Don't disgrace our city

Who’d have thought women in Saudi Arabia would be getting a better deal in January than our Sheffield lasses?

As the lift on the ban preventing women from attending football matches came into effect, Saudi women were welcomed into a stadium in the City of Jeddah, cheering on their teams for the first time ever.

In our good city of Sheffield, however, women were less than impressed with their treatment. The 12th saw Wednesday take on United, but it’s hard to get excited about the score since reports emerged that the fans of both teams were chanting sexist slurs throughout the match, mainly directed at Chris Wilder’s young daughter and Dejphon Chansiri’s wife.

Nicola Spencer, partner of former Sheffield Wednesday interim boss Lee Bullen, asked the men around her to stop the derogatory chanting, to which she was immediately rebuked – “Have you forgotten where you are? You are at a football match”.

“You shouldn’t be at a football match because you can’t handle sexist chants”

Nicola was later targeted on social media, dubbed a ‘tramp’ by a twitter troll.

Last week also saw the Sheffield Star publish a letter by resident Ken Tomlinson, in which he complained about women football commentators. His stance – “it’s a man’s game… I don’t want to look at flashing eyelashes, gloss lippy, and designer clothes” – is definitely not “sexist” according to Mr Tomlinson, apparently an iconic feminist voice.

So whilst Saudi Arabia is finally beginning to welcome women into the stadium, Sheffield’s men are deciding women have no place there, either due to their fondness for opportunities to let loose their sleazy ‘banter’ (i.e. downright misogyny), or because women simply “irritate” them.

‘Irritating’ is the right sentiment. It’s extremely irritating, and quite frankly laughable, that in Sheffield, in 2018, spectator sports are still controlled by the degradation of women, and filthy chants are still aimed at young girls.

I say laughable – I mean shameful.

An apparently essential part of the entertainment, it’s clear that some still believe their precious football culture relies on a woman’s subjugated place. Or her absence. Well, as a woman, let me throw in a curveball (if I may speak that is), and say gender has absolutely no significance to spectator sports. It’s only significance is in the attitudes of unreconstructed misogynists.

We in Sheffield should be mortified that Saudi Arabia, a country where women still can’t open a bank account or travel abroad without a man’s permission, is taking steps (small steps, granted) to make football a more inclusive spectator sport, whilst Sheffield’s men are still touting the same old crap.

As tweeted by Sheffield Wednesday, “you’re not… fans. You’re shameful, despicable and vile. That’s not banter, and it’s not welcome. Don’t disgrace our club…”


The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of SheFest.

Katy Carlisle