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The women's game

Reports of sexism and misogyny in football during the 2022-23 season were up 400% from the previous year. 400%.

As I sit writing this on International Women’s Day, the message seems to be loud and clear. Women and girls are still having to battle for their place in sports. 

The world of sport and exercise is a safe, enjoyable and protected environment for a very small minority of men. If you are female, trans, non-binary, queer, non-white, disabled or neurodivergent, the barriers to accessing sport are immense, and once you’re in, you’d best believe the sporting world will make it as hard as possible for you to stay. 

The Kick It Out Campaign has released new research that suggests that 80% of women football coaches have experienced some form of sexism or misogyny while in a coaching environment. 54% said they had considered quitting coaching as a result and, unsurprisingly, 71% of those who had experienced sexism or misogyny on a coaching course didn’t feel comfortable reporting to the course lead. 

We all know that sports is, and always has been, a very male-dominated environment. But how, with the widespread increase in attention, funding, and growth in women's sports, are we still being faced with this reality? Why is it seemingly a more dire environment for those of us working at grassroots level? 

It’s not just women in coaching. As a sports fan, I am constantly questioned by men on my knowledge of the rules (cue their very surprised faces when they find out I can, in fact, explain the offside rule in football AND I know what a set-piece is). But even if I couldn’t, why can I not just be a fan of sports without having to constantly prove myself and my right to enjoy sports? I usually keep myself to the ‘Ladies Only’ section of my gym, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I exercised in public, because I swore that was something I would never do again after being harassed and followed the last time I did. We still have PE lessons that are gendered, and girls are being told they can’t play football as it's a “boys sport”. In the Premier League, an investigation in November 2023 found that 35% of clubs have players or bosses being investigated for sexual offences, and they were kept in post and still played. 

Women’s sport is also increasingly deemed a “family friendly” event. Is there an inherent lack of drunken, shirtless men at women’s sports games? Yes. But does that mean that the female game is softer, gentler and less dynamic? No. 

Female athletes don’t necessarily perform or play in exactly the same way as men, but that also doesn’t mean that ‘different’ equals ‘worse’. Arsenal Women currently have a higher average game attendance than 10 men’s Premier League clubs. 

We can’t run in peace.

We don’t feel safe in gyms.

We aren’t respected in sports grounds. 

In the words of the icon that is Leah Williamson, the women’s game isn’t going anywhere. So in the meantime, Our Streets Now is on a mission to make these public spaces safer and more inclusive. 


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