Blackpool Supporters' Liaison Officer column: Female fans making the football experience better for women

Women supporters groups have been formed in the last couple of years at a number of Football League clubs.
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Blackpool Supporters' Liaison Officer column: Football clubs' vital role in diff...

Just to be clear, I’m talking about supporters of the men’s team, not a club’s women’s team (where that exists).

It’s an interesting phenomenon and I touched on it in this column a couple of months ago.

Blackpool FC are looking into launching a fans' group for womenBlackpool FC are looking into launching a fans' group for women
Blackpool FC are looking into launching a fans' group for women
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Since then, I’ve done a bit of investigating and networking.

The drive behind it seems to come from two directions, from female fans and from the clubs.

I was told by those involved that some groups started because women supporters didn’t feel safe going to games, particularly but not exclusively away matches, or didn’t feel valued as female fans where much of the focus is on male-oriented offers and merchandise, or just wanted to “find their tribe” and meet other women fans with whom they could attend games and socialise.

The clubs who have formally recognised women supporters’ groups are on a mission to be as inclusive and welcoming of all parts of their communities as they can be.

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They want the match day experience to be as accessible and appropriate as possible to all, and to be enjoyed equally by everyone.

That should be obvious, but it’s sadly not always the case.

As SLO I have received complaints about sexism on the terraces, occasionally of personal abuse directed at women fans or female officials, more often about one or two chants (we all know which ones) which don’t go down well with the ladies.

I also know of women who no longer attend games because they had abusive partners who still go to Bloomfield Road, and of mothers with daughters who are intimidated by some of the crowd behaviour inside and outside stadiums.

These are some of the positive developments where women supporters groups have been formed.

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They have found female buddies who are into football, they have negotiated block bookings at games (so they can be guaranteed to sit together), they have influenced clubs to make better provision for female fans in the concourses and toilets, they are helping to select more feminine merchandise for the club shop, they are actively supporting female fans with domestic violence or mental health issues, they are working with their community trust to help spread a message of respect for women in schools and youth groups, they are women fans actively engaged in making football better for women – who are half the adult population after all, making it more inviting for women fans to attend games.

Could Blackpool’s female supporters benefit from such a group?

Blackpool FC intends to host a meeting in the coming weeks, open to all female fans over 14, to see if there is an appetite for forming a women supporters’ group to give a more prominent voice to a significant section of the fan base, to maybe realise some of those positives other such groups have achieved.

If you’d be interested in attending, contact me by email: [email protected]

Steve Rowland, SLO