A womens football team wearing HerGameToo t-shirts

HerGameToo: Tackling sexism in football and changing attitudes towards women

In July 2021, the HerGameToo campaign carried out a survey of women’s experiences with sexist abuse in football and the results were shocking. 

Out of 398 women surveyed 91.9% of women had seen sexist online abuse towards a woman in football, 63.1% had experienced sexist online abuse themselves because of football and 58.4% had experienced abuse in real life at a football ground or in a pub while watching football. 

Less than two years later and the campaign is influencing positive change to combat this issue.

Founder Caz May said: “The biggest change is the reaction and response from professional football clubs. 

“There’s been new reporting systems implemented into clubs that weren’t there before. 

“We are now finding that clubs are acting on reports and we have seen a few clubs ban supporters for sexual assault, sexist abuse, for being sexist and harassing on social media which is really great and it’s a big change in the mindset of these clubs as they are now acknowledging there’s a problem there and making that pledge to fix it.”

Since being founded the campaign has gone from strength to strength and has set up professional partnerships with a number of clubs across the football pyramid with Everton, Leeds, Aston Villa, Fulham, Bournemouth, Wolves and Brentford the Premier League clubs on board alongside Reading in the Women’s Super League. 

May said: “We have 63 of the 92 clubs and we are obviously working towards getting the full 92 but to have 63 in a year and a half is an amazing achievement. 

“We are having talks with the rest of them and hope we can convince them it’s the right thing to do and that it’s all very positive. 

“We want to be a campaign that’s positive and inspires and encourages the next generation to attend football and feel safe to do so.”

The campaign still has plenty of work to do in regards to getting clubs to promote their women’s teams despite the recent success of the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates, which sold over 50,000 tickets and upcoming games at Stamford Bridge and Craven Cottage for Chelsea and Fulham’s women’s teams.

May said: “Things won’t happen overnight but even if it’s a couple of fixtures a season that the women’s team is playing at the home ground with full access to changing rooms the opportunity to have a bigger crowd and play on the home pitch would be incredible for a lot of women’s teams and that’s a big aim of ours and we want to start seeing that more frequently.”

Brentford FC were one of the first Premier league clubs to sign up to the campaign and HerGameToo ambassador for the club Alison Mullaley who has been attending football matches for years and has experienced sexism and misogyny first hand, jumped at the chance to be involved with the campaign. 

She said: “What really appealed to me about HerGameToo was that it was a group of Women standing up and saying actually it’s not ok to say those sort of things and it’s not something we should be accepting in 2022.

“It’s great to be able to feel we are in a position now where we could stand up and say you know what this isn’t acceptable and we are not going to accept this anymore.”

Brentford have been doing a lot of good work and one particular area that Mullaley feels strongly about and an area HerGameToo are looking to do a lot of work in is girls grassroots football.

She said: “Even though I have two boys, football at grassroots level in particular needs to be promoted for girls and encouraged a lot more than it has been in the past and Brentford with the Community Sports Trust are brilliant with that. 

“They have a very good defined pathway for girls all the way from when they first start all the way up to the women’s first team if they are good enough.” 

One exciting initiative is HerGameToo dedicated pubs that are supporting and partnered with the campaign. 

Mullaley added: “A lot of incidents that get reported are around pre and post game pub chat so to have a safe space for females fans will make a big difference.” 

Brentford have also set up a female fans forum that meets around twice a season where female fans and women working at the club discuss various issues, which is a club innovative and something we very much support Mullaley said.

There are big plans for the future but a lot of that depends on getting funding.

Co Founder Amy Clement said: “We would really love to develop education modules which we could take into primary schools and take into grassroots clubs. 

“We could develop anti-sexism training for the work place, that kind of thing but we need more resource, more funding to achieve it which will come with time and it’s something we are all really passionate about.”

The girls run the campaign alongside full time jobs and have been surprised by the impact the campaign has had in such a short space of time and are excited for what the future holds with the campaign recently winning Best in Women’s Football – Organisation at the Football Content Awards.

Clement said: “It’s developed into this massive project that is now changing the way some people are looking at football and the football industry.  

“Every day I sort of pinch myself that it’s real and especially because a lot of it was started in lockdown.

“It’s been a really weird but incredible journey and I’m looking forward to where it takes us next.”

HerGameToo was founded in May 2021 and these fans have been committed to growing the campaign and want to create an ethos in football where women are welcomed and respected equally. 

It aims to develop a strong sense of community, create strong relationships with clubs and continue to campaign against sexism and online abuse in football. 

You can support HerGameToo by clicking here to purchase any of their merchandise with the profits all going to charity and the development of girls grass roots football. 

For more information about HerGameToo click here.

For more of our sports stories click here.

Featured image credit: HerGameToo

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