By Faris Gohir (MWN Hub Manager)

Women and football…it is a topic that has attracted much attention recently due to the increased presence of female football fans as well as a rise in popularity in women’s football. Whilst females in the sport have their supporters, they definitely have their haters - most notably male fans. Whilst it is fair to say not every male fan puts down women in this sport, there are definitely enough that do to make it a problem. As a male football fan writing this, I can definitely assure you that the abuse that women associated with football get from men is very real, I have witnessed it first-hand across social media. We are all entitled to disagree with footballing opinions and can have football debates, but when gender is brought into the equation it simply becomes a situation of sexist abuse. In my opinion, the more women interested in the sport we love the better - football has the power to unite people together, isn't that why it's known as the beautiful game?

It seems as though the stereotype of women in football is that they are not very knowledgeable, but if you watched the Euro’s you would have noticed that Emma Hayes (Chelsea women’s team coach) challenges that stereotype. Emma was a commentator for a handful of Euro’s games and each time left viewers impressed with her detailed and insightful analysis often leaving her male co-commentating partners in the dust. It was personally refreshing seeing Emma Hayes trending on twitter with football fans signing her praises, both men and women alike. Although some may argue she was always going to be knowledgeable since she is a coach, I have seen a few male ex-players on commentary and punditry get away with mediocre analysis along with stating the obvious. I would also like to give Ex- Arsenal women’s player Alex Scott a mention as she consistently delivers great analysis when ever she is on punditry.

With the increasing number of female football fans, I would like to mention a few who are combating female underrepresentation in football and are paving the way for more women to do the same. First is Meliza Seballos, who started a YouTube channel (SeballosTV) which currently has around 7000 subscribers. On her channel she discusses football, on her own or sometimes accompanied by guests, and predominantly talks about the team she supports which is Tottenham Hotspur. Meliza also has a large twitter following with around 23,000 followers and she recently collaborated with BT Sport by getting involved with their Hope United campaign which is aimed at taking a stand against online hate abuse. Mel filmed a short video about herself with BT, focusing on the sexist and racist abuse she constantly receives online which even escalates to death threats. A silver lining mentioned in the video was that she gets private messages from other female football fans that have taken inspiration from her to also strive to become football content creators and break barriers.

Next is Pippa Monique who is known for being a presenter on the popular YouTube fan show Arsenal Fan TV where she provides her insight on her team Arsenal and on the men’s game in general, but she also covers women’s football on the show. Further increasing the coverage and awareness of women’s football, Pippa founded the Women’s Matchday Show which as the name suggests is solely dedicated to women’s football often featuring interviews with female players.

Lastly, I would like to include Sophie Rose who is known for being a presenter on the well-known Chelsea fan show Blues fan TV. Like the others she also provides her opinion on the game of football as a Chelsea fan and is arguably the pioneer when it comes to female fan representation having been on Blues Fan TV for many years and has collaborated with the likes of Arsenal Fan TV and many other shows and individuals.

In addition to the individuals mentioned, I could not discuss equality for women in football without bringing to light the new campaign known as Her Game Too,  run by a group of female football fans to raise awareness of sexist abuse in football and they recently partnered with the league one side Bristol Rovers F.C. The campaign kicked off with a powerful and clever transitional video of the co-founding members presenting examples of regular sexist remarks they receive from male football fans; the video currently has over 1.5 million views on Twitter. Furthermore, Her Game Too have started their own hashtag #HerGameToo which is being increasingly used for awareness day by day.

I think it is perfectly clear that equality is still missing from the beautiful game no matter how much of an innocent picture is painted for the world to see, sexism and racism must be eradicated from football and the sooner the better so female football fans from diverse ethnicities feel safe to talk football online and attend football matches, especially football loving Muslim women.

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