In honour of International Women’s Day, Southampton FC reached out to some of our female fans about their experiences in following the club.
Kirsty Bell is a season ticket holder in the Northam end and attends every home game with her mum (Beverley) and niece (Brooke).
Beverley has been going to watch Saints play for 46 years, since she was 14-years-old. Kirsty has had a season ticket for 23 years, while 15-year-old Brooke has had a season ticket for 5 years.
Explain your connection to Southampton Football Club?
Our connection to SFC is through my mum (Beverley) who has been going to games for years. My mum started going to games when she was 14 at The Dell and was hooked.
I have always played a lot of football and soon started going to games at The Dell which I loved. Brooke plays football and soon started asking to come to matches. She kept the interest up and so she also got a season ticket with us.
What were your earliest memories of following the club?
Beverley: First game at The Dell and how good the atmosphere was. I remember getting pushed around in the stands when we scored and the famous Mick Channon celebration.
Kirsty: I remember going to The Dell for my first game and the walk there being excited. Going through the turnstiles and hearing the noise, watching the players warm up and remembering how close we were to the pitch. Waiting around after the games for autographs from the players in the car park.
Brooke: My first game was at St Mary’s and I was shocked at how big it looked from our seats. Then when the game started it was so loud because we sit in the Northam and so close to the away fans, it was great!
How much of a role has the club played in your life and can you give some examples?
Following the club has played a massive role in our lives, we are very passionate fans. Brooke plays a match in the morning then we travel together, going to get food, walking to the ground, and waiting for the team line up before predicting the score.
We love going to games, the buzz of it, the atmosphere is great (especially if winning) and the rivalry with them down the road is great.
What are some of your most treasured memories following Saints?
Beverley: Getting promoted from the Championship and celebrating with the players and fans on the pitch was incredible.
Brooke and Kirsty: Our most treasured memory is leaving work and school early to go to Swansea away and seeing Gabiadini score a last-minute winner to secure survival. Such an amazing atmosphere which made the journey back so much better!
In what ways do you feel that watching live football is more inclusive for young families and women in particular?
Kirsty: As a female football fan, I have often experienced the usual stereotypical comments from men who assume females cannot or should not have the same or more knowledge as much as them and are often surprised when you can talk tactics, team selection and recall scores from many games over the years.
This has changed over the years and men seem to be a lot more accepting to females going to games and playing. I spent the first few years up to age 12 playing in a boys’ team where I was the only girl in the whole league. I used to get comments every week which stopped when you scored many a time against them. When we first went to The Dell there wasn’t many female fans regularly attending and men would look at you if you made a comment on the game.
It has changed a lot now and we find St Mary’s is still male dominated but there are thousands more female fans and families attending. The male fans around us chat at half time etc and ask opinions without dismissing our views because we are female. Everyone sings and celebrates goals together.
Social media there is still an issue where you see some males make derogatory comments on posts. But I think it’s important to add there are also lots of men who stick up for females on social media and support us.
What stereotypes have you encountered as a female football fan?
We haven’t really. We feel that watching live football is more inclusive for young women and families because there are more opportunities for young girls to get involved and play football at school and local teams etc which encourages them to go and watch live games. There are family sections if you prefer to sit in a quieter area. The seating is helpful so young people can sit and watch without a restricted view.
To what extent have stereotypes towards female football fans changed during your time supporting the club?
No one should feel like they should not be allowed to play football because in many senses it is still labelled as ‘a boys sport’. This should not put anyone off. Give it a go in a no pressure environment. Maybe at the park with your family, then at school then progress to joining a team and training with them. Leading up to playing matches. There are so many girls playing now which is amazing, and it will continue to grow.
Obviously, men’s professional teams will always be dominant because of the sheer popularity and money involved but that should not ever put anyone off especially young girls or women who want to start and give it a go. There are various ladies’ teams who offer opportunities from all abilities so go along and see if you enjoy it.
Following Saints has its many highs and lows, but it is a passion we will never give up even if the results are not great like currently! Having watched us go through relegations and stood on a cold Tuesday night watching us in League 1 is challenging, but all three of us would not change being a Saints fan for anything.