Do you know the offside rule? The most asked question when it comes to male and female football supporters having debates or discussions on football in England. I cannot count how many times someone has asked me the offside rule, asked me if I know a players position or told me I’m a plastic fan.
Football is a sport that record numbers tune in to every week- both on TV and through turnstiles. As far as I’m aware, gender doesn’t prevent you from turning on Sky Sports Football at 3pm on a Saturday and it certainly doesn’t prevent you buying a ticket to watch your team.
I was blissfully unaware of the sexism involved in football, until I watched the World Cup in 2018. Previously, I was entirely unbothered by football- I didn’t really understand the rules or why people loved it so much. That changed when ‘Three Lions’ was playing out of every radio station across England, I started to understand what football meant to this country- the adrenaline rush the song gives you, how it feels to watch Harry Kane score a penalty and the heartache you feel when your team gets knocked out the competition. By the end of the World Cup, I had developed an obsession with Deli Alli and was hooked on football in all its forms. Shortly after, I attended my first football game in September 2018 to watch England v Spain at Wembley. By March 2019, I had gone to a Reading FC game on a cold winters night- watch them lose three nil to Leeds and had committed my allegiance to my local club.
I attended a few games after that, and my obsession shifted to Reading’s captain Liam Moore- I studied all the information on him that I could get my hands on. I begged my grandparents and family to take me again- I couldn’t stay away from it. My grandparents and I purchased season tickets for the next season, and the 2019-20 season gave me chance to develop my football knowledge even further. I was sat on my seat in the blazing sun, and the pouring rain- nothing was going to stop me going to those games.
I spent hours after each game writing out the stats- goals, bookings, penalties and substitutes. I studied the players names, shirt numbers and where they had previously played. By October/November 2019 I knew the whole Reading first team squad at the time, the players numbers, injuries, positions and who I liked or disliked. My English exam was all about John Swift, I learnt everything I could about him and formulated my argument on whether he was the best player Reading FC had to offer.
Adamant I was going to know everything I could about football, I started watching more of the Premier League and Championship games. I then moved on to teaching myself about the Champions League and Europa League as well as the history of the ‘Big Six’ clubs. Hours of lockdown were spent watching documentaries, interviews, old game highlights- all to get my knowledge perfect. I even began a project at school which was about the club I loved.
When football came back on after the lockdown, I made up for lost time- watching all the playoff games in the EFL and the remaining Premier League games. I could pretty much tell you the background of most of the players- their previous clubs, roughly their stats and what others thought about them. As far as I was concerned, I was addicted to football and knew a great deal about it.
In July of 2020, a fan-page of the club I support had started a thread in which they were discussing the performance of John Swift- my favourite player- after a particularly disappointing game. Of course, I wanted to join in and see what others thought. I was soon bombarded with insults- again questioning my knowledge with the fan-page themselves telling me how long they’d been a season ticket holder, wasn’t I a new fan?
Totally embarrassed and ashamed, I blocked the page and removed my tweets.
In August of 2020, I uploaded a trivial Tik-Tok with the caption ‘when boys say girls know nothing about football’- within 15 minutes the comment section was full of insults and questions. ‘Who’s getting promoted to the premier league this season?’ ‘Do you support local though?’ ‘What’s the offside rule?’ My instant reaction was to be angry; I know more about football than most boys I know- after getting frustrated and then upset I put the video on private and took down any other football related videos I had uploaded.
My timeline soon became full of boys making videos about their favourite players, the season starting again and end of season predictions. Not once did I see a comment like the ones that had filled my comment section that evening.
I want people to understand what it does to a person- when you are attacked on social media for joining in on large discussion threads or trying to share your opinion on the club you support.
My name is Ellie, I support Reading FC and you will see me sat at every home game next season- rain or shine cheering for my team. I’ll be there in five years time whether they make it to the Premier League or if they get relegated out of the EFL. I will be going to University next year to study football and make a career out of it regardless of my gender. And I know the offside rule.