By Faye Hackwell
Her Game Too welcomes Gillingham Football Club’s decision to temporarily ban two fans for misogynist chanting - becoming the first English Football League club to do so.
The supporters, who made comments about a female physiotherapist during a fixture against Newport County last month, will have to complete educational training about discrimination provided by Her Game Too through Kick It Out before they can begin attending fixtures again.
Paige Collins, Her Game Too Ambassador for Gillingham, witnessed what happened: “There was a racist incident that the club and the police dealt with within 30 seconds, then the Newport goalkeeper went down and I saw a female physiotherapist run onto the pitch.
“I heard sexist comments about her, which are too explicit to repeat, and then a big commotion between the fans.
“I wanted to leave early for the first time ever.”
Following the match, Paige received numerous messages from fellow Gillingham fans on social media, raising reports about what they had witnessed, and she arranged a call with Gillingham’s Director of Operations, Joe Comper.
“I could have cried for the honest, decent fans we have, for the Newport physiotherapist and for women in general,” Paige said.
Explaining the action Gillingham have taken following the incident, Joe Comper wrote on X: “After many reports from supporters, we have video footage, with audio, of two supporters making misogynistic chants.
“They have been banned for a period of time and will not be back until some sensitivity training has been done.
“Thanks to Her Game Too for their support with this.”
He explained that the club is increasing the number of trained security staff at games “until we feel comfortable we have eradicated the problems we are encountering” - which comes at “significant cost” to the club.
They have also added a further four cameras to the club’s Rainham End to provide clear coverage of all spectators in the stand and will use the footage to eject and ban anyone whose behaviour risks the club receiving a financial penalty or points deduction.
He also praised supporters for their assistance: “I would like to personally thank everyone who has come forward with evidence, witness statements or general support for the club.
“We ask that you continue to do so, particularly via the matchday helpline.”
Paige is proud of her club for setting a precedent as to how incidents of sexist abuse should be handled and also of the way her fellow fans reacted to the behaviour of a small minority.
She added: “I couldn’t be prouder to be a supporter of Gillingham Football Club and to be their Her Game Too Ambassador.
“Whilst it’s a topic that’s really sad and in 2023 shouldn’t even be a thing, it has made me proud of the 99.9 per cent of Gills fans that have made this happen.
“To see the awareness on social media is amazing and I feel extremely proud of my club.
“This sets a precedent for the rest of the football world to follow.
“There is no place in football or the world for sexist abuse and misogyny.
“Thank you to everyone who messaged me and raised reports - I am extremely grateful and together we can make a difference.
“Priestfield is for all and let’s keep it that way.”