Brighton has become the first Premier League football club to provide period products for free in its women’s toilets.
It’s a great move towards universally tackling period poverty across all sectors in the UK, and it’s come as a result of the “On the Ball” campaign — launched by three students in Scotland to highlight the fact that some football fans are women, and they’re affected by the same issues as women everywhere.
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Scotland has been taking serious action against period poverty this year and, just this week, it became the first country in the world to offer free menstrual products to students at schools, colleges, and universities across the country.
Some 13 clubs are now signed up to the campaign, including League One’s Barnsley FC, according to the Guardian. The campaign has really taken off this month, after a fan tweeted about the free period products available from Barnsley.
And now, Liverpool and Everton are also reported to be discussing a similar move, said the Guardian.
Students Orlaith Duffy, Erin Slaven, and Mikaela McKinley, from Glasgow and all supporters of Celtic FC, are to thank.
“We’re all football fans … and we were wondering at the start of the year, they could be doing more here,” Slaven told the BBC’s Woman’s Hour.
They first approached Celtic, which they said was “really, really welcoming” in its approach to the campaign. But once they’d got Celtic on board, they deciding to start targeting other clubs across the country.
Never seen this in a football ground before. Bloomin’ marvellous. Chapeau @BarnsleyFC. #barnsleyfc#afcwimbledonpic.twitter.com/Sqkv4IXxz9— Hazel (@hackneyhaz) August 18, 2018
“We don’t pay for toilet roll, we don’t pay for soaps, so why do we not expect these products to be included to help us manage our periods,” added McKinley, who described making period products available for free in public spaces as a “no-brainer.”
They said, given the expensive price of tickets to some football matches, that they often get asked why a woman can’t afford period products if she can afford to be at the match in the first place.
“A lot of tickets are given away for free, to charities, there are young girls and women there, often with male relatives, who get caught short,” said Slaven.
“They don’t want to say, ‘dad, or grandad, can i have £2 and it’s got to be two £1 coins for the machine.’ It’s uncomfortable,” she continued. “Menstrual cycle implies that periods are dead regular, we can expect them at this time of the month… but the reality is we don’t wake up and know that they’re coming, we get caught short all the time.”
“And we’ve spoke to women that have to leave at half time, because the toilets at their football grounds just haven’t been able to accommodate their needs,” she said.
And she added: “We don’t feel we should be paying for something that is essential, the price you pay for having a female reproductive system… We just feel it’s the right, common sense thing to do to make sure women’s needs are met.”
Football clubs are recognising that women are #sportsfans too! Brighton to offer free sanitary products to female fans in Premier League first. Dare I say that more diverse boardrooms would help@this campaign gain traction...#WomenInSporthttps://t.co/Mj9pRFn3f2— Keith Parry (@sportinaus) August 29, 2018
While it’s often middle-aged men in football boardrooms, and the trio have found it uncomfortable approaching them to talk about periods, they added that, for a “male-dominated sphere…there are a lot of men on board with it, which is really heartening to see.”
Period poverty is a significant issue in the UK, but it’s only really hit headlines in recent years. In 2017, it was revealed that girls across the UK were having to skip school when on their periods because they couldn’t afford menstrual products — with many using wads of tissue, newspaper, or even socks and old clothes instead.
In Britain, according to research by Plan International UK, one in every 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products. And it’s presenting an obstacle both to education and employment.
Some 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their periods — and, of these, 59% made up a different reason because of the taboo around talking about periods.