I grew up in a household with a sports crazed Dad and Brother, both of which followed Villa since childhood. The rest is history. Aston Villa was a part of my life from the minute I entered the earth, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Aged seven, I was terrified of the heights of the towering stands of Villa Park. Football games were just a fun trip out as a family – mostly a Father’s duty to introduce his children to the club they would be following for the rest of their lives. I found my first Villa hero, big John Carew (mostly because I liked the song and it was one of few without expletives that I could sing). Those early days in the stands, witnessing my family’s anxiety over games, planted the seeds in my head that would later blossom into full-blown obsession.
There was a large period of my life that I fell completely out of love with football and my club. Like many girls at the age of puberty, sport became off-limits, somewhat embarrassing. In fact, it is reported that 1 in 3 girls drop out of sports around the age of 12, and over half of all teenage girls do not participate in sports. These statistics run deep in our society and transcend all levels, from spectatorship to participation. This is for a variety of reasons such as access to services, funding and the simple feeling of not belonging.
For me, it was the latter. I played a variety of sports until senior school age, when I suddenly felt embarrassed to enjoy what I felt was a ‘boys game’. The real detrimental factor was the lack of big female figures in the world of football to discredit this mindset, or add much-needed representation. We now see the likes of Laura Woods, Alex Scott, Michelle Owen on our screens on a weekly basis, but as a young teen all I saw were loud and lairy men who laughed at women having sporting opinions. I simply lost the flame.
Her Game Too is a campaign set up to raise awareness for the sexism that is prevalent in football, as well as supporting, empowering, and creating opportunities for females involved in the game. The #HerGameToo team are made up of twelve football fans that represent an array of teams across the country, including some that work in the industry who have experienced some sexism in their everyday work. They actively encourage people to speak out about their experiences, whether it be to #HerGameToo, friends or family, or the football clubs involved. We must acknowledge that football has come a long way from the issues that existed historically, however there is still a long way to go.
As I grew older and found myself, my passions and my confidence, I began to ease closer to sport again. It started with following Villa from the sofa, becoming more engaged in social media content and my general curiosity spiked. It wasn’t really until I found my love of sports media that I found my place in the sporting sphere. Suddenly I was reading, listening to and watching every crumb of Aston Villa content I could find, encouraged by seeing other women doing so. HerGameToo offered a crucial narrative, and seeing their work made me even more passionate to reignite my footballing interests.
I began attending games again with my Dad, and from that point there was no going back. It felt incredible to have such a burning interest again – a real hobby. While studying for my English and Journalism degree at University, I was writing more and more content from both a fan and journalistic perspective. Before the pandemic, I had been attending every home game and was pretty certain that I wanted to make something of my sports writing. Then COVID hit, and I was watching each game from home, itching to use my free time for good.
With writing my own blog, UTV Podcast and freelancing, I was creating the most content I ever had – and it was only deepening my love for the game. I was firmly championing women in sport and finding even more incredible women to idolise in the media. As I neared the end of my degree, I decided to write my 10,000 word dissertation on English Football. I wanted to create a project that I would be proud of – one that people would read and believe that women’s place in football journalism is so important.
#HerGameToo are doing great work on understanding and removing misogyny in the men’s game, and are continuing to develop their campaign to make it the most inclusive and accessible it can be. Elevating hard-hitting stories, data and new voices is helping to spread their message loud and clear.
Fast forward to today, I feel that there really is a future for more and more women and girls to find their purpose in football. Whether you just want to sing from the stands, or be the face of a TV broadcast – you can. Wherever I end up, I know that Aston Villa will follow me, and I will never leave it behind again. I will never sacrifice my passions because I am a woman. Maybe one day I can inspire just one other young girl to kick a ball or write a report, just as other women did for me.
If you would like to show your support for #HerGameToo, you can help by calling out any misogynistic comments you hear or see and give them a follow on any of their socials.
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