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England football fans cheering

A new report is calling on men’s professional football clubs to tackle pervasive sexism and misogyny in the sport.

It recommends that a national hotline is set up so women can report incidents safely and action is taken.

The report, written by Dr Stacey Pope from our Department for Sport and Exercise Sciences, has been shared with all men’s professional football clubs in England as well as football governing bodies and key politicians.

Misogynistic attitudes

Dr Pope’s report suggests that men’s football could learn from the women’s game and the positive and inclusive fan culture around the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament.

The study follows research by the team at Durham University which has shown that men’s professional football in England remains one of the last bastions of male domination and misogynistic attitudes towards women are rife within football.

Inclusive football clubs

Dr Pope argues that addressing sexism and misogyny in men’s football could lead to growth in the game, significantly increasing attendances and interest. She says it is not only the right thing to do, in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion, but could have financial benefits for clubs too.  

The report makes five key recommendations:

  • All football clubs should be required to sign up to a charter to pledge their commitment to tackling sexism and misogyny.
  • Establish a national hotline to provide a safe and effective outlet for reports to be made with data collected across all football clubs. Many women fans do not feel confident that stewards and clubs can deal with complaints appropriately.
  • If an Independent Regulator for English Football is established as part of the recommendations set out in the Fan Led Review of Football Governance (2021), sexism and misogyny need to be part of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans within each club. This should be regularly assessed as part of the annual licensing process.
  • Redesign stadia to create inclusive environments. This should include improvement of basic facilities and provision for young children, including potentially childcare.
  • Close working between researchers, football clubs, football governing bodies, the Government and women fans to drive forward changes and test the effectiveness of any changes implemented.

Women fans

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.

A related 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?”.

Find out more

  • Read the report “Women and Football Fandom: Reducing sexism and misogyny in men’s football and expanding the fanbase of girls and women”
  • Learn more about the work of Dr Stacey Pope in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences and follow her on Twitter
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