The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is uniting football and rugby clubs across the capital in support of a landmark new campaign speaking directly to men and boys about how their actions can help end violence against women and girls. Every London football club in the Premier League has pledged their support for the campaign.
Launching today (Monday 14th March), the Mayoral initiative aims to challenge the sexist attitudes and inappropriate behaviours exhibited by some men in order to tackle the epidemic of misogyny and violence against women and girls. Research by UN Women UK indicated that 71 per cent of all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space with this number rising sharply to 86 per cent among 18-24 year olds.
Determined to lead the way in ensuring men take greater responsibility for ending violence against women and girls, the Mayor joined Patrick Vieira, the manager of Premier League club Crystal Palace, Byron Webster, captain of Bromley Football club, and Marcus Gayle, former footballer and now Brentford coach and ambassador, at Selhurst Park to reveal details of the new initiative. The hard-hitting campaign – backed by the clubs – carries the message: “Male violence against women and girls starts with words. If you see it happening, have a word with yourself, then your mates.”
The campaign message will be screened on public billboards and online, with football and rugby clubs showing their support by installing graphics in their stadiums across the city.
A campaign video will premiere at half time of the Crystal Palace vs Manchester City game at Selhurst Park tonight. It depicts a scenario all too familiar to women and girls across the country by focusing on an interaction between a group of men and a lone woman waiting for a taxi home. The video demonstrates how men’s words and actions can make women feel unsafe and calls on men not to be bystanders, but to call out their friends, whenever they see harassment happening.
Top London football clubs, from Chelsea to Crystal Palace, Arsenal to West Ham as well as rugby giants from Harlequins to Saracens, will install the campaign message on mirrors in the men’s bathrooms in their stadiums, directing men to reflect on their own behaviour and to challenge the harmful behaviour of those around them. Nineteen football and rugby clubs will also feature an open letter from the Mayor to their fans in match day programmes, which will ask men to reflect on the way they personally view, treat and talk about women.
City Hall’s website will provide more information on the practical steps men can take to become allies and play a more active role in ending violence against women and girls. It will also provide guidance on how to safely challenge the potentially harmful attitudes and behaviours of other men around them.
This ambitious campaign is part of the Mayor’s refreshed strategy for tackling all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) The newly updated strategy is due to be published in the coming weeks.
Millions of women and girls are subjected to violence and abuse every year, and data shows that the vast majority of the perpetrators are men. Between 2009 and 2019, on average, one woman was killed by a man every three days in the UK. In 2020, 99 per cent of adult offenders sentenced or cautioned for sexual offences in London were men. Nearly all perpetrators of domestic abuse during the pandemic were men.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “In London and across the country we are facing an epidemic of violence against women and girls, committed by men. This must unsettle us all and force us to take a long hard look at ourselves.
“As men, we need to be reflecting on the way we view, treat and talk about women. That’s why this new campaign is about talking directly to men and boys to get the message across that words matter and that there’s a link between misogyny and violence.
“I want all of us to be challenging sexism and misogyny – whether it’s on the streets or online in a group chat, at home or in the pub – because we all have a responsibility to raise our voices to prevent violence and to help keep women and girls safe.
“Male violence against women and girls can start with words. If you see it happening, have a word with yourself, then your mates. It’s time we kick these rotten attitudes and behaviours out of our city and society for good.”
Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace Football Club Manager said: “This important campaign highlights to men and boys that our thoughts, actions and the way we behave can make a difference towards women. I’m proud that Crystal Palace FC has joined clubs in London to share the message that we must all do everything we can to eradicate violence against women and girls.”
Byron Webster, Captain for Bromley Football Club, said: “”I think the campaign is a really important one and as a Club, we’re pleased to get behind it. Off the field, Bromley Football Club has done a lot of work to provide opportunities for women and girls, and equally, we’re keen to do our bit in raising awareness to protect women. With International Women’s Day taking place last week, it’s time for us all to think about how we can protect women around us”.
Dr Akima Thomas OBE, Clinical Director and Co-Founder of Women and Girls Network (WGN) said: “We welcome the Mayor’s vision for holding men directly to account for the perpetuation of VAWG, through a committed intention to address and dismantle the social and cultural norms which permit, sanctify and legitimizes male violence towards women and girls. For too long, the focus of explanations for VAWG have centred on the attitudes and behaviours of women and girls, turning the lens to focus and challenge male privilege and entitlement disrupts the harm of VAWG at its source and will drive meaningful structurally embedded change to create a legacy for a fair and just society.”