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‘You Shouldn’t be in the Ground’: Tackling Sexism at Carrow Road


A recent Canaries Trust survey of female Norwich City fans shows one-fifth have experienced some level of sexism (from banter through to assault) while attending home or away games. Female fans are seemingly resigned to low level ‘sexist banter’ and are often subjected to targeted abuse during games, when travelling to games or engaging with their neighbours.


Levels of sexism have dramatically reduced over recent years but many female fans still feel unsafe travelling to and watching their team play football, especially in female only groups or female-children only families. The Canaries Trust believes no fan should be subjected to any abuse or sexism and all sexist banter should be stamped out at Carrow Road.


Since the cauldron that was football in the 1980s, respondents to the Canaries Trust survey (who were female and female identifying fans of NCFC, with over 75% active members or season ticket holders), believe sexism has decreased at Carrow Road in recent years.


However, many are still experiencing what they describe as ‘banter’ alongside more open and degrading, sexually derogatory swearing through to sexist chanting towards players at home matches. Many fans described sexist ‘banter’ as part and parcel of attending games, but in other settings this type of sexual discrimination wouldn’t be tolerated.


Female fans often receive direct sexual abuse from their neighbours and some of the statements reported include ‘they shouldn’t be in the ground’, ‘see this is better than shopping’ and ‘women aren’t proper supporters as they don’t understand the game’.


For many, the most blatant sexism they heard recently at Carrow Road was directed at Sian Massey-Hill when she was officiating during the 2019-2020 season with female supporters pointing out the abuse and defending the official, which in turn led to increased direct abuse towards themselves.


Although many of these incidents might be dismissed as ‘banter’ the Trust was saddened to hear that 3% of those who responded to the survey had been victims of a direct sexual assault at Carrow Road with those impacted unsure how to report the incident or whether this would be addressed by the Club or the police. This is a small percentage of fans affected but even 3% of females assaulted at a game in a sexual manner is 3% too many.


It also appears that sexism is worst in the Barclay and ‘Snake Pit’ stands; with some targeted female fans proactively moving their seat location to prevent themselves being subjected to sexist abuse whilst watching a football game.


Those who attend games alone, with other female fans or alone with their children felt most uncomfortable when travelling and attending away games. Although the overall level of sexism was similar at both home and away matches (~20% of female fans) it was clear that female fans were often subjected to more direct abuse from away fans (especially if seated in areas directly adjacent to away areas) at these matches than from home fans they might be travelling with.


Canaries Trust Chair, Robin Sainty said: “With female fans making up a significant percentage of attendees at matches it is a concern to read some of the responses to the survey. Just as vestiges of racism can still be found in football grounds, so, unfortunately, can be the sort of sexist attitude illustrated by some of the comments reported above.


Football is all about different opinions; banter is very much a part of that, and certainly isn’t something that we would wish to see disappear, but using someone’s skin colour or gender to belittle them goes far beyond banter and should be roundly condemned.”


Womens’ Football Ambassador at the Canaries Trust, Sarah Greaves stated: “Since attending games at Carrow Road as a young girl in the 1980s, Carrow Road is most definitely a much improved female and family friendly environment; however it is clear sexism still exists and any banter which causes offence should not be tolerated.


All fans love their club - and we should all be able travel to and watch games without fear of abuse, let alone assault. Reading the comments from our survey was a sobering experience but one which allows us to move forward with the Club to ensure every fan is welcome and safe at Carrow Road. The initiatives we are launching and will support via NCFC, include a dedicated reporting line for sexist abuse, which will ensure these issues can be addressed and ultimately that all fans feel safe and welcome. On a more upbeat note, we are also working to ensure there is a solution to that never ending issue of more female toilets.”


The Canaries Trust and Norwich CIty will be working together to ensure all fans are welcome and safe at Carrow Road when the new season begins. Although it is encouraging that fans clearly state levels of sexist abuse and chanting have decreased (60% of respondents) or stayed the same (33% of respondents) with only a small percentage stating an increase in sexism at Carrow Road in recent years, it is not acceptable that a minority of female fans face abuse whilst attending games.


This will be directly addressed in time for the new season with female friendly policies including a ‘safe’ area for anyone who needs to access it and a direct, anonymous, hotline for reporting sexism during a game.


Norwich City confirmed that alongside these initiatives they had already taken some steps to improve the Carrow Road experience for female fans before lockdown with the rollout of their support for the Period Poverty campaign (also driven and supported by the Canaries Trust) ensuring that female fans have free access to period products in all female toilets at Carrow Road and have improved some female toilets around the ground ready for the new season.


For those directly impacted by sexism at Carrow Road please contact the Norwich City reporting helpline via the details which you can find on https://www.canaries.co.uk/Our-Club/equality/.


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