Your Posts: So much has changed for women in football but our voices could still be louder
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Sarah Greaves has been a Norwich City her entire life and is pleased Carrow Road is a cauldron of inclusivity. Her Your Posts piece encourages fellow female fans to make their football opinions heard.
I’ve been a Norwich fan now for longer than the academy and some of the first team have been alive which means I’ve seen quite a lot change at Carrow Road over the decades but this week I was struck by something I didn’t think had changed as much as it should.
During my younger years at the ground I remember being the only female (and most definitely the only girl) in my section of the South Stand for many, many years - but my fellow season ticket holders embraced me and even bought me the wondrous gift of jammy dodgers on my 18th birthday which was celebrated at Carrow Road (FA Cup replay, March 18th 1992...which shows my age I grant you).
I remember the smoking and the bad language; I remember the blisteringly terrifying atmosphere viewing the old Barclay when the metal bars would rattle between the home and away fans; I remember the seats being ripped up and thrown on the pitch versus Millwall and the classic all team punch-up versus Crystal Palace.
But I never, ever remember not being welcome - I do remember however having a positive influence on some fans (who were often surprised I knew the offside rule - shock horror - could see passes the team should play and had a relatively good grip on what was going on ….how things have changed) but this could also mean I could have a positive influence.
I distinctly remember some Leeds away fans language during one game who kept apologising for swearing and smoking, but that all changed however when I shouted ‘Come on hack them down’ to the Norwich team and the four massive guys turned round and said ‘That wasn’t very nice’...
Sensing the atmosphere might have shifted, my Dad looked the other way and said ‘you’re on your own now’. But that was just about it - no specific issues against me ever and I enjoyed surprising people with my ability to hold a chat about football - which culminated with me ensuring girls were allowed to play the game at Aylsham High School (how things have changed...and for the better).
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Over the years I’ve seen the club and the crowds make-up alter as I’ve carried on going, grown up and had a family, and as I’ve taken my kids as babies in a papoose and had them fall asleep during some early games (they were dire); I’ve seen the whole atmosphere and make up of the crowd shift so that women, girls and kids are all there and in huge huge numbers. Has that changed the atmosphere? Yes it has - but has it changed it for the better? Of course it has.
There is still the banter (and the bad language) but the feel of the stadium has changed and the community spirit we see today which somehow envelopes itself around the club and all of us fans no matter where we are is a precious thing and most definitely wasn’t there during some dire games in the 1980s let me tell you when 15,000 of us would turn up for top tier games with the ever effervescent Robert Fleck trying to score on a pitch which resembled a mud bath (with a lot of concrete in the stadium, huge queues for the one ladies toilet in the South Stand and the smell of the urinals wafting across the pitch).
Looking back now I don’t think we realised how lucky we were to have so many years in the top flight - but also looking back and seeing that there were 15,000 there (and maybe this was due to the atmosphere in the ground) how things have truly changed and truly changed for the better.
But there is one thing that hasn’t changed a huge amount which I was reminded about again only this week - hearing female fans voices on podcasts, videos, forums and chats; yes we’re there in small numbers but not in the numbers we should be!
This got me pondering on what could be going on - and I have no answers but women in general do steer away from engaging on social media overall because it can be brutal and perhaps we still feel that voicing an opinion in the mainstream press isn’t for us (although I’m sure we’re all very vocal on our own social chats and to our families as I know I am!) and that to me is something that still needs to shift.
There are now female presenters and commentators at the highest level of sport and football commentary (Alex Scott and Alice Piper) and they do an amazing job (even if they also come in for a lot of criticism for their opinions) so I think it’s time us women voiced our opinions and weren’t afraid to do so - I mean we do know the offside rule, we do feel passionately about our clubs and we do have views on who has played well and what hasn’t worked out.
Maybe we use different language and mediums to express that but our views are valid and I call on the great NCFC female family to get out there, to get commentating and get our opinions heard.