With the dominance of message boards, podcasts and the likes – oh goodness – Arsenal Fan TV, football fans have come to relish a strange celebrity of their own lately. But for those who just happen to be women, it would be fair to say that the spotlight doesn’t find them quite as often…
As it happens this 23 per cent are showing up week after week, their dedication just as steady as the next fan – and thanks to Girlfans, a zine created by fashion lecturer and Liverpool supporter Jacqui McAssey over weekends and holidays, we can see they are magnificent. From pensioners proudly displaying their intarsia scarves peppered with 40-year-old badges to teensy girls pairing player shirts with tiaras and tribal face paint, the creativity with which these fans express their allegiance is a thing to behold.
Edie Mullen – GQ Style, April 2018
A groundbreaking women’s football history conference aims to blow apart perceptions of the sport as it kicks off at the National Football Museum in Manchester on Thursday.
Photographer, academic and football fan Jacqui McAssey’s visual project Girlfans seeks to retell the narrative about women at the game. In 2013 she began photographing female fans in her home town, Liverpool, interested in reflecting the statistic that 23% of fans attending Premier League matches are women. “As a girl growing up in Liverpool I would always hear brilliant stories of men going to cup finals, but I never heard stories of women. So I wanted to place women at the centre of football culture.” Her project has grown in stature with the V&A art library, GQ Style and the Whitworth gallery in Manchester showcasing her work.
One of her favourite stories is of Everton fan Elaine Shaw who, together with her 65-year-old mother, travelled to the 1985 European Cup Winners’ Cup final at Feyenoord. “They got on the ferry, they slept on a bench, and on the grass outside, they did the same thing as the men – which is so often the case for female fans. But I never heard those stories.”
McAssey’s work also disrupts the idea that men pass down an interest in football to women in their families. “The photograph of grandmother and granddaughter Chris and Georgia Blue Kenyon, at the Etihad, is representative of a significant shift in the dynamic, that of women introducing girls (and boys) to the sport.”
Anna Kessel – The Guardian, March 2018
Football games: crowds chanting, spit flying, ears combusting. Half-eaten pies congealing on concrete. A throbbing, pulsating swell of testosterone. Pints. Grown men weeping like little kids, little kids cussing like grown men. Enter Jacqui McAssey, a lecturer in fashion communication at Liverpool John Moores University. In 2013, she flocked to Anfield along with another 50,000 disciples of the beautiful game, and “realised that there were so many women and girls around me, but they were so underrepresented [in relevant media]”. So she created Girlfans, a zine documenting football’s most fervent female followers.
“Of course sexism still exists at football matches,” Jacqui continues, “but we’re moving in a positive direction. There has never been a better time to be a female football supporter, or a female football player.” She points to Women at the Game, an initiative aiming to encourage female footie fans to get among the sweat-smothered action in an inclusive, supportive environment. There’s also the issue of merch. After trawling through football paraphernalia that was “gender-specific and patronising”, Jacqui was compelled to document how women actually dress up (or not) for the match, which generally doesn’t involve the too-tight-scoop-neck-hug-all-the-wrong-bits ‘female’ shirt iterations on offer. “There is a desire among many fans to want the same shirt the players wear, not a feminine version of the shirt,” she elaborates. “Many young women wear boys’ shirts, because they prefer a normal neckline but want a tighter fit. Some women wear their colours head-to-toe, or none at all — just as men do.”
Georgie Wright – iD-Vice, November 2017.
“McAssey’s important work with Girlfans is illuminating the overlooked female fan experience while challenging the unfounded assumptions that continue to be made about it. What is left more than clear is that female fans are diverse, knowledgeable, passionate, and unsurprisingly stylish, and that clearly begins with McAssey herself.”
Carlos Rodriguez – Kicks to the Pitch, November 2017
“…Or there was the French fan, dressed like a soccer-black panther in a zipped-up black leather biker jacket with, yes, a black beret, and big dark shades. Splashes of red and a ‘Don’t Buy the Sun’ badge at her heart bring us back to Merseyside and LFC’s own history of struggle.”
Francesca Middleton, Nerve Magazine – March 2017
An important observation is that the now ubiquitous ‘tailored for women’ merchandise fails to be seen among the Girlfans. None of this shrunk down, v-necked, Swarovski-crystalled, chihuahua crap that football merchandisers think women would prefer to wear. McAssey comments that she isn’t dead set against the cliché merchandise, but that sponsors have to recognise that this is a game for two sexes that don’t require differentiation.
Georgina Schwarz, Bido Lito – March 2017
“…the results are stunning…passionate, evocative fanzines depicting what makes a woman football supporter in the modern age.”
Peter Guy, Liverpool Echo – February, 2017
To me the the most surprising (page) is one of the most mundane, in a really good way, is Girlfans…the football Girlfans. There was something kind of surprising in it.’
Bay Garnett, Fanpages – 2017
“…some of my new favourite work on female fans – detailed, nuanced and innovative.”
Jean Williams, Professor of Sport, Wolverhampton University – November, 2016
“Nothing like this had been done so authentically for women in print before. It offers proof that female fans are just as passionate about their club as male fans, and arguably better dressed. The zine also draws upon football’s rich history of fan-made publications and the extra special, collectable sentiment of print in our digital age.”
Felicia Pennant, Season Zine – May, 2016
“Girlfans is not what you’d expect from a football zine. The digital mini turns the lens on an often overlooked part of the fanbase – women. The result is a self-published photobook celebrating the style and spirit of female football supporters.”
Newspaper Club – May, 2015