International Women's Day is celebrated globally each year on 8 March, to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. We are proud to have this opportunity to highlight some of the amazing women working to improve access and inclusion within the sports sector, as well as sharing the stories of disabled fans who passionately follow their teams.

CAFE is committed to a game that is welcoming, accessible and available to all. Our primary focus is to support the sports industry in removing the barriers that can prevent disabled people from taking their rightful places across all levels of the game. We are also mindful that additional barriers can often impact on people for a host of reasons, including race, religion, sexuality and gender.

We believe that sport has an incredibly unique power to remove these barriers and provide opportunities for everybody. 

Ahead of International Women's Day, we spoke with a number of disabled women who are huge football fans about their experiences and hopes for the future. We also spoke with women working in the industry, who are changing the game and helping to open doors that may not have always been wide open.

Today, CAFE is privileged to share these experiences in the hope that disabled women across the globe will be empowered to feel at home within the sports sector.

A report from Sport Scotland noted that a male-dominated environment, sexual harassment and abuse, and prejudice against disabled people are factors leading to a lack of engagement for women in football, with disabled women being less likely to engage than non-disabled women at all levels.

The assumption that simply removing physical barriers would increase participation or engagement can be harmful, as the attitudinal barriers - the environment of verbal abuse, alienation or simply discomfort - can leave many disabled and non-disabled women feeling that they cannot engage with the football community.

One study by Women in Sport in 2023 focused on deaf teenage girls in England and their engagement with sports. They highlighted a range of barriers that exist not only for deaf players in football, but particularly for young girls and women. A common experience many of these girls described was being told they could not participate in playing football – either due to being a girl, being deaf, or both.

In recent years, there has been a continually growing movement to see women become more involved in football; most recently, the FIFA Women’s World Cup recorded its highest levels of viewership and an increased level of engagement from not only other women, but men, too. 

It has not always been easy for women to become involved in sport, whether as a player, a fan or an employee. Whilst there is still much work to do in this area, we are honoured to work alongside so many incredible women who are helping to move the goalposts. 

When I started going to watch live football in 1993, it was very noticeable that disabled women did not go to matches very often. I was usually the only girl at many of my team’s games. Access would have played a part in this, but I also feel that it was down to women feeling they would not be welcome or treated the same as men 
- Amy Wilson, CAFE Fans Liaison, Access and Administration Officer

At CAFE we are privileged to work with incredible women every day. Currently, 33% of our Board of Trustees and 40% of our Team are women, who bring tremendous knowledge, experience and value to all of our works.

Working at CAFE has given me the chance to meet so many wonderful and proactive women working to improve football for disabled women, both on and off the pitch. Getting to help create more space for disabled people and specifically women within football has been greatly rewarding and I think there will be even greater steps in the coming years
- Hollie Wilson, CAFE Research Officer

Sport, and indeed our wider society, is at its strongest when it is truly reflective of the population and its diverse characteristics. With more women involved, as fans, players, coaches, employees, administrators, leaders and decision makers, we will undoubtedly witness a greater diversity of thought and a game that is open for all.

If you are a disabled woman who is a football fan, or working within sport, or maybe feels that there is not a place for you in the industry, we want to hear from you! Please contact us via email at [email protected]

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"

Published 8/3/2024