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INTERVIEW: Kate's Story, Dulwich Hamlet Ambassador

Red-faced and too embarrassed by what had happened to tell her manager, Kate ran to the

staff toilets to catch her breath.


“I was at work on a matchday and something fell on the floor,” Kate Smith recalls.


“I bent down to pick it up and this man, who was a fan and happened to be standing near

me, said ‘while you’re down their love…’ and grabbed hold of his jeans button with one hand and his genital area with the other to imply what he wanted to happen.


“They were fairly young men in their mid-30s to early-40s and I was so shocked.

“He and his mate were cracking up laughing and I just ran off to the staff toilets all red in the

face.

“I should have told my manager but I was so embarrassed by it and thought, somehow, I

would be the one getting into trouble, so I just left it and went back to work.”


Kate’s been a football fan since she was nine, when hearing the Kop sing “You’ll Never Walk

Alone” on her first visit to Anfield with her family made her fall in love with Liverpool.


A career working in various roles at football clubs and a more recently-developed allegiance to non-league Dulwich Hamlet have given Kate many happy experiences of following

football.


But a string of unpleasant incidents and feeling she always has to try harder to get her opinions on football across because of her gender compelled her to become Dulwich Hamlet’s Her Game Too Ambassador earlier this year.


Kate describes herself as a “London girl with a northern soul” and considers Liverpool to be

her second home - not just due to the football connection, but because she has family in the

area who she regularly travels up to visit.


The difficulty and costs of securing tickets for Liverpool games, along with the travel, meant

Kate adopted south-east London’s Dulwich Hamlet as a more local and affordable second

club.


“I can remember how it felt so different compared to going to a big Premier League-style stadium when I first went to Dulwich.

“I loved how the club was run by the supporters’ trust and they were so forward with their views on things.

“I also can't lie in that having a beer while standing on the sidelines was also a big plus to the experience as well!”



Kate loves visiting new football grounds and has been to more than 40 different stadiums

across the UK - with plenty more remaining on her “bucket list” of grounds to visit.


She’s experienced the highs of Liverpool winning the Premier League in 2019/20 and the

Champions League in 2019.


But she’s also seen her fair share of lows, including the relegations of Dulwich Hamlet from

the National League South last season and Charlton Athletic from League One in 2009,

where she was working at the time.


“Charlton being relegated is probably my worst memory because, working there as an

employee, I’d grown to love the club and really enjoyed my job.

“I knew it was going to mean lots of jobs being lost, including my own, so that relegation hit a lot harder, as it was both emotional and financial.”


Although Kate has had countless positive experiences following football, she has also

witnessed and been subjected to sexism at games and as a female working in football.


“My first ever job at 18 was as a sales assistant at the Chelsea FC Megastore and then I

became a commercial sales executive at Charlton Athletic.

“I would often get told the only reason I was working in football was because I wanted to

meet a player and become a WAG, or that the only reason I wanted to go to games or watch

them on TV was to see the players take their tops off at the end.

“I would often get drunken fans on my Tube or train home and, being a woman who is shall

we say ‘blessed’ in the chest area, I would get stuff directed at me like ‘get your t*ts out for

the lads’ and ‘come on love, give us a smile, we won today’.

“It was always hilarious to them but I just grew to have a thick skin so this stuff wouldn't

bother me and I’d just smile and nod and hope they would go away.”


It was incidents like this and being challenged about her validity as a football fan, purely

because of her gender, that inspired Kate to become part of Her Game Too.


A recent conversation with a man who told her she couldn’t like football as much as her

fiancé because he had been a fan since he was six annoyed her, because she felt she had

to prove herself to him by explaining she had won medals playing football, worked for two

football clubs and been to many games before meeting her partner.


“As well as all the sexism I have experienced in the past, outdated views like this guy's

shouldn't be tolerated in the modern game and yet every week, in some way, shape or form,

I can imagine many women get challenged like this about their love for the game.

“The opportunity to be part of a movement of strong, passionate women to improve the

game for other women and the attitudes that go with it through Her Game Too was

something I knew I definitely wanted to be a part of.

“I want my nieces to grow up in a world where liking and participating in football is

considered a female norm rather than the exception.”


Kate’s highlight since becoming an ambassador five months ago has been helping to organise the club’s dedicated Her Game Too fixture, which took place in March to mark International Women’s Day.


She and her volunteer team sold raffle tickets to spectators before kick off, with the proceeds

being split between the winner and local women’s charities.


The men’s first team wore special edition home shirts for the match, made by Hope and

Glory, which were auctioned off afterwards to raise further funds for the charities.

This coming season, Kate wants to try to form a female supporters group at the club,

achieve an increased presence for Her Game Too in the matchday programme and on the

club’s website and support the Women’s World Cup by having the clubhouse show games

where possible.


She would also love to see more of the “Big Six” Premier League clubs follow in Liverpool’s

footsteps by becoming Her Game Too partner clubs.


“It would be brilliant if we could have even more dedicated fixtures next season and have the broadcasters highlight this more when they do come around.

“And, most importantly, it would be great to see more young girls picking up a football

because of what they see us doing and getting into the game.


“Football starts at grassroots level, so to see so many girls' clubs already supporting what we are doing is brilliant.”

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