European Fan Culture: Men vs. Women

As just about everyone is familiar with, soccer is the premier sport in Europe, and the fan cultures are both rooted in history and extremely impactful on society. The sport has gripped Europe for over 100 years and has entrenched itself as perhaps the defining factor in the culture of some areas. However, due to a couple different factors, the culture has almost entirely focused on the men’s sport, rather than the women’s version that was not necessarily as popular for the majority of the 20th century.

However, that is not to say that women’s soccer was not popular in its own right. In fact, in the era surrounding World War I, women’s soccer was a massive draw. The immensely popular Dick, Kerr ladies were taking England by storm. Founded by female industrial workers from the Dick, Kerr company, the same way that many men’s clubs were founded (ie Bayer Leverkusen being founded by workers of the Bayer pharmaceutical company), the Dick, Kerr ladies inspired a fan culture that was perhaps more involved than the men’s culture at the time. They even played 60 games in a calendar year, attracting nearly 900,000 people total to those games. However, this all came crashing down as the FA in England banned the Dick, Kerr ladies and all women’s soccer clubs from playing on grounds owned by members of the Football League, and women’s football was unjustly forced to the background in favor of men’s soccer. (

The Dick, Kerr Ladies

Picture from the same website,

As the 20th century went on, men’s soccer began to further distance itself from women’s soccer, especially in terms of fan culture. In particular, the cultural impact of men’s soccer teams became staggering to think about. One such example is the Old Firm, in Glasgow. The sectarian that has ravaged Glasgow for countless generations began manifesting itself in the rivalry between Celtic, the Catholic club, and Rangers, the Protestant club. Their games often became less about the sport and more about violence and sectarian issues between the two combative groups. Riots were commonplace and hooliganism was rampant.

However, as the 20th century transitioned to the 21st, women’s soccer in Europe began to make a serious comeback, and began attracting fans. One of the biggest women’s clubs, VFL Wolfsburg in Germany, has been one of the spearheads for this fan culture revival. While the attendance numbers may not be all that close to men’s games yet, they are continuing to grow. In fact, in 2014, the Wolfsburg – FFC Frankfurt match drew a crowd of 12,464, a crowd that many men’s clubs would be extremely jealous of. This crowd of 12,464 was a boost to the average attendance of the women’s Bundesliga as a whole, which was 1,185 per game in 2013-2014. Importantly, this represented an excellent 6% growth in the attendance of women’s Bundesliga games, a good sign for the future of the sport and the growth of the fan culture, especially in Germany. In fact, the head of the DFB (the German organization that presides over everything soccer related in the country), stated that “This record season is a tremendous sign for the development of the women’s Bundesliga and a fantastic signal for the upcoming season” (

Due to the lack of numbers, combined with the lack of history, there are certain elements of fan culture from the men’s sport that those who attend the women’s club games do not replicate consistently. One such element, and it may even be a positive factor, is the lack of the massive groups of hooligan ultras that put a blemish on the sport. These ultras, that care about their club, sure, but often their main motivation is not supporting their club, but rather fighting the supporters of their rivals. In this instance, it can be said that the fan culture of women’s teams are more pure, as the focus is on the game rather than a certain kind of extracurricular activity before, during, and after the game. In fact, it has gotten so bad that there are even deaths in Europe due to brawling fans in major derbies. One such derby is the derby in Rome, between Roma and Lazio. Below is a picture of some of the weapons that the police confiscated from the fans of the two Italian clubs.

Italian Weapons

Image taken from

That’s not to say that the fan culture of men’s clubs is inherently negative, though. The presence of large amounts of fans leads to an amazing atmosphere and excellent creativity in chants and expressing oneself as a fan. One of the best visuals in sports is a tifo, which European clubs are the best in the world at creating. These tifos can be created as a simple display of support for a club, or even as a political message against the government or the governing bodies of the sports themselves. However, some of the atmosphere enhancements may be detrimental to the viewing pleasure of fans that may not necessarily be hard core. Flares are often lit in stands and can be extremely dangerous, a burn hazard and not something young children should necessarily be around.

Legia Warsaw Tifo

Image taken from

At the end of the day, the reality of the situation is that the fan culture of women’s clubs is not as evolved as those from men’s clubs as the history is simply not there. The fact that the history is not the same, due in large part to the FA’s decision to ban women’s soccer from the grounds used by men, has led to the development of massive fan bases for men’s clubs, made up of huge amounts of both men and women, that have established a culture that the fans of women’s have to play an enormous amount of catch up to reach. With that said, it would be ludicrous to state that the women’s clubs and their fans may not reach that level someday. As evidenced by the popularity of the Dick, Kerr ladies, women’s soccer has the potential to be as big, if not bigger than the men’s sport. When they begin to creep closer and closer to the men’s sport, expect the fan culture to continue to grow. However, despite the benefits of a large amount of fans and more interesting fan culture (swaths of money and the improvement of crowd atmosphere via things like tifos), the new fans could bring in the hooliganism that is so prevalent in the fans of the men’s game. However, as long as the European women’s clubs continue their growth, they should be able to replicate the fan culture of men’s clubs before long, if not completely surpassing it. At the present, the women’s game, due to the lack of ultras and the disruption that they bring, may be a better atmosphere for younger fans, especially if price is an issue.

Works Cited
“DICK, KERR LADIES FC 1917-1965 – About the Team.” DICK, KERR LADIES FC 1917-1965 – About the Team. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <>.
“Germany’s Women’s Bundesliga Sets New Attendance Record With An Average Of 1,185.” – SportsBusiness Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <>.

One thought on “European Fan Culture: Men vs. Women

  1. William Yu

    May you provide the author who created this article for me, I really need it on my essay.


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