Many of you will no doubt already be familiar with HerGameToo, which exists to fight sexism in football.
Setup by a group of female supporters who are passionate about the game, their mission is to eradicate the stigmas that still surround the women’s game to this day.
The initiative is working hard to ensure both women and girls of all ages feel confident and safe sharing their opinions about football both online and in real life without fear of sexist abuse, and what better time to highlight the campaign with our double-header today.
As part of HerGameToo, every club is assigned an ambassador from the group, providing a point of contact for anyone experiencing sexism, whether it’s on the pitch, in the football industry or around supporting their club.
The ambassadors work closely with club officials to identify those carrying out the abuse and take the appropriate action.
And this is where we introduce Marie Melvin, Swindon Town’s official HerGameToo representative.
Marie grew up in the 1970s supporting Rotherham United and loved playing football, but there was nowhere for her to play other than after school in the park with the boys.
After moving to Swindon last year, she was really excited to start supporting her new team and has fallen in love with the club.
Marie was keen to get involved with the HerGameToo movement to ensure there are plenty of opportunities for girls and women to play the beautiful game that didn’t exist when she was younger.
She’s also passionate about helping overcome online sexist abuse that frustratingly still takes place on football forums across the web.
This ranges from sexist ‘banter’ that attempts to silence and invalidate women to serious threats of sexual violence.
Speaking to Town’s Media Team, Marie said she feels extremely lucky to be an official ambassador for such a forward-thinking and progressive club like Swindon.
“I’m privileged to be part of a club like Swindon Town in this capacity.
“The integration of the women’s team and the double-header today is such a huge and exciting step and I really hope it’s well supported.
“Swindon has an amazing Community Foundation, Supporters Club and so many playing opportunities for children in the area.
“I’m relatively new in town but always feel comfortable going to games alone. There is a real family-friendly and inclusive environment here which will only continue to grow.”
If you would like to contact Marie to find out more about her role, report a problem or discuss anything at all, she can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the HerGameToo Swindon Instagram account @HerGameToo_Swindon.
With Marie doing her bit to drive positive change and support the club in this area, it was only right we also got one of our most influential female staff members involved as well.
Ally Willetts is our Lead First-Team Physiotherapist, and has been with the club since 2019, initially starting out with our Under-18s.
She got an opportunity to work with the First-Team in 2020, and has now been looking after our players both on and off the pitch on a full-time basis since August last year.
Ally is much loved across the football club by all, and was really keen to take on the role as our very own, ‘in-house,’ HerGameToo ambassador, and she’ll work closely with Marie moving forward.
We caught up with her to find out what becoming a HerGameToo ambassador means to her and why she chose to get involved.
Ally, firstly, what does it mean to now hold the ambassador role at the football club for such an influential campaign…
“It means being able to give back to the wider football community at Swindon that have been so welcoming of me and my position within the club.
“I want to continue to support women to feel empowered to work in football in all capacities, whether that’s spectating, volunteering or paid employment.”
Why did you choose to become the club’s HerGameTwo ambassador?
“When our Chief Exec, Rob Angus, approached me about the position, it was an easy ‘yes’.
“Having experienced bullying in my teens, I see this as an opportunity to support women to feel welcome and included as valuable members of our fantastic football club.”
Tell us a little more about what the ambassador role entails?
“The role means working alongside our fans ambassador, Marie, to make our faces known to staff and fans so they feel comfortable and able to approach either of us about any sexist abuse they receive at the ground.
“We are then able to follow the clubs reporting system to have these issues investigated.
“This is a huge step. I think it’s good for people to know they can feel reassured we’ll take these instances very seriously if they arise, and will always take the appropriate course of action.”
How important is it that the club gets behind this initiative?
“In helping to eradicate sexism in football, it’s vital the club takes a stance in supporting this movement alongside the huge number of other clubs and sports doing the same.
“We need to build an army and a culture that is inclusive.
“The more people that get behind the messages that HerGameToo promotes, the safer and more enjoyable football will become for everyone.”
What’s been done at the club so far and what are you hoping to achieve?
“The club is already doing so much to advocate women and ensure they feel welcome at the club by having female ball girls, providing free sanitary products in bathrooms, showcasing our female fans and staff within the club, and more recently, joining forces with Swindon Town Women to support them in every aspect.
“The club are already doing my job for me as it’s part of our DNA here, but we can still do more.
“Other things we plan to do is have more of a presence on social media, as well as producing posters, sign boards and maybe start a female fans forum which I believe some other clubs already have in place.
“This will provide a safe space for women to discuss any issues or concerns they have to enhance their experience.”