experiences of watching men’s football. 

The evening was chaired by Kick It Out's Roisin Wood and the panel consisted of four regular match-going fans: Hayley Bennett (Arsenal fan and KIO’s Education Officer); Katrina Law (Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust); Helen Wright (London Sunderland Supporters’ Club); and Fiona McGee (Leeds United fan and FSF National Council member). Fiona explains more…

Everyone on the panel began by talking about how they became football fans in the first place (some through family, others via friends) and whether they felt their experiences of attending matches differed from those of their male counterparts before it was opened up to the floor for others to ask questions and share their experiences.

Over the course of the next hour a wide variety of issues were raised – for example, how it can sometimes seem as if you have to ‘prove’ yourself as a female fan in a way in which men do not, because there is an assumption you must be there for a reason other than a genuine love of the game.

One woman talked about how, at a recent European away game, a group of young men were chanting about how there is no place for women at football. Several others talked about their experiences of being ‘shot down’ on social media if they dared to express an opinion which disagreed with others (in one person’s case, being asked if she had PMT!).

A few of those present said that sexism has never been something that particularly bothers them at games, as they choose to ignore it; but for other women present, the ‘macho’ atmosphere is something that makes them think twice about going, especially if they are going to be by themselves.

Would direct action to combat sexism lead to the ‘sanitisation’ of atmosphere at matches? People felt that sexism could be challenged (by both fans and clubs), whilst not detracting from the wit and humour that is characteristically found in football crowds.

Most felt that the clubs and authorities could do a lot more – starting by actually listening to what women fans tell them they want from the game (on all issues, not just sexism), rather than just thinking about what an influx of women could do to enhance their own agendas.

Overall, the evening represented a great way to kick-off a conversation about women’s experiences of attending men’s football matches and look at ways in which the game could be made more welcoming to women. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room for continuing that dialogue.

  • We'll be producing a report in the New Year on the subject of women and football, make sure to have your say here.

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