On Saturday at 10am I shared a video that 11 football fans and I had contributed to. Over a million views later, we’ve sent a shockwave through social media and I remain overwhelmed by how impressively Her Game Too has been received.
I’m a 20 year old football supporter from Hull who, unsurprisingly, supports Hull City. I’ve travelled up and down the country following the Tigers for over a decade and even ventured abroad to earn my stripes. I enjoy a moan over a pint in the concourse when we’re underperforming, I wear the shirt with pride regardless and vocally evaluate the team’s form from the stands and on social media.
Historically, I’d travel with my family and the five of us would tick off most fixtures. However, it didn’t take long for me to notice how I was seen differently to my brothers, both of whom are a similar age and share the same passion.
Why were mum and I with them? Would we not prefer to go shopping? Had we been dragged along?
Some of the whispers I’d heard from a young age.
As most of my family’s Saturday interests shifted, I started attending games with various groups of City supporters. Very often though, it’s myself and Mum who travel to back the team in the flesh.
On the back of this, a vexing comment tipped me over the edge. Just after an away trip to Derby, a father of one of my brothers’ Sunday League teammates lambasted us both for attending games for “attention” and insisted it was “irresponsible”.
This left my mum speechless. She was forced into a shell of my role model who repeatedly boasts it was her who bridged the Hadgrafts to the Tigers. Mum had got hooked listening to BBC Humberside Sports commentary after moving to Hull from Lancashire at the turn of the millennium.
Comments I once brushed off started to hit home. Social media jibes amplified once subtle remarks and I started to doubt opinions I’d previously been confident in broadcasting. I loved hopping onto football podcasts, sharing my views on Sky Sports and I was even approached the opportunity to help redesign Hull City’s current crest.
More often than not I now politely decline, as enthusiasm melts into apprehension.
My spark has been dimmed by sexist remarks, predominantly on Facebook and Twitter. Where some have disagreed with my views the response has been directed towards my gender. Many are objectifying and condescending. Often, I’d tackle these alone in private direct messages and I’d notice other girls quietly tackle similar issues.
These have been individually dealt with and, as echoed by thousands since Saturday, remain a frequent occurrence.
When I have called comments out, such as the one I highlighted in the video, support has been tainted by ignorant individuals who criticise me for not tolerating sexism and sexual objectification. Others have the nerve to suggest I should be flattered by it.
So when Bristol Rovers fanatic Caz May got in touch with me to co-found the Her Game Too campaign, I couldn’t have committed myself soon enough. It’s brought these individual incidents to light and put the accumulation of these senseless comments on exhibition.
When outlining her ambitions for the campaign, Caz reflected on her own experiences and how she had felt similarly unsupported: “#HerGameToo is something we have been lacking in the football society. I’ve had tons of sexist abuse thrown my way for just supporting and commentating on my club. The comments are hurtful and have previously affected my mental health.”
The twelve girls involved are friends virtually connected through a shared passion for sport. The combined impact we had on Saturday was something none of us could have expected, but verifies the gravity of the issue highlighted.
We’ve had encouragement from power-women in sports broadcasting, including Laura Woods, Emma Jones and Michelle Owen, who only recently has been subject to tirades of sexist abuse.
A moving element of the last few days was seeing women speak up about their own experiences of sexist abuse. Men who are proud of their football-following daughters, their wives who brave all weathers to follow their club or their female friend who chairs the local supporters club also proudly paraded the hashtag #HerGameToo.
Her Game Too’s onward momentum is powerful. We have enormous plans and an ethos that nothing will diminish this massive step towards being regarded as equal. Industry giants from across football are urging to magnify our message.
Caz continued to summarise our progress: “Speaking with other female fans from across the country it’s something that happens far too frequently. We aim to make the footballing world a more welcoming place for female fans, players, pundits, referees and any other women involved in the beautiful game.
“We all deserve to be here too. It’s a game for all.”