We asked a number of female Aston Villa fans about their experiences in and around Villa Park to see if there truly is equality in the stands.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
The modern day is possibly the most likely time for equality to be truly a part of football. There’s still issues regarding racism and sexism surrounding the game however, and it seems like almost every other week a player, pundit or official, male or female has experienced something at the hand of a small group of fans.
And whilst these people are important, so are the fans. If the fans do not feel comfortable in the stands, this is going to reflect badly on the club. Female fans have been going to football games for as long as one can remember, but do they feel comfortable at Villa Park?
We asked a number of ladies who have been going to watch Aston Villa for a differing amount of time on how they’re made to feel in the stands and the concourse, how they’re treated by other fans and how improvements, if any, could be made.
“I feel very comfortable at the football, and don’t think that watching the football is now just for men.
I think the Trinity Road stand is nicer for women overall.
The Holte End has a much better atmisphere, but there’s a lot of negativity and maybe some women might find that intimidating.
The only thing I can say that could be improved is that drinks wise, women aren’t catered for. There are two wine choices at Villa, white and rose. That’s it. No gin!
Seriously the best thing would be a gin before the game.”
“I’ve only been once as I live in Belfast, but me and my wife went and hung around the stadium beforehand, everyone was very friendly.
When inside we were in the Doug Ellis stand and didn’t notice any different treatment.
As far as the toilets, they could have been a bit cleaner and a few more of them.”
“Football has changed for women over the years.
The toilets have improved in regards to the amount, but there are still not enough, and there’s not any kind of tampon machine in sight, never mind the option of free ones.
There aren’t enough female stewards in regards to searching – and safety is a big issue with people throwing themselves down to the front when Aston Villa score, with little regard to who they’re hurting in the process.”
“I usually sit in the Upper Holte, and for a young girl I’m quite vocal.
Sometimes people behind me will say something I don’t agree with and I’m happy to make that clear to them – but I’m used to being around lads so don’t generally feel uncomfortable.
I’ve seen the On the Ball scheme and I’m a big supporter of that. Sanitary products should be free in all public bathrooms. They’re a right, not a luxury.”
“I’ve had a season ticket for the Upper Holte for the last eleven years and in that time I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I’ve been treated differently for being a female fan.
The stewards are always respectful and after being in the same seat for such a long time, you get to know everyone around you, so there’s never been the chance to be treated differently really.
The only thing I would say is now that they’ve started searches before you get into the ground, there only ever seems to be one female steward doing checks, so the queues are huge and this should be addressed.
I don’t think free sanitary products is something that needs to be considered, as they are not free anywhere else and things like that are not what I think about at a game.
The day I get treated differently for being female at games is the day when something has gone extremely wrong somewhere. I love the club, and everything it stands for, and I wish more women would go.”
“I don’t feel like we’re treated any differently in the stands. If anything the lads are nice and polite, letting you get to your seat and what not.
I think free tampons would be a good idea, so girls wouldn’t need to bring them in a bag to the stadium if it was that time.
There’s been a few times boys behind me have been too excited and punched me in the head, so an apology from some rude fans would go a long way.”
“I personally feel very comfortable at games, and I’m not treated any differently.
I’ve been going to games for about 45 years and it’s definitely changed for the better as it used to be a much more male dominated environment.
I’m not sure why there should be free hygiene products as opposed to paid for products, but they certainly need to be available in the toilets.”
“Something is appreciate is those that look out for others. I have had on occasion someone grab my hand or provide protection when things get a bit mental.
Tampons should be in the ladies toilets, and not just in Villa Park. It should be in ALL stadiums.
Going way back, men weren’t as forthcoming about a woman going to a match, but it’s changed for the better and everyone is equal.”
“I was three-years-old when my dad first took me and I’m 47 now.
In all those years, it’s never crossed my mind that I could be treated differently.
There’s the odd time you might hear a “what does she know?” – but that’s mainly at away days where some see it as a lads day out.”
As you can see, there’s a common theme through the comments of the women that we spoke to. They’re made to feel welcome, which is great – but more measures need to be taken to improve the toilet and sanitary options available to women, as well as the stewarding upon entrance to the stadium to ensure that the ladies don’t miss any parts of the game. In regards to sanitary products, support On The Ball, a campaign to end period poverty in football stadiums.