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Sunderland Ladies v Liverpool Women- FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup

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On International Women’s Day, what does solidarity with the women who make our game really mean?

Sunderland AFC has more than one senior team - and Roker Report covers them both, our Lasses content being in association with the @HerGameToo campaign. This International Women’s Day our editor Rich Speight looks at what this means in practice, and want more we can do.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Last year, Roker Report became one of the first fanzines in the UK to partner with the pioneering anti-sexism campaign Her Game Too, something we’re proud of and a standard we hold ourselves to every day.

It’s no good just popping a box at the bottom of our articles if we don’t actually work to progress this agenda. So I want to take a few minutes this International Women’s Day to say what it means to our fanzine, and what supporting women’s equality actually requires in the future.


First and foremost, supporting equality and the Her Game Too campaign means writing and talking about sexism and misogyny in our game and calling it out when we see it. It means actually practicing equality, respect, and equal treatment in all aspects of your work.

Whether its behaviour in and around the Stadium of Light on matchdays or on social media, we know that women face abuse and challenges that men simply do not and we will not stand by and accept it as “just a bit of banter” when it impacts on the women who support our club.

It means cheering as heartily when our women’s team scores as you would when the men score. We will provide live updates and put up videos and photos during Sunderland’s Sunday afternoon games, even if they don’t get the volume of likes and shares that the rest of our tweets do. For those who do follow the lasses, for their friends and family who can’t make the game, this is important - especially when no live stream or radio commentary is available.

Sunderland Ladies v Durham Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Stu Forster - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

It means continually pushing the Lasses further up all agendas at the club so they’re no longer viewed as simply “any other business”, challenging the club to do more and to be better, and presenting the case for investment in women’s football as part of what it means to be a 21st-century football club.

More and more clubs have partnered directly with Her Game Too to send the message to their fans that sexism is unacceptable and to put equality on their agendas, but from Sunderland AFC we only hear that they have appointed a director to lead on the Equality, Inclusivity & Diversity agenda - but nothing substantive about what this means in practice.

It means Roker Report provides as in-depth and comprehensive coverage of Sunderland AFC Ladies as we can in the time we have at our disposal. We’re a team of five writers and podcasters, with different skills and interests, but together we pool our talents and knowledge to bring Sunderland supporters a level of fan-generated content that is rare in women’s football.

It means seeking out and celebrating the rich history of women’s football on Wearside, telling the stories of the women who’ve made Sunderland and the surrounding areas one of the powerhouses of the game and has generated England internationals from as long ago as the 1910s.

It means raising our voices, however embarrassing it might be, to protest against the historical injustice and inequality in the game. It means banding together with supporters of other clubs to help to save clubs in trouble and promote the interests of women’s football more widely. It means contributing to all efforts to increase the visibility and sustainability of the women’s game, including engaging with the Fan Led Review of football.

Sunderland Ladies v Notts County - WSL 1 Photo by Serena Taylor/The FA via Getty Images

I, along with my fellow writers, have also co-created and joined the Women’s Football Fan Collective with fans of clubs big and small to advocate for real and lasting change, and we’ve already forced the FA to commit to increasing the prize money for the FA Cup as a result.

We shouldn't just sit here and congratulate ourselves - today of all days we need to ask ourselves what more can we do?

I am conscious that I’m a man writing about women’s issues and women’s football; I’m an ally but I don’t have the lived experience that my colleagues Charlotte Patterson and Katie Hume do of being a female football fan. We should recruit more writers and podcasters who want to contribute to our coverage, particularly more women - and if you or anyone you know might be interested in joining us, do email us and let us know.

In our general writing, I think we should clearly differentiate whether we’re discussing the men’s or the women’s side. Yes, Sunderland AFC Ladies is the name of the women’s team and the men’s side is the original and longest established of the two senior squads at our club, but in general, I will use Sunderland and refer to either the men’s team or the women’s team, the Lads or the Lasses, Alex Neil’s side or Mel Reay’s side.

Sunderland v Sheffield United: FA Women’s Championship Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This isn’t something I can or will dictate to our writers - we’re all individuals and it’s a personal choice - but it’s something I will do when I sit down at the keyboard or at the mic to discuss the goings-on at the club.

I see it as a good habit to get into as it ensures that, even when writing about the men’s team, we’re acknowledging that they are not the be-all-and-end-all of football at our club - this simple act implicitly recognises the value of the women’s game. Nobody can or should force anyone to care about or take an interest in women’s football (or men’s football for the matter), but it costs nothing to be respectful.

Our language matters, words are powerful, and our actions can make a difference. I want to wish all our female supporters and their allies a very happy International Women’s Day - let’s make the next 12 months even more progressive than the last.

FAN LETTERS!

Fan Letters: “Sunderland should consider installing a retractable roof at the Stadium of Light”

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On This Day (27 November 1993): New Sunderland boss Buxton gets the Collywobbles!

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