‘Fans for Diversity’ debate focuses on experiences of women football supporters
Over 40 people gathered in Shoreditch, east London, to discuss the experiences of women football supporters in a panel debate for the ‘Fans for Diversity’ campaign. Held at Amnesty International UK, the event was set up through the joint Kick It Out and Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) campaign to encourage more discussion and understanding of the concerns of women supporters.
Hosted by Roisin Wood, Director of Kick It Out, the debate began with the panellists, Fiona McGee, FSF National Council member, Helen Wright of London Sunderland Supporters’ Club, Katrina Law, Chair of Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, and Hayley Bennett, Kick It Out’s Education Officer and an Arsenal supporter, explaining their paths into supporting their own clubs and the issues they have faced as women football fans.
The discussion was then opened to the audience, who were invited to offer their own thoughts, and given the opportunity to ask the panel questions on the topics surrounding women fans. Issues raised during the debate included women having to “prove” themselves as dedicated supporters of their team, sexist chanting at football grounds, social media abuse and the difference in atmosphere between men’s and women’s games.
Held in an open environment where differing opinions were expressed and recognised, the event provided insight and objectivity of where women supporters stand in the modern game and how this can be progressed before the debate was closed with the final thoughts of the panel.
“What we can see from tonight’s discussion is that there are different viewpoints and positions when it comes to women discussing their issues and concerns around supporting their clubs,” said Hayley. “It was great to see so many people speak passionately on a challenging and important topic and it has inspired me in my role at Kick It Out to further encourage women to have their voices heard within the game.”
Fellow panel member Fiona, who is an ardent Leeds United supporter, commented: “There were a lot of good points to come out of the debate and this can be the start of an ongoing process where we can raise the profile of what the FSF and Kick It Out are doing through the ‘Fans for Diversity’ project. A lot of focus of women supporters in football has been come from an academic and sociological background, which has its worth but we need something really practical which we can get from tonight and the women in football survey.”
Helen added: “I thought it was good to have a few different opinions on the panel and that made for good discussions. We touched on many debates within the game and you do need this kind of forum. You have women who are comfortable in the football environment and those who are not, and what we need to do is to allow women who are not comfortable with that to have the ability to say they are not happy and to support them when they say that.”
Katrina said: “It was an interesting evening. I probably had the contrary opinion in comparison to some of the other attendees at the event but it was reassuring to know that there was an open debate. It’s good that Kick It Out and the FSF have events like this as its inclusive and allows women supporters to meet more of their peers, to network and a good vehicle for women to have a voice.”
To take part in the ‘Fans for Diversity’ survey on women football supporters, please click here.