Durham University: Football clubs in the ‘dark ages’ over gender equality

The majority of football clubs are living in the ‘dark ages’ over gender equality and there is sexism and misogyny at all levels of football, according to a new a report.

Co-author Dr Stacey Pope, from our Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, is calling for inclusive and child-friendly stadia and a system where women are able to report incidents of sexism and misogyny to football clubs safely and be taken seriously as well as a charter for clubs to sign up to.

Her recommendations are part of a report, launched by the organisation Fair Game, which shows there is severe under-representation of women throughout the game, and a lack of facilities and provisions for women which is potentially affecting revenues at football clubs.

These issues will be discussed at a free international conference on football fandom, women and inequalities taking place on Thursday 10 March.

Misogyny in football
The changes called for by Dr Pope follow on from her recent study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which showed that openly misogynistic attitudes towards women’s sport are still common amongst male football fans. These attitudes are set in the context of increased media coverage of women’s sport in recent years.

Work from our sport researchers has also discovered that women are still side-lined for leadership roles in men’s football. Where women do hold leadership roles within clubs, only four per cent of those are in direct contact with the players with 50 per cent of women’s leadership work in sales, ticketing, finance or as club secretary.

A study looking at women’s experiences as football fans revealed that they are routinely asked to ‘prove’ their status as ‘real’ fans. There were numerous accounts from women describing men who thought that: “Women in football is a bit of a joke” and hostile experiences in the stadium, with comments such as “Shut up, you’re a woman, what would you know?”

Gender equality
It is clear that the legitimacy of women in all roles of the game – as fans, referees, pundits and those working in the sport – is still challenged by a substantial cohort.

It is hoped that football governing bodies can work together with clubs, researchers and organisations such as Fair Game, Kick It Out and #HerGameToo to reduce inequalities.

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