This weekend I went to a football game without any fear. It was great | Jess Hayes

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When I was young I was groped, stared at and cat-called at Premier League games but the WSL shows that attending a match can be fun and safe

The first time I was groped at a Premier League match I was 13. I was there with my dad, we had season tickets and were squeezing past a row of men in the 88th minute to beat the crowds to the tube. I didn’t say anything and it wasn’t the last time it happened that season, either. The season before that I won a competition and got the chance to be a ball girl at Wembley during a Charity Shield match. Every time I ran to collect the ball to throw it back on to the pitch I was wolf‑whistled and cat‑called by a section of the fans. I was 12.

In these experiences and many more I knew I was an interloper and in my mind I had no choice but to accept the rewards of that along with everything else. The rewards were the atmosphere and getting to see my team play, everything else being the groping, the lingering stares, the cat calling; in addition to being exposed to the unchecked and extreme racism, the casual homophobia and the relentless, aggressive abuse of players on both sides.

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Written by Jess Hayes
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