It’s very unlikely that any men have ever turned up to watch Watford and had a steward say ‘oh look, fathers’.

Yet when a number of female supporters from the Women of Watford (WoW) group went together to an away game last season, they were referred to as ‘mothers’ by a steward at the turnstiles.

Football has come a long, long way in trying to remove the sexism and stigma that has often made football stadia an uncomfortable and even unsafe place for females. There is still much to do though, and Kate Lewers, who founded WoW, reflected on that fact as the group passed it’s one-year anniversary.

“One of our key objectives was, and still is, normalising seeing women go together to football matches. I used to look around the stands and see women, but they were with groups of men. You wouldn’t really see women together in groups at football,” she said.

“I feel we’re starting to achieve that with our block bookings at away games. It’s just trying to normalise it because it shouldn’t be something that attracts attention or comment.

“That was highlighted the first time we did a WoW group trip and it was the game at Brentford. When we all arrived one of the stewards said ‘Oh look, mothers.’ We just laughed because stewards wouldn’t look at a group of men and say ‘Oh look, fathers.’ In places like airports, female security staff are essential because it is not permitted for men to undertake body searches of female passengers. However, such measures are not always in place at football grounds.

“There was one away game we went to where our group of women were queueing to get in and there were no female stewards to pat us down for security. And one of the male stewards said there was no need to find a female steward to do it. That’s simply not right,” Kate explained.

“We raised that with the club and discovered there is a national shortage of female stewards, and so there are wider problems in the game that still need to be addressed.”

Another of WoW’s objectives was to give women more of a voice at Watford FC.

"As a young female fan growing up, I didn’t feel women were recognised at all by the club,” Kate said. “My first game was in 1999 and as a young girl I didn’t see myself reflected in the club.

“Since I set up WoW so many women have come forward to say they felt the same, so it was good to know I’d found something that wasn’t just my feeling but that of many Watford fans.

“And we have made ground by using our voice. The women’s toilets at Vicarage Road are shocking, and there are two in particular we are hoping to get changed, and I am very hopeful those two will be changed this summer. The club have listened and that has been really nice.”

Watford Observer:

A WoW group at an away game last season

Women’s voices have certainly been heard more and more in TV coverage of football, not just in women’s matches but for men’s games too. Is there a danger of tokenism though?

“It would be tokenism if it happened just once or just around International Women’s Day, but it’s commonplace now,” said Kate.

“It’s so powerful having Alex Scott in the media so much for instance. She’s not only been a player at the highest level, but she used her spare time to go and complete her degree in journalism and media studies. If you need any proof how amazing women can be, there it is. She’s a pundit who is qualified to talk about the game having played it and studied to get the skills to work in the media.

“Initially, the likes of Alex Scott were there representing all women because most programmes and panels had just one woman. That’s so much pressure. If Michael Owen makes an error as a pundit then people say ‘Michael Owen made a blunder’. But if Alex Scott makes a blunder as a pundit people say ‘this is why we shouldn’t have women pundits’.

“But it’s changing. When WoW appeared on Football Focus, two of the three presenters that day were women, and that wasn’t because we were on. It’s now become the norm to have multiple female pundits.

“You can’t be what you can’t see and hopefully this change is going to inspire a whole lot more female pundits in the future.”

With the club raising the profile and giving tremendous backing to Watford Women, there are now both Golden Boys and Golden Girls for fans to support.

Kate said: “It’s been really good to see more women going to Watford Women’s games. We had our first WoW meet-up at a women’s game at Vicarage Road last season. Most of us had never been to a women’s game before and it was nice to experience it.

“I’d really encourage fans to go and watch our women’s team. It’s a really good afternoon out, the standard is high and, again, there are role models on the pitch for young female footballers.”

Of course, another aim to inspire more women to become supporters of the club in general. And that is happening, as Kate explained.

“We had one lady join WoW who isn’t actually a Watford fan (yet!), but she got into football by watching the Euros and she lives in Hertfordshire and had been looking for a team. She heard about us through local radio. I find it amazing that just by having a female supporters group is encouraging new fans to the club.

“In an ideal world, WoW won’t need to exist to promote equality and help to remove sexism from football, but we’ll be there instead as a group of like-minded people because there is tremendous power in promoting friendship.

“One of our members said to me the other day that she feels empowered by having this group and being a member of it. She has a group of female friends and within that only one other is interested in football and supports Watford. When they get together it’ll be a case of ‘ok, get your football chat out of the way’. They feel rushed and not able to enjoy talking about football. Being given the safe space and the opportunity to meet with other female Watford fans at WoW, and just spend the whole time talking about football, is incredible.

“It’s a group that will evolve and grow.”