Let’s make women’s football the game we want to see

Opinion: Maggie Hayes – Committee Member & Chris Paouros – Co-Chair Proud Lilywhites

Date released: 12/10/19

This weekend we look forward to welcoming the fans, players and officials from Manchester United Women’s FC, but not at any cost. We were unhappy to see the reports in multiple mainstream media outlets of the negative chanting that was levelled at Liverpool FC Women by some Manchester United Women fans in the last round of WSL games; chanting which was subsequently reported by Liverpool FC Women to the FA for further investigation.

Not that we want to hold the fans in the women’s game to higher account than their male counterparts, but one of the great joys of supporting Spurs Women is that it involves all the fun of being a football fan without all the aggravation. It’s about supporting your team, not levelling abuse, hatred, or ‘banter’ at the opposition.

It’s clear to us that the (alleged) abuse targeted at Liverpool wasn’t merely ‘arch-rival banter’. It has dark and troubling insinuations and we stand in solidarity with those fighting against prejudice and hate amidst such pain and sorrow.

As Spurs fans, of course we want to see the likes of Arsenal suffer on the football pitch, but that’s on the pitch; we don’t have to sing songs about kicking anybody’s head in—we would never do that ‘in real life’—so why would we sing about it?

The WSL now has many Clubs in it that are also in the Premier League and the fans that support both teams all say the same thing—there’s something more joyous and liberating about supporting the women’s team. The professional game in women’s football is relatively new, so we don’t have to repeat those tired old ‘fan’ tropes and can create the game we want to see, free of violence, aggression, racism, misogyny and homophobia. We don’t have to be shackled by the rivalries that exist in men’s football.

At a women’s game you see more families, lots of kids and people from more diverse backgrounds than you typically see at a men’s game. It’s a pretty beautiful feeling seeing it and not being as worried about safety both literally speaking as well as how comfortable and relaxed you can feel being yourself in the stands. This isn’t about us being more sensitive – it’s about us creating an environment that is welcoming and celebratory of the communities we live in and sharing the collective joy (and misery) of football.

Proud Lilywhites is part of Pride in Football, a network of LGBTQ+ fan groups across the country—of course there is friendly rivalry, but we realise that in tackling our common foe—LGBTQ+phobia in football, we are ‘Stronger Together’.

And as fans, there’s no reason we can’t take the lead; ensuring that there is no place for any kind of abuse or discrimination in our beautiful game. We welcome Manchester United Women this weekend, but we don’t welcome the mirroring of the abuse dished out by fans in the men’s game—even from a minority. Get behind your team by all means, but not at the expense of decency and kindness.

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