Female Chesterfield FC fans subjected to ‘disgraceful’ sexist incidents by fellow Spireites – leaving club ‘disheartened’

At a recent Chesterfield match there were a number of incidents aimed at women – with one female fan subjected to sexual offers and sexist remarks by her fellow Spireites.
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Alicia Blackham, 23, and her boyfriend Tom Atkins, 24, are both Chesterfield fans – attending games at the Technique Stadium as well as following the team up and down the country.

It was last week’s trip to watch Chesterfield take on Notts County at Meadow Lane, however, that saw Alicia subjected to sexist remarks from other Spireites.

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Alicia said: “We were at The Waterfront pub in Nottingham, and it felt particularly bad that day. There was a lot of singing of sexist and horrible chants, and there was catcalling of random girls walking past.

Chesterfield have encouraged anyone who faces discrimination of any kind to report it. 
Credit: Tina Jenner.Chesterfield have encouraged anyone who faces discrimination of any kind to report it. 
Credit: Tina Jenner.
Chesterfield have encouraged anyone who faces discrimination of any kind to report it. Credit: Tina Jenner.

“The catcalling was from a group of lads who I’ve come across before and are absolutely lovely to me, but were treating these other girls horribly.”

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“Things like that made it a bad atmosphere on the day, more so than at other away games in my experience. I’m not sure if it was because there were more people, or they were day-drinking because it was Notts – I don’t know.”

Alicia said that one man made a sexual remark to her as they were looking for a table – before another made several sexist comments and told Tom to ‘sort her out’.

The club has also reminded fans that this behaviour could lead to stadium bans.The club has also reminded fans that this behaviour could lead to stadium bans.
The club has also reminded fans that this behaviour could lead to stadium bans.
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“We were looking for a table and I said to Tom ‘we could sit over there’ – to which a guy said ‘you can sit here if you want’ – which he said sexually.

“When we were just about to leave, a table with one older man and three younger lads stopped Tom and questioned why he had an old town shirt on. I made a comment about him having not washed his new one, and that was how it started.

“They didn’t talk to me at all – it was as if I wasn’t even there – but turned to Tom and said ‘it should have been her washing that’. I said he can wash his own shirts, and they still didn’t talk to me, and continued to talk about me to Tom – saying that he needed to ‘sort me out.’

“The ‘sort her out’ comment made me particularly uncomfortable – to me it’s quite violent language. We didn't really know what to say, but they carried on in that vein. It was mostly one of the guys, but they were all laughing as if it was the funniest thing in the world, and I was standing there not knowing what to say or do.

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“We left when he said ‘you know what wife stands for – washing, ironing’, and I cut him off as I didn’t want to get any further into what F was. They were all still laughing, and that was the thing – to them it was clearly funny. I don’t even know if they were meaning to be harmful, but it’s not a joke.”

After the pair took to Twitter to share what had happened, they heard of several similar incidents – including remarks from a group of men about taking advantage of a woman who had passed out.

Alicia said: “Usually, I go to away games with two other women, and most weeks it is fine. I was talking to a friend who sometimes goes to away games on her own, and what she gets a lot is ‘where is your husband’ – as though she can’t be a fan without him.

“Since then, I’ve spoken to quite a lot of people and heard other stories, particularly from that day alone, where there seemed to be multiple incidents.

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“A woman told me that her friend had passed out at the game, and a group of lads around her were saying ‘I wonder what we can do to her while she can’t remember.’ They weren’t even saying it quietly, this was loudly while loads of people around could hear, and no one called it out.”

Tom said there had been a spike in anti-social behaviour since fans were allowed back into grounds after the pandemic – and that many Spireites were put off travelling to watch their team.

“Generally, anti-social behaviour at matches does seem to be getting worse – when fans were able to first go back to stadiums after the pandemic, people seem to have gone a bit mad.

“A lot of Chesterfield fans on Twitter have said they’ve been put off away games by a specific group of lads who go, and they’re always singing that horrible chant we all know about, which is about necrophilia pretty much. It’s vulgar really, and there's a lot of town fans who’ve said they don’t go anymore because of it.

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“They almost don’t see women as being able to be football fans in their own right, which is ridiculous. They see them as fair game for jokes rather than real people. If women aren’t going to games because they feel like they might get threatened or catcalled, that’s disgraceful really.”

Alicia added that the club was aware of the incident, and stressed that they were doing their best to tackle this kind of culture – but accepted it was difficult to change the attitudes of fans.

“I’m aware that the club have had meetings about the number of incidents reported to them over the past few weeks – I think Chesterfield are good at acting when problems are reported, they wouldn’t want to brush these things under the carpet.

“Especially if it happens at a home game, the club can deal with it and act on it. When it’s before an away game at a pub, there’s not much more they can do other than try and raise awareness.

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“It’s the minority of fans that are the problem, not the club – but that minority is damn loud. Chesterfield can’t impose a cultural change on the fans, it has to come from people themselves.

“If people stay quiet about it, nothing will change. Even if it’s something that seems small to other people, it raises some form of awareness. People may think that these kinds of things don’t mean anything, and they’ve been accepted for so long without being called out – it takes calling them out to change things and make football a more comfortable environment.”

A Chesterfield FC spokesperson said: “As a club owned by a Community Trust that does much work to spread the message that football is for everyone, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, it is disheartening to learn that discriminatory language used by our supporters has been reported in recent weeks.

“In order to create a truly inclusive culture, where everyone is treated with respect, it should be noted that sexist, misogynistic, racist or homophobic comments/chants are viewed as totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We encourage people to report any incidents where discriminatory language is used by our supporters, or anti-social behaviour occurs, in order to help us identify the culprits.

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“Please note that we reserve the right to take appropriate action, which may include banning orders being issued, preventing offenders from attending matches. If you witness any incident involving discriminatory language or anti-social behaviour involving our supporters, please email [email protected].”