Next in our period powerful series, we chat to the girls at On The Ball, who are campaigning for free period products at football grounds. Here, we chat all about the campaign, the problems women are facing when it comes to the accessibility of period products in public spaces and the future goals for the campaign.
Could you tell us a bit about On The Ball?
On The Ball is a fan-led, grassroots campaign encouraging fans to ask their teams to provide free period products at football grounds. We (Orlaith Duffy, Erin Slaven and Mikaela McKinley) started the campaign in March of this year with our own club, Celtic FC. Celtic agreed to our proposal and on 4th May announced that they would be providing free period products in all female and accessible toilets. Since May, we have been empowering other football fans to contact their clubs and ask that they get on board with the campaign. 45 football clubs across the UK are now On The Ball with free period products, ranging from Premier League teams to non- league teams.
What motivated you to start On The Ball?
Period Poverty is a widespread issue. We were already aware of the work of the Scottish government to have products available in schools and universities. We thought social inclusion was just as important and as three season ticket holders, we felt we had an opportunity to make some positive change through our football club. We wanted to highlight how forward-thinking and inclusive football can be for women and at the same time raise awareness of the very real issue of Period Poverty that many women are facing in the UK.
What are the main aims of the campaign?
By supporting our campaign, football clubs help promote the four main aims of our campaign:
We believe period products should be readily available at no cost, just like toilet roll and soap!
Periods are a taboo subject and shouldn’t be. We want to put periods into public consciousness and create discussion on menstruation. Social attitude needs to change!
Increased visibility for female football fans! We want football clubs to show that they are forward-thinking and inclusive. Meet the needs of their fans and send out a strong message to others!
Period poverty is a major issue – we want to do our bit to highlight this.
What has the response been like to the campaign?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive – we have had widespread media coverage and a huge amount of support! However, we have faced a lot of negativity too. Periods are a taboo subject and bringing them into public consciousness in a male-dominated area was always going to generate a bit of backlash. Instead of rising to negative comments, we use these to open up discussion and engage in healthy debate. This helps us in our aim of changing social attitudes on the issue. We’ve seen many people change their opinion following a brief twitter exchange – which has been fantastic!
What problems are women facing when it comes to the accessibility of products in public spaces?
The majority of the places we visit are unlikely to have sufficient period product provision in place. This is even the case in our workplaces where we are spending a considerable amount of our lives! All of these places will have toilet roll and other essential items available for us – this should be extended to include period products. There is limited research around menstruation, but what we do know is that women are often caught short. This causes a whole array of problems for us – but it is avoidable. There’s a lot of change needed across society. We will need more than just supplying free period products to resolve the overall issues. However, we’re really hopeful and we believe that this is just the start of making our world a period positive place! We’re delighted football clubs are taking the lead and making a real effort to contribute towards this.
What are your future goals for the campaign?
We hope to keep the campaign grassroots and fan-led for as long as possible. When we first started our campaign we never expected it to snowball as quickly or be as successful as it has been in such a short period of time. We hope fans continue to get in touch with us for our support to take our campaign to their clubs. We want all football teams in the UK and beyond to make period products readily available and at no cost to their supporters. We hope that by doing so, this will then lead the way for other places and spaces to follow suit!
Thanks so much to On The Ball for this inspiring blog and for sharing insights into how football clubs are tackling period poverty thanks to their fans. For more Period Powerful Profiles, catch up on our chat with the girls from Preventing Period Poverty here.