Know The Origin talk to all things girls football with Lewes Football Club
Women's football has been a hot topic ever since The Lionesses did an incredible job in winning the UEFA Women's Championship. A huge well done to them!! Our local Lewes club is a club we align with for many different reasons, from sustainability to empowering women.
We had a great chat with Karen Dobres from Lewes Football Club about the inequality in football and the amazing work the club are doing to change this. Karen gave us a tour of the club, including the very cute communal allotment that overlooks the pitch!
Equality play's a huge part in what Lewes Football Club is about. In 2017 they became the first and only (currently) professional and semi professional club in the world to treat their women's team the same as the men's! They play on the same pitch (You'll be shocked to know this is not standard), exactly the same training facilities and marketing of the games, and the big one, the same pay! They are leading the way and inspiring so many young girls locally which is making a huge impact.
The community spirit is felt at the grounds including the infrastructure of the club. You can buy a share of Lewes Football Club for £50 and be a part owner, they currently have 2300 owners over 38 countries across the globe. How cool is this!!
Lewes FC want to normalise gender equality in football and make women and girls feel more welcome than ever into the game. Karen and Danielle had a chat about all things from sustainability to inclusivity to community . Unfortunately the sound quality on the video was too poor so we've had to only offer the write up, but we will definitely be back to talk to Lewes football club on this topic again in the future.
Read the interview below:
What's the true reason why women's football isn't as popular as mens?
The reason for this is actually really interesting. Women's football was banned in this country for 50 years (Yes you read that right! From 1921 - 1971, and not a lot of people know that. Before it was banner, women's football was drawing in crowds greater than the men, 10,000 plus, before it was banned.
Quite often we do things because no-one's ever questioned it, and what we do right now will affect the future. The past has made it like it is, and what we're doing right now will determine how two women sitting here in 5 years time, what we'll be talking about then.
Yes, and I wonder how many clubs will within those 5 years, have taken what you've done, and be doing the same.
It's like a continuum. You and I talking about circularity and sustainability and everything, I don't think that over the years we've necessarily made all the progress we think. So with fashion, with any kind of consumer good, we've got that wrong haven't we because we've got far too much choice and access to clothes.
Yes, and the quality and the way that we look at clothes has changed. If we look at the way we appreciate tailoring, we don't do the same for our clothing any more. Take for example a pocket, the work that goes into a pocket is huge! And yet you can buy a whole coat for £25 so people don't put the appreciation into the work that goes into their clothes any more. It's made us become so far detached that it's really hard to then consciously look and understand the background of a product.
Yes exactly. We're a relatively small football club, certainly compared to the kind of clubs we play against, and you get to know the players, and you get to know the campaigns, and you get to know the culture, and I think that strong connection that we have, is maybe what's lacking in some massive premier league commercially run clubs.
We're affordable. Kids go free under 16, well behaved dogs are also welcome. We've got a great selection of food, we've got vegan food, we've got all different stuff going on that just makes it so lovely. If you're a 15 year old without a penny to your name, you come here and enjoy elite football entertainment, bring your cheese sandwich and enjoy a a great afternoon out, and that's correct, that's how it should be.
Do you think in terms of female football, even though the teams are playing against other teams, there is this collective message and purpose to be doing it for more than just your love for football? For the fact that you're working on changing the whole dynamics of everything. Do you think that changes the overall feeling within football and teams and even fans between teams. Do you think there's a nicer culture because of that, compared to the men's football?
I think there is a different culture that is more inclusive. Women's football has been marginalised so much, that the people that play within it, support within it or work within it, they develop an inclusive, supportive culture I suppose, and certainly a lot of the people we attract here are like that, but at the same time I think it's really important to allow our women footballers to just be footballers, and not to have to carry that purpose and that weight of responsibility oh meaning and change within their own work life, although some of them do. If you meet our captain, so many of our players actually. It's almost because we accidentally radicalise them you know, because they come here, and we start banging on about equality and saying this and that that we're campaigning for, and they suddenly start remembering things that they've probably tried to forget, about playing on inferior pitches, or not being allowed in the canteen, only the men can go there.
When you said that to me earlier, that that's still a thing in lots of clubs where women can't play on the same pitches. When you say that out loud, it feels like something you're learning in a history lesson.
It's like dinosaurs right? It's not only that they can't play on the same pitch. The pitches that they're given to play on are often quite far away from the townsfolk who would want to come and support them. So it's much easier to go and support the men, than to go and support the women. So what you get going to support women's matches is often little girls and their dads, who take them because they want them to see them, to be their role models and inspire them, but they have to probably drive there because there's no public transport near by.
I've been to away matches where the bar or the hatch has run out of cups of tea, you can't get food at women's football matches, you know really basic stuff. Going to men's matches, you get it all.
And what have you found within your culture here? How have the men reacted? Have you seen a change in the men? Are some of your men's team becoming more open or more conscious of what's going on that they might not have thought about?
I think that's a really great question. I can't sign the praises of our men's team highly enough at the moment. Over the years they've become more and more supportive. What has happened last season is our mens team, after the awful spout of violence against women and girls, Sarah Everard's murder and all the terrible things that have happened, our men's team started a campaign called #callhimout where they vow within themselves to call out any misogyny or sexist behaviour that they might not be conscious of, but they check each other. They publicly pledged on twitter that is they heard in the changing room or at the pub or anywhere else, sexist or misogynist behaviour, they would call him out.
Wow I love that.
Even themselves, because, we are all human, we are all flawed. This is really important to remember when debating and trying to change culture. We are part of the same soup as everybody else. We're accidentally sexist or misogynist because we've been brought up like that, but it's about trying to keep it at the front of mind, and change those automatic things that we do.
Yes I totally agree. You need people to teach you where you were doing it that you weren't aware of.
Yeah. Our captain Mitch on the men's team has called out homophobic abuse and stopped a game because of it. I'm so impressed with our team, and do you know why, it's because it's men that need to act actually. Us women, we can empower ourselves and talk about the things we're talking about, but actually it's men in our society who hold the power, still, and football's a good illustration of that, so they're the ones that need to wake up, smell the coffee and serve the coffee to us, right? Because we're not going to serve it.
These things need to change, and our mens team know that and our mens team manager Tony Russell and Jo Vines, our assistant manager, are huge advocates. Bradley Pritchard that runs our community garden is another huge advocate. They'll all always support the cause of gender equality, so very proud of them. I have to say they're leading lights, I don't think there's many football teams that pledge that kind of thing, they're the only one I know of.
I think what we've got here is a really good example of football as a microcosm of society. The way we should be in society is helping each other. We are all different, and we all have different things to bring to the table. If we cancel anyone out, or marginalise them, we lose. We lose out, and what we have here now and what we have developed over the seasons is women who feel empowered and men who support that empowerment and that whole situation is so powerful. I'm so proud of it, and i'm privileged really to be a part of it. It's an honour.