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Mark Little on Phoenix Academy & Her Game Too


First off, please bear with me. I am not a blogger/writer of any sort. My worst subject at school was English and quite frankly if it wasn’t for the spelling and grammar help from Microsoft Word, you guys probably wouldn’t understand this. The reason I am writing is I feel it’s a very important subject to talk about and any future post I write will be of the same nature or to help the reader in any way I can.


All views are my own. I will try to embed our principles & values into our academy.



Her Game Too


We are excited to announce our partnership with the Her Game Too campaign. A campaign run by female football fans to raise awareness of sexist abuse in our game of football.


For me personally sexism sits in line with racism and homophobia. They are things that lie in society that we might be unaware of until something is brought to our attention, or worse… we fall victim to the abuse. For me, being from an ethnic minority background, I might be subject to racial abuse or profiling every couple of months but from speaking with female friends and family members, I have had to imagine facing abuse every time I would enter a football stadium? For hardcore fans that could be 3 times a week or even every day when expressing their opinion social media.


The Her Game Too campaign has certainly done its job and created huge traction in its early days. I was not aware of the level of torment that happens on a regular basis. I would say I’m now awake to the problem whereas beforehand I might have shrugged it off. Just like racism and homophobia we know it’s there, but nothing is really done about the problem. So, I’m extremely proud to support this campaign.



Maybe this coincides with the arrival of my daughter. Football is part of family life for me, my daughter will be coming with me into football stadiums, away days and pubs (when she’s old enough) and I hope and pray she doesn’t have to endure the level of abuse females receive at this moment of time. I also hope she loves the game as much as I do. I hope I’m the proud dad in a female dominated crowd watching her play the sport she loves. Or, she might be useless at football like her Dad but would at least come for a pie & a pint with her old man. God help anyone who chooses to abuse my daughter whilst I’m present.


Abuse


The logic of sexist hecklers really confuses me. Almost all of these blokes will have a mother. Then the majority will have wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunties and/or daughters. Most of these guys wouldn’t dish out the abuse while any of these were present. This just adds to the cowardliness of them. Does it make them feel more manly? I don’t know but I don’t want to waste too much time trying to understand the minds of these morons.


I don’t understand some of the complaints from these guys.


‘Do you even know the offside rule?’ Well, I didn’t fully grasp the offside rule until I turned pro and in some games I’ve played, I’m not sure all match officials entirely get it either. So that argument is irrelevant.


‘Get back in the kitchen’ Get yourself to the kitchen you lazy slob!


‘What would you know you’re a Woman’. I could name some female friends who I would describe as hardcore fans and they are like encyclopaedias when it comes to their clubs. So probably a whole lot more than Mr Sexist who sits on terraces abusing women.


These would be some of the softer comments directed a female football fans. If you come out with comments of a sexual nature or the ones that make women feel uncomfortable then you’re the lowest of the low!


Opinions

Football is a game of opinions. That goes from a chat with your mates on Messi vs Ronaldo, right up to how a manager sees a player. The career of players hangs in the balance of their managers opinion. The successful trial is based on the opinion of the head of recruitment.

One ref might see the incident as a penalty another might not. It’s full of opinions in every corner of the game. So why aren’t women entitled to theirs?


My Dad is a pub man. I grew up in pubs. When I was a teenager approaching my young pro days, the amount of rubbish I had to listen to from armchair experts in these pubs was out of this world. 99% male. Not a clue some of them. These guys watched football most days but it was astounding how different they looked at the game compared to me. But that’s completely fine. That’s what makes the beautiful game so beautiful. If it was black or white it would be boring, no one would watch it and I would be out of a job.

This doesn’t mean we all have to agree with everyone. Society just needs to treat the opinion exactly as what it is. Just an opinion.


Safety


I had a few beers with Her Game Too founder Lucy Ford a few months back. She had been to watch a game of some sort with her friends and she mentioned how intimidating it is for her to do that. I have never ever thought about that. As a 6-foot 2, ugly looking thing I’ve never felt intimidated going into a bar or a stadium on my own. I’ve never imagined the thought process women must go through to watch the sport they love. What pubs are safe? Have I got male friends to accompany me? What do I do if I do get abused? Having to think the worst before you buy a ticket to a game or watch a televised one? A horrible thought process to go through 3 or 4 times a week.


If you’re a guy reading this, please keep this in mind when you might be intimidating a lady or you’re in a position to make one feel safer.


What Her Game Too means for Phoenix


One of the most important values we have at Phoenix is Inclusion. Football is for everyone and we want to build our academy around that principle. We have mixed groups at our fun camps that work very well. Our academy training is open to girls but, unfortunately, we don’t get great numbers signing up to that as of yet. We are not sure why that is but we want to ensure everyone that we are building a safe and welcoming environment for females to come and join in. We also want to provide girls only sessions soon and we are hoping this will be an initiative that will take off.


In recent months I have been so pleased to see more women’s football being televised. It’s well documented how well the Lionesses are doing (sorry to my welsh readers). I think the standard has improved so much over the last few years and it’s great to see. I also saw in the press that Beth Lumsden of Oxford United had been called up to train with the men’s team. How incredible is that. Hats off to Karl Robinson for orchestrating that. Maybe this is something we will see more of going forward.


Obviously, it goes without saying, any sexist behaviour at our academy will not be tolerated. We hope to show the youngsters that any sort of discrimination is never acceptable.



Disclaimer


This is my disclaimer; I want to point out that we all make mistakes and we are all learning. If I have offended anyone in this post, I am sorry (unless you’re the sexist ones I’m talking about) I don’t want to come across like my moral compass has always been perfect. Reflecting on this subject I can see in the past I have got things wrong. But as my old age kicks in I have found the simplest way to operate is the best. Just be kind. Treat people how you want to be treated. If you live your life that way, then you would be heading in the right direction.


I am seriously impressed with the girls at Her Game Too. Particularly Lucy, Caz & Amy who I will now be pestering for the new merch. What an incredible job they are already doing in such a short space of time. Long may it continue.


For anyone at all, if Phoenix or myself can help in anyway when it comes to this subject please contact me and I will do whatever I can. Please also see the Her Game Too website for more information on the campaign.


Thanks for reading,


Mark Little

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