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Alison, her aim is true

It’s a well-known fact that we’ve had no trophies or promotions to celebrate for 32 years. No one has ever sent a text message about an Oldham Athletic trophy win. So, we should definitely celebrate whatever victories we can claim, and we should all congratulate our Her Game Too lead ambassador, Alison Schofield, on winning the Fan of the Year Award at this week’s Non-League Paper Awards.

Image: National Game Awards

Alison has been a Her Game Too ambassador for the club since March 2022. At the time, she told the club website “Having supported Latics since I was a young girl, it means the world to me that my club has partnered with the campaign. As a female fan who has experienced and witnessed sexism, it’s great to see Oldham Athletic making a pledge to stand up against it and support their female fans.” She’s since been joined by advocates Andrea Wilkes, Dawn Marsden, Lauren Parry, Sammy Dixon and Kerry Topping.

Accepting the award, Alison paid tribute to her teammates: “We are a team of six and we wouldn’t have achieved what we have this past season without each and every one of them, so a massive thank you to Dawn, Andrea, Sammy, Lauren and Kerry. I’m accepting this award on their behalf.” She also thanked the wider Latics community: “I thank my club, Oldham Athletic, the Oldham Athletic Community Trust, the Oldham Athletic women and girls’ team, Oldham Athletic Fan Council, and all the fans who have supported us in making a positive difference, helped bring our ideas to reality at Boundary Park, and committed to continue to work with us for the seasons to come to keep improving things.”

The visibility of the Her Game Too campaign at Boundary Park, and the practical changes that have been made around the ground, reflect the wider improvements that have been made under the Rothwells’ ownership. Frank spoke of his ‘passion for ladies’ toilets’ at the press conference to announce the takeover, and, true to his word, we now have hot water, soap, (mostly) flushing toilets and, in conjunction with Her Game Too and with support from the Co-op Royton and Sainsburys Oldham, free sanitary products.

And I’m deliberately mentioning the sanitary products alongside the soap for anyone about to respond with “why should they get free tampons, we don’t get free razors”. No one has a shave in a public toilet, lads. And no-one expects you to take soap and toilet roll out with you.

The Her Game Too team have also put posters up around the ground detailing how to report any sexist abuse. This is a great idea, and something I wish had been around when I was younger. Now that I’m a middle-aged woman who goes to matches with a 6ft 3 bloke, I’m a lot more confident about telling people to pack it in if they’re shouting ‘get back in the kitchen’ style nonsense (quite often, an angry glare will do it – maybe I’m getting scarier in my old age). When I was younger and going to matches on my own, though, I wouldn’t have dared, because a young woman on her own confronting an angry bloke rarely ends well. At best you’ll get told to lighten up and “it’s only banter” and get the piss taken out of you; at worst, he’ll get more aggressive. And it shouldn’t be up to women to have to put themselves in the line of fire to deal with sexist abuse.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re clearly someone of impeccable taste and intelligence, in which case you should definitely also read the Her Game Too team’s blog, if you don’t already. Before every home game, they interview a female fan, player or employee from the visiting team, and it’s always a fascinating snapshot of our opponents. Did you know that Barnet Church is the highest point between York and London? Or that Wealdstone have a gun turret in the top corner of their ground? There’s also a great interview with Alison, and interviews with her fellow advocates.

The Boundary Park Alert System salutes you and your comrades, Alison. Here’s to all the great work you’ve done to help make Boundary Park a better place for women to be. I’m not sure if getting the club to stock wine in the Rocky bar is within your remit, but I can only ask. Hopefully in the future we’ll be seeing the women’s and girls’ teams playing on our fancy new pitch. Keep up the great work, sisters, and KTMFF.

Written by Arlene Finnigan. Photos from the Her Game Too blog.

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