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.

Pilar Castillo Cid is the Disability Access Officer at Real Betis Balompié. She is the dedicated point of contact for the club's disabled fans, and works across all departments of the club to promote wider accessibility and inclusion.

What made you want to become involved with football?

I have always worked closely with disabled people through various volunteering roles that I have undertaken. When the opportunity to become the first Disability Access Officer at Real Betis became available, I was delighted to be successful with my application.

Now, I support and advise the club about all activities with disabled people. I communicate with disabled supporters, collecting their feedback about activities, stadium access, and their match experience. I am in charge of charity activities, including organising events, planning activities for disabled fans, and putting on educational activities for the local community. I am also in charge of organising corporate social responsibility activities.


Are women as valued as men within football?

Football has historically been dominated by men, but in recent years women have managed to stand out and gain ground within the sport.  However, despite the advances, the wage gap between men and women in the sport is still a big topic of discussion.

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.

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

Being a woman and disabled implies a situation of double discrimination that often goes unnoticed, but which it is essential to overcome in order to achieve full integration.

The struggle for equality between men and women has been a constant in recent decades in developed societies. Although there is still a long way to go, progress has been enormous and the role of women in society and in the family has changed profoundly. It can be said that discrimination against women on the basis of sex has been significantly reduced.

However, the situation changes when we refer to a very specific group, that of disabled women. The fact of being a woman and, in addition, disabled, entails a double discrimination. Within the group of women, it is much more complicated for them to develop, to access the labour market and to obtain a good training.


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

The history of women is the history of the struggle to be recognised as human beings. When gender is crossed by disability, the difficulties multiply. The barriers that disabled women and girls face when it comes to physical exercise and sport include:

  • Deficit in the development of sports habits from childhood
  • Lack of role models. If 50% of women are not present in the sports media, disabled women are practically invisible
  • Lack of social support (family, friends, teachers)
  • Economic cost of activities and sports equipment


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

First of all, disability does not hinder any ability. All of us can do anything we set our minds to, as long as we have perseverance and hard work. Football is more than a sport, it is a perfect activity to bring people together.

Any woman, whether disabled or non-disabled, can dedicate herself to football, either in a sporting capacity or by working in an office job.

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"

"The only way is to love football, which unites women and men, disabled and non-disabled people"

"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"

"If it means that they have to make changes for you to be welcomed, then that can only benefit the game"

Published 8/3/2024