Book Review – Her Game Too: A Manifesto for Change by Matt Riley
When England’s Lionesses brought home the nation’s first major trophy in almost sixty years, they galvanised a nation. Fans new and old, male and female, got behind the team and women’s football reached new heights. It was a demonstration of all that is brilliant in sport and a celebration of equality and diversity at its finest. For many women, however, football hasn’t been, and isn’t always, a safe, welcoming and equal space. Incidents of sexism and misogyny have been all too often the experience of women in football, whether as players, employees or fans. And it was such undesirable experiences that led to two women making a stand.
On 15 May 2021, Caz May and Lucy Ford, both having suffered negative experiences as women at men’s football matches, established Her Game Too (HGT) – a campaign to ‘eradicate sexism in the football industry’ allowing ‘women and girls of all ages to feel confident and safe’ within football, which launched with a hard-hitting and impactful video, which I urge anyone to take a look at. Having grown from strength to strength and with increasing interest and visibility for women in the game, Matt Riley’s Her Game Too reflects on and takes up Caz and Lucy’s rallying cry.
The issue of a man writing this book may seem somewhat askew to some people, but, as Riley explains, he is simply a football fan, and in a world without sexism and misogyny that is what we all are: not male or female fans, just football fans. It is encouraging too for HGT to have such a proud and vocal male ally. Having said this, would it have been empowering to have a female author behind the book? Of course, but, ultimately, the most important thing is getting the message out there via supportive and cooperative means and Riley is clearly a committed and qualified ally. What’s more his book gives both voice to other key allies and, crucially, to the women themselves who have been affected by insult and abuse. Indeed, HGT carried out a survey of female fans in 2021 to get a sense of the extent of the problem and all 371 responses are included at the back of the book. If a reader chooses to read nothing else, this alone gives a clear indication of the problem that instigated the need for HGT.
The book itself offers a whistle-stop tour of some of the main issues, themes, experiences and developments when it comes to sexism and misogyny in the game and while it is clear there is much still to be done, there are examples, not least in the work of HGT, that offer hope. Whilst the growth of HGT may seem to reflect the continuing challenges in football, conversely it is a symbol of transformation and progress, of a groundswell of change, a chorus of knowing voices. The message that comes across loud and clear is that there is no reason why women shouldn’t be involved in football in whatever guise they wish, they have equal right to be supporters, players, managers, officials and the like in a safe, welcoming and inclusive game, now they just need to have equal opportunity.
(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2022 Paperback: 192 pages)
Buy the book here: Her Game Too