Ahead of International Women's Day 2024, CAFE spoke with women who are passionate about access and inclusion for disabled people.

Whether disabled fans themselves, or working to remove barriers affecting disabled people in sport, we sought a wide range of experiences and opinions to shine a spotlight on the topic.

Jill Rattray is a disabled football fan from Scotland. A passionate Dundee United supporter, she told us about first falling in love with the game and the issues that affect her and her matchday experience.

What made you want to become involved with football? 

I enjoyed watching live matches on television, and I knew straight away that I wanted to witness it from inside the stadiums. It also gave me a way to meet new people with similar interests to me.


Did you ever face any barriers as a woman wanting to become involved with football?

This was a very long time ago. I started attending live matches occasionally in 1998, and I got my first season ticket in 2000. But at first, I was wary of travelling and going to matches alone. I was also concerned about attending matches when I was younger, because I was a bit scared of the terracing in the stadium - I’m really short.


Are women as valued as men within football?

In my opinion, no. I think that there is still a greater general acceptance that men are a part of football.


Is there a particular policy, facility or other measure in place that helps you to feel welcomed within football?

The Quiet Zone at Tannadice makes a big difference for me. It gives a closed-off, interior location inside the Jerry Kerr Stand which helps me to watch the match in comfortable surroundings. 


How do you feel the barriers faced by non-disabled women differ from those faced by disabled women?

There is sometimes an expectation of presenteeism among male fans, that if you don’t attend every game possible then you are seen as a lesser fan. This is harder for disabled women to keep up with.

Some fans expect female fans to be low maintenance, but sometimes this can be difficult for disabled women. I do believe that there is a greater acceptance of disabled male fans than disabled female fans. 

What can be done to remove the barriers that prevent disabled women from football? 

Raising awareness of ableist abuse, and a crackdown on fans who do it, is absolutely key.

All clubs should have disabled supporters associations and regularly consult with their female members to understand their experiences and concerns better.

We should raise awareness of the disability accommodations possible inside a stadium, and how to get something put in place that doesn’t exist.


What advice would you give to a disabled woman who feels that she can’t become involved in football?

Yes you can. You becoming involved makes football better.

If it means that they have to make changes for you to be welcomed, then that can only benefit the club and, in turn, the game. 

Celebrating International Women's Day 2024

Joana Cal appointed to CAFE Board of Trustees

"When I started going to watch live football, it was very noticeable that disabled women did not go to matches very often"

"Female ambassadors and representation in the game really do make a difference, especially for young women"

"I realised later that the pressure was actually, to some extent, double. Not only am I a woman, but I am also a disabled woman"

"The truth is that football has always been a man's world, but little by little women are making inroads and taking on roles that were not so common in the past"

"There still isn’t the same acceptance for women playing or watching football"

"I have always felt valued as a person, but the work that we women do needs to be defended and fought for much more than that of men"

Published 8/3/2024