Campaigners raise concerns of sexism in football ahead of International Women’s Day

An English campaign, led by the campaign group Women in Football, is urging supporters to report sexist abuse at football matches after footage emerged of fans directing obscenities at Chelsea FC doctor Eva Carneiro.

The sexist abuse aimed at the Blues Gibraltarian doctor amounts to a number of similar and ongoing incidents witnessed in football since the beginning of the season.

Over the last three weeks, recordings emerged of fans across in England and Spain at professional football, chanting sexist abuse and disparaging women.

Campaigners 'gravely concerned' at lack of action
The recordings revealing the abuse Carneiro was subjected to, at the Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal grounds, reported by the pressure group Women in Football (WiF), sheds light on some of the barriers women still face at the different levels of the game.

The campaign group argues that only if incidents of sexist chanting are treated with the same seriousness as racist chanting will the sport become a more welcoming place for women to work.

Speaking about the incident a WiF spokesperson said: "WiF are appalled that sexist abuse has been allowed to thrive, unchecked, around some of the country’s most iconic football stadiums.

"We are gravely concerned at a lack of action on this issue, and the negative message this sends to women in the football industry.

"We urge the authorities to put sexism at the heart of football’s anti-discrimination agenda, alongside all the other strands that it must also tackle."

Only this season, a total of 13 similar incidents aimed at female staff, officials, journalists and cheerleaders, have been recorded by WiF.

The footage released a day before WiF, in conjunction with the Everyday Sexism project, launched their month-long campaign ahead of the International Women’s Day (IWD), raises concerns of how women are treated across the game.

A WiF statement read: "All 92 Premier and Football League clubs have been asked to profile inspirational women, whether directors, physiotherapists, administrators, volunteers or supporters in their match day programmes to show their commitment to equal opportunities and help celebrate IWD on Sunday March 8.

"The move to raise awareness follows Women in Football's groundbreaking industry survey in March 2014 which found that over 66 per cent of women employed in the sport had witnessed sexism in the workplace. Over 89% of those who said they had witnessed it said they had not reported it."

Sanction over sexist chanting sparks criticism in Spain
On Wednesday 4 March, a sanction on sexism in football unleashed strong criticism in Spain.

The Andalusia FA (RFAF) announced a €50 fine to the local club UD Tesorillo, over their fans sexist abuse aimed at the assistant referee Laura Jiménez, during a match last February.

In a EFE interview, a spokesperson of the Spanish Referees' Association said the organisation is in disbelief with the "insignificant" sanction to an "extremely serious incident", adding that, the fine is also not consistent with a 2007 law on violence, intolerance and discrimination in sport which states that fines on discriminatory and violent incidents start in €1000.

The sanction came after amateur footage emerged of a group of Real Betis Balompié supporters chanting sexist songs and inciting gender-based violence in support of a club's player accused of domestic abuse.

"We consider this sanction outrageous. It sends out a message that sexist abuse is not serious enough to be punished.

"After the Betis incident, the RFAF missed this opportunity to take a strong stand against sexism in football." said Annabel Carballo representative of the Spanish Fare member FAGiC.

Days after the Betis ultras' chants, during the UEFA Champions League encounter between Bayer Leverkusen and Atlético de Madrid a group of home team fans displayed a banner aimed at Frente Atlético featuring abuse disparaging women.

Challenging sexist abuse and violence ahead of IWD
Against this backdrop, every year football initiatives across the world celebrate the contributes of women to sport, challenging the barriers women face on the grounds of gender equality and contributing to their empowerment across the game.

In Turkey, football and basketball fans have recently united to put an end to gender-based violence.

Supporters of Trabzonspor, Boluspor, Adanaspor, Bucaspor, among others, took the stands and the streets to demonstrate and raise awareness of violence against women following the murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan, who was stabbed while reportedly resisting a rape attempt.

In Iran, in a recent letter addressed to FIFA, prominent activists, asked the football governing body to suspend Iran’s membership in FIFA, in response to the Iranian government’s ban on the presence of Iranian women in soccer stadiums.

Referring to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, approved in 1997, the 190 signatories added, “Any type of deprivation of fundamental rights or restricting such rights based on gender, aimed to or resulting in reduced access of women to sports” is prohibited.

Ahead of the IWD and observance day on the rights of women worldwide, international sporting events and activities will be moving forward the presence and participation of women in the sporting world.

Activities include:


On 6 March, WiF in conjunction with the Everyday Sexism project will be launching their month-long campaign, ahead of the International Women’s Day, which is looking to use social media to highlight the growing number of women working in football.

As part of the celebrations the pressure group sent to all professional clubs in England a programme advert and guidance notes on sexist chanting to both champion female talent and highlight discrimination and how to report it.

On 8 March WiF will also host an event in Wembley on women in football.

On 7 March, Dulwich Hamlet FC will be celebrating the IWD and the contributions women made to the club during their home game against VCD Athletic. South London girls and women's football teams, female journalists and bloggers will be invited to attend the game.


On the IWD, the Portuguese top tier club Benfica women are invited to visit the club's museum at a reduced fare. The money gathered will be destined to fund the studies of a young musician selected by the Benfica Foundation.


On 6 March, FIFA is organising and international conference on Women’s Football and Leadership, which will discuss the future of the women’s game and the role of women is sport governance ahead of the International Women’s Day next Sunday.

The event will be live streamed.

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