“WE WANT OTHER FEMALE FANS TO FEEL EMPOWERED” – Interview with #OnTheBall

If you haven’t heard of them already, Orlaith, Erin, and Mikaela are three awesome Scottish lasses fighting to make period products freely available to all in football grounds. Period poverty is a worldwide issue that was unfortunately a huge taboo until recent years, and we think it’s great that these women aren’t just joining in on the conversation, but are actively campaigning for change. Their core beliefs are as follows:

They have managed to make their dream a reality at almost 30 football stadiums, an astounding achievement that is making a huge difference in the male-dominated footballing scene. Since we’re big admirers, we spoke to the three founders to find out more about their journey.

 

Hi Orlaith, Erin and Mikaela, we’re Equipo, and we really admire what you’ve achieved with your campaign. We’d love to get to know you and learn more about On The Ball.

 

Firstly, when did you decide you really needed to do something about this problem? In other words, what made you say ‘right, this is something women face all over the country – it’s time somebody made a move’?

We were aware of ongoing work to implement free period products in schools, universities and colleges at both a parliamentary and activist level. As we were interested in this, and are also football fans, it felt like common sense for us to pursue this in football grounds. It was an area that nobody had touched on, perhaps due to it being a male-dominated environment, but we still felt we could incite change. – Erin

 

Leading on from that, what was the first step you made with your home club, Celtic? Has it become easier the more teams you’ve had on board?

The first step we made with Celtic was a petition. We didn’t want to put massive pressure on the club, it was more just to gauge what type of mandate we had to take this to Celtic. We needed to know that we had considerable support to go forward with it.
While we haven’t made petitions for other clubs, it still isn’t 100% easy. Instead we have been working with fans from other clubs and advising them on how to make change at their own team – this keeps us really busy! It’s easier in the sense that more teams are keen to get #OnTheBall – so it isn’t taking as long for change to be made once fans approach their club. – Erin

 

“It felt like common sense for us to pursue this in football grounds”

 

How did it feel when the first club said yes?

It was amazing! Since the first club was our own team, Celtic – we were absolutely delighted! We were so proud that our team would be the ones to lead by example on this important issue, increase the visibility of female fans and raise awareness of period poverty. More clubs are getting on board all the time, but it’s still so exciting when we have a new team #OnTheBall. – Erin

 

 

Have you faced any problems along the way? If so, how do you go about tackling them?

We’ve been very open about the negativity and problems we’ve faced during the campaign, and it’s honestly something we half expected. When we began talking about periods and period poverty, a taboo subject that has such a stigma attached to it we knew we were going to get some backlash.

We’ve been told many times ‘if you can afford a match ticket surely you can afford a tampon!’ or ‘shouldn’t you just have one in your bag/jacket?’…

Yes, some of us have paid for our tickets, but many people are gifted tickets from charities and friends/family so the financial situation of any female shouldn’t come into the argument at all in our eyes. Also, when anyone uses the facilities at the grounds do they expect to pay for soap & toilet roll? Period products are just as necessary to female hygienic needs. Instead of rising to the negativity, we used these comments to open up discussion and to change social attitudes towards periods. – Orlaith

 

How long have you all been supporting Celtic? Did any of your personal experiences play into On The Ball?

We’re all life-long Celtic fans who have been going to games since we were really young. I’ve personally been lucky enough not to be in the position that I needed a tampon in an emergency at the football but I have in other places. That initial panic of realising you’ve been caught short and don’t have any products or the correct change for the machines (if there even are any) is awful. Having to find the closest toilet to improvise with what you can, such as rolled-up toilet paper that’s placed so uncomfortably you worry about how durable it is and how long it’ll take you to get a tampon or pad. It’s a situation no female should be faced with, yet we have females choosing between period products or their dinner with their last few pound. – Orlaith

 

 

Do you have any words of advice for young female fans whose teams are yet to agree to free menstrual products? Is there anything they can do to help out?

Get in touch with us via our Twitter, Instagram or email! We’re here to support you all the way. We’ll give you loads of information so that you can draft up an email to your club asking them to get On The Ball and provide free period products. We want our campaign to remain fan-led for as long as possible so we rely on fans getting in touch with us to take things forward with their own clubs. We want other female fans to feel empowered to push for change and let their voices be heard by their clubs. If any fans want to see their club get involved but are not too sure about doing this alone, we would encourage them to get in touch with supporters’ groups and trusts. They can contact us or take our campaign to the club on the fan’s behalf. – Mikaela

 

In what other ways do you think we can fight the taboo of periods in sports?

By providing free period products, I feel our football clubs are already going one step ahead of the majority of other areas where we would like to see change, such as our workplaces, schools, bars, and beyond. The 29 clubs who have so far decided to get involved have sent a strong message out to wider society about periods by creating a discussion on the subject, and we’re so proud of the impact they’ve made! On The Ball’s focus will remain solely on football, however we would love other sports to get involved. – Mikaela

 

“We want other female fans to feel empowered”

 

What are your future plans for the campaign? Have you thought about spreading it further than the UK?

We have had some interest from fans in Africa, India, and Germany already and we would love others to get involved. We run the campaign in our spare time between work, university, and every day life so it has been difficult for us to manage at times – this means we are often restricted as to how much we can take on. Our initial aim was to get all Scottish Premiership teams on board, we have 3 involved so far (Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell) so there is still a lot of work to be done within our own league. We plan to continue supporting fans and clubs with implementing free period products at their grounds – in doing so we increase the visibility of female football fans and keep on highlighting the wider issue of period poverty in the UK. – Mikaela

 

Many thanks to Erin, Orlaith, and Mikaela for the interview. If you wish to learn more about On the Ball, you can do so by emailing them at onthebaw@gmail.com or via the following links: InstagramTwitter.

 

Images: On The Ball.

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