This Fan Girl
We talk to This Fan Girl co-founder Amy Drucquer about changing the portrayal of female football fans and the platform’s latest campaign to provide a better experience for women watching football in pubs
By Amy Sedghi
When you think of a typical England football fan, what image comes to mind? Most likely it’s a beer swilling lad, loud and encompassing every macho stereotype. What about the female fans? Well, let’s just say one of the first pictures that pops up on a quick Google search, shows a bikini clad woman draped in an England flag, next to a depressingly sexist headline. It’s something Amy Drucquer, co-founder of This Fan Girl knows about all too well.
Having started the community and platform in 2016, alongside Laura Blake, with the aim of creating a more realistic and authentic representation of female football fans, This Fan Girl has collated a rich archive of what it means to be a woman with a passion for the beautiful game. “At the time, we were going into the 2016 Euros and if a woman was included in a football story it was like: ‘top sexiest female fans’,” says Amy with a sigh. “It felt like the only visualisation of women supporting the game was how sexy they could be.” Both Laura and Amy were tired of this: “It didn’t feel like how we support games. It wasn’t how we wanted to portray ourselves as female fans.”
So, in a bid to do something about it, a road trip called; the pair travelled up and down the country to all the Premier League stadiums at the time to snap pictures of the women coming out to support their chosen club. “We got like 400 pictures of female fans: all different women, different races, different ages, different parts of the country,” recalls Amy of the diverse mix of photographs they collected. An end of season exhibition was created as a result, bringing together the This Fan Girl’s founders with the engaged female football fans they’d met along the way. “I just wanted to use that [the images and exhibition] to bring awareness to the fact that there are just so many women watching football, because it’s just been male heavy for so long,” stresses Amy.
It also brought her to a realisation, that as well as wanting to see themselves represented in images, being part of an inclusive community was also what these female fans were craving. “We realised that a really big part of what female fans potentially missed was that element of community,” explains Amy. “I lived in London for a long time and I always used to go to the pub and watch games by myself. I’d think: ‘oh, I’d love to have some friends to go watch these games with.’” She recalls looking across the room, seeing groups of guys out with their mates and thinking that didn’t exist for her. One of the many things This Fan Girl organises and promotes are real-life meet ups across the country for female footy fans and the platform’s community to go watch a match together in a pub – the very thing Amy had wished for all those years ago.
I’m intrigued to know what kind of reaction they received: a group of women piling into the pub to watch a men’s Premier League match? “I think when we first started doing meetups it was genuinely shocking for some people. What? Reserving a space? Actually watching the football? I think some guys were literally mouths open, confused by it. It just wasn’t a known image,” remembers Amy. She agrees that acceptance and awareness of female football fans has grown over the years and credits part of this to the growing popularity and success of the professional women’s football teams. It’s helped, she says, for society to see women visibly being more a part of the sport.
She does acknowledge though that the female fan experience can differ hugely depending not only from pub to pub and area of the country, but also by each individual’s encounters. That’s why speaking and collecting opinions and experiences from a wide range of female football fans is so important to her, she points out. When we speak, Amy is on her way home to Leicester after having travelled down to London for a meetup to watch the England World Cup opener against Iran. “It was good,” she says with some hesitation, before adding: “I thought it was a difficult one.” She’s referring to controversy that has swirled around the decision for the World Cup to be hosted in Qatar – a country whose human rights abuses have been well documented and rightly criticised. Added to that is their attitude towards LGBTQ+ people (homosexuality is illegal in the Arab country) and on top of all that is the fact that all eyes are on how the Lions and Iranian football team respond towards the protests happening in Iran.
Amy describes how a friend of hers, watching the game at another pub, messaged her halfway through the match distressed and questioning how to react when England scored. The pal didn’t know how to feel whilst those around her jumped up and cheered every time an England player hit the back of the net. “[I told her] ‘you’re putting so much pressure on yourself to have the perfect response,” she explains. “It’s so confusing and it’s not really down to the individual fans to not cheer through the tournament, you know? I totally understand the hesitations around the tournament,” she adds. “There’s a lot of reasons to be upset. But it’s almost like you can’t stop yourself cheering when England scores…I think that’s a request too far.”
Watching the World Cup in pubs is, in fact, the focus of This Fan Girl’s latest campaign. Amy has been working with pubs up and down the country to help them provide a better experience for female fans. As part of this, she’s helped create a charter, which venues showing the World Cup matches can download. It includes a lot of actionable recommendations as to how to improve their offering for female fans and covers a range of areas from intimidation and unwanted attention to knowledge on combating drink spiking and making their spaces more welcoming.
“We’ve had a lot of pubs come to us and say that they really want to sign up, which is wicked,” shares Amy. “Pubs have been unbelievably open to it [and] really, really wanting to get involved and listen to what we’ve got to say.” When the campaign was launched, she details having had around 80 emails drop into her inbox from interested pubs. Around half of those followed through but Amy understands that the conversion rate doesn’t necessarily show a lack of commitment. “It’s not an easy fix,” she highlights. “Actually, we are asking you to do things, so I think for some…they still wanted to but they just weren’t able to get it done in time. The want and openness to do it is there…and the reaction from pubs has been really great.”
Also, as This Fan Girl points out, this is the first time the majority of World Cup games will either end, start or both in darkness. Partnering up with the safety app Help Me Angela is a big move for the campaign and one that Amy is particularly pleased with. Fans will be able to use a code for a month’s free membership during the World Cup to help them feel safe and supported when travelling to and from games. “As much as we’re advising pubs of things they can do to make their venues safer, we know that still a really big part of the problem is getting to the pub and back from it,” she explains.
For Amy, who is an avid Leicester City fan, her love of football came from going to watch matches with her dad at Filbert Street (Leicester’s old home ground). “I literally adored it [and was] so obsessed with it,” she enthuses. “Even when I’ve not lived in Leicester, Leicester City has always been a really big thing that’s connected me with home.” With ever growing plans and partnerships for This Fan Girl (which she now runs without Laura, who had to step back due to other commitments), plus managing her own football team (Vicky Park Queens and a baby, Amy has her hands full. You get the feeling though, chatting to her after a full day’s worth of spinning plates, she’d have it no other way: “It’s been fun,” she says in a low-key summary of what she’s achieved so far. Just as football fans will be keeping an eye on their team’s next move, we look forward with anticipation to see what Amy does next. Find a pub that’s signed up to the charter via This Fan Girl’s pub finder here.