Forging ahead together

Photo: Germán Parga

REPORTS 05 Mar 2020 - Supporters' Clubs World Confederation

FC Barcelona's supporters' clubs promote equality with their women's teams, teaching that sport is gender-blind

Women's sport is now filling stadiums and front pages worldwide. This increasingly professionalised sector has sparked the public's interest and passion. As clearly demonstrated by the huge numbers drawn to see FC Barcelona's women's first team, which week after week has been filling the recently inaugurated Johan Cruyff Stadium, and is racking up wins in all competitions. And when it comes to the fan base, then the supporters' clubs are always right at the front cheering on our female athletes.

Over recent decades women have risen their voice to play a relevant role in society in general, and in the world of sports in particular. The supporters' clubs have played a key role in this process, with more and more women joining their ranks and taking up senior positions on the governing bodies of both the ‘penyes’ themselves and the federations. What is more, though, bearing in mind the special relationship between the movement and its most immediate social context, an increasing number of supporters' clubs are promoting women's support among their own activities, as a reflection of a changing society.

In this regard the Gran Penya Barcelonista de Águilas in the Murcia region was the pioneer in setting up its own local women's handball and basketball teams. The two teams were entirely backed by the supporters' club, which entered them in competition for many years, although now they are no longer under its control.

The Agrupació and grassroots women's football 

It is vital to make it quite clear from an early age that sport is gender-blind and free from any limitation. That football is for everyone and they can all feel represented. The Agrupació de Futbol de Clubs i Penyes del FC Barcelona dates back over 60 years, and fulfils a fundamental role in this regard. The 16 supporters' clubs which make up the organisation account for 27 mixed and women's teams with a total of 115 female players. The Agrupació acts as a vehicle to convey educational, social and personal values to girls, such as teamwork, fair play, respect, camaraderie, humility and an awareness of current social issues.

Teams with real strength

Many supporters' clubs contribute their huge enthusiasm, strength and social impact to the equality equation, by running their own female development teams. One clear example is provided by PB Montmeló, whose Vice-Chairman is also the President of the Supporters' Clubs World Confederation, Antoni Guil, and which has four women's Futsal football teams, a junior female handball team, and another two mixed teams. It is specifically at the youngest ages that many of the teams are mixed, as in the case of PB Sant Vicenç de les Horts, where the football academy includes girls. Sporting diversity is likewise a distinctive feature of the ‘penyes’, and despite the gender imbalance in football, they promote the game and also offer such sports as basketball and hockey.

Just as there are no limitations in terms of gender or the range of sports, the same applies to age. PB Barberà del Vallès, for example, runs a women's Futsal football team with ten players in the Senior category, who take part in Catalonia's Second Division in the sport. This goal of equality is clearly shared by all the supporters' clubs, including at the international level, since PB Guatemala, for example, has a women's football team. 

Essential partnerships

The supporters' clubs typically run and undertake a great many social, cultural, leisure and sporting projects in their regions. For its part, PB La Granada provides finance and human and material resources for the La Granada Football Club throughout the year, including its women's first team which plays in the Second Division. The relationship is such a close one that ‘penya’ is there in front of the fans when the team is presented at the start of the season. Meanwhile, PB Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues organises the women's grassroots football match to mark the town's festivities each year together with the local club. The involvement does not end there, however: a number of female members typically volunteer to take part in the competition.

Women are the future of the supporters' clubs

Many other supporters' clubs have joined forces with their female members to visibly foster women's sport as part of this social and sporting revolution. PB Cervelló, for example, decided to add a female team to its football academy, which already covers all male categories. The club set about recruiting female players and has been in training since last autumn, with the aim of registering with the federation and entering competitions from next season onwards. The project is still in its early days and has not yet fully taken shape, but if everyone gets involved the time will come when these are no longer small-scale pioneering projects, and instead become the norm.