Rowena Williams – @RowenaWilliams1
About 5 months ago a hashtag started making the rounds on Social Media: #HerGameToo. At first it was just a few people talking about it, but, very quickly, it gathered motion and more and more social media accounts – fans and clubs – were tweeting and engaging with the campaign.
So, what is Her Game Too?
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak to Lucy Ford (one of the co-founders) recently. She explained how the campaign started and the work they have been doing.
Her Game Too began in lockdown when one of Lucy’s close friends was targeted due to a tweet she made about a football game which some saw as a controversial opinion (spoiler: it wasn’t). She was then inundated with sexist and abusive replies, to the point where she had to delete all of her social media accounts due to the impact on her mental health.
This was when Her Game Too was founded. This group of female fans from a range of clubs were sick and tired of football feeling like an unsafe place for women and girls and were determined to make it better.
Since then, the Her Game Too team have contacted all football teams in the Football League and National League to offer up a partnership. This partnership is free and each club can choose what they want to do – it can be as small as a billboard, beer mats or a mention in the programme or it can be an even bigger statement with some clubs putting the Her Game Too Logo on their shirts and Exeter City recently devoting a day to the cause.
The response has been incredible. It is very clear to see that clubs across the country see this as a valuable and important message to their supporters and, as a female fan, it is fantastic to see their logo everywhere. By signing up to Her Game Too, clubs are saying no to sexism, backing their female teams, encouraging a safe environment for women and girls, and valuing us as their supporters, players and staff.
Isn’t everything fine for women anyway?
Whenever a discussion about sexism comes up, women get told everything is fine, that there is no problem, that there is plenty of women at football games – essentially ‘What are you moaning about?’
It is interesting, but not surprising, that it is disproportionately men who hold these views. Speak to one woman and she will tell you the opposite.
As a female supporter, some of my worst experiences of sexism in my life have come from loving football. I’ve been aggressively told (with a finger in my face) that I only understand netball, that I just say I like football so boys would like it and, of course, the classic of been accused of not knowing what the offside rule is. Within the last two weeks there have been three instances of high profile men in football publicly saying that there is no place for women in the game, that they are ruining the premiership and that they aren’t capable of being referees with motherhood costing them their careers. This week (I am writing this on a Monday) I have already seen a fan of a Premier League club arguing with a woman on social media who had simply been celebrating her club for providing free sanitary items – tampons shouldn’t be free he cries from his keyboard, they are a privilege not a need of course, he knows as he has had to use tampons a lot …
It’s all pretty exhausting, intimidating, frustrating and sad – the list of emotions could go on forever.
I don’t know one female football fan who hasn’t experienced some form of sexism due to her love of the game and this is exactly why this campaign is needed – the culture needs to completely change. I am personally immensely grateful to everyone behind Her Game Too for orchestrating that change and the positive effects are being felt already. So many men, boys, women and girls are getting behind this campaign. It has opened up a discourse about the subject of sexism within football with more men empathising and understanding and becoming allies and supporters of the women’s game and female fans. It is incredibly positive to see.
Here’s the disappointing part…
When I spoke to Lucy Torquay United were the only team in the South West not to have signed up – as of the time of writing they haven’t even acknowledged or responded to Her Game Too’s emails.
The club has also refused to engage with fans on social media who have reached out to them to discuss this. It’s been incredible to see how many fans – men and women – want the club to be involved, so why are they ignoring their fanbase?
As we saw with the On The Ball initiative (the campaign to provide free sanitary items to women at football grounds), the club does not interact over social media with fans. They did not sign up to On the Ball and, rather than discuss the situation with female fans, decided that it wasn’t needed and wouldn’t help. This is an alarming view for the club to take.
Lower league football is all about engaging with fans and being a part of the community. It’s about listening and making small positive changes to encourage more people through the gates. This refusal to take part in campaigns that support a large proportion of their current (and future) fanbase just feels like an own goal. The club needs to ask itself what ignoring these campaigns says to its female supporters and the little girls who are yet to visit Plainmoor.
Hopefully the club will change its stance on this, and, maybe, they just haven’t got round to the email yet?! But, in the meantime, with other teams geographically close by signing up readily and publicly, Torquay could be pushing fans away with its silence on these issues and that is a disappointing outcome for everyone involved.
For more information on Her Game Too visit their website: https://www.hergametoo.co.uk/
COYY – Rowena