#HerGameToo open up on continued sexism in football – Some men dont respect us

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#HerGameToo ambassadors Laura Hartley and Maria Georgiou have opened up on their experiences with sexism in football in conversation with Express Sport as part of our Women in Sport series #SheCan. The pair were speaking live to Express Online‘s assistant head of social, Pandora Forsyth, during Friday’s episode that was streamed live on Twitter and Facebook.

#HerGameToo was founded in May of last year with the aim of promoting an ethos in football in which women are welcomed and respected equally. All members are volunteers and have taken social media by storm over the past 12 months as they continue to campaign against online abuse and sexism in the game while developing strong bonds with clubs at all levels across the country.

The group has taken big strides to combat the issues facing women in football as of late but, unfortunately, sexism still remains prevalent in the game and there is still plenty of work to be done to stamp out the problem for good. Hartley, who serves as their ambassador for Coventry City, explained that #HerGameToo simply want to make football a more inclusive sport for all women by working to highlight and change attitudes around the topic of equality.

“We really want to make it an inclusive and really positive place to be, to go as a football fan,” she said. “But to also extend that to if you want to play, if your little girl wants to play, it all comes together and we really want to raise positivity around all of that.”

Although there will be plenty of women who do feel welcome at football matches, there are still far too many incidents of sexist abuse and inappropriate comments that take place at grounds across the nation on a regular basis. Crystal Palace ambassador Georgiou went on to recall some of her own personal experiences that left her with a burning desire to spearhead the drive for change by standing up and taking action.

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“I went to a football match – not at Crystal Palace, I must stress – and there was a huge crowd of male supporters who were using really sexist songs and chants throughout the whole game,” added Georgiou.

“It was a game in the evening and it just made me feel really uncomfortable, and all I could think was that if I was on my own and when I was leaving, I’d actually feel quite worried and unsafe.

“Some men don’t respect us when we attend football matches. One said to me: ‘Oh are you here to clean the seat?’, which I thought was very ignorant.”

It is not just overt sexism that #HerGameToo are trying to tackle, though, with the organisation also eager to help football to become a welcoming and inclusive place for women in as many ways as possible. Georgiou also pointed out that plenty of simple changes can be made by clubs at all levels in order to make the game more accessible to women and promote a culture of equality.

“There’s been a few experiences at games,” added Georgiou. “I think the main one, and it sounds really odd, is more around the facilities that are available to women at football matches.

“I was at a specific match and the toilets were not suitable at all for women. They didn’t have the facilities that you need or products that you might need and I just remember going in and thinking: ‘I need to remember this for next time!’

“If I needed these specific facilities I’d be stuck and I’d potentially have to leave the football game.”

#HerGameToo have recently started to form official partnerships with Premier League and EFL clubs in order to tackle the issue of sexism in football, with the likes of Brentford, Everton and Leeds United having already signed up. It seems likely that more and more top sides will follow suit over the coming months and years as the group continues to push for important changes to be made across the board.

“When you see clubs like Palace, Everton, all the way down to even grassroots supporting the #HerGameToo campaign, it’s so important,” said Hartley.

“When players are wearing the #HerGameToo shirts and you know they’re all for it, it’s the best feeling in the world. You see them giving the warm-up tops to kids in the crowd and it’s so good to see, it’s exactly what we want.”

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