After seeing a number of other football clubs launch free sanitary products, it occurred to me that Leeds United don’t offer ANY sanitary items in the ladies toilets, let alone free ones.
I was at the Leeds v Millwall game, queuing in the ladies at half time when an embarrassed young girl approached me asking if I had any sanitary items. Not having anything on me, I looked around and worryingly there were no products available that I could even buy for her.
I’d already once approached the club on behalf of the Supporters’ Trust to provide free sanitary items but we’d stumbled over the cost and it got put on the back burner with another number of initiatives we were working on.
This incident at the game really affected me, I thought a young girl shouldn’t have to come and awkwardly ask other women in a toilet queue for sanitary items whilst her dad was stood outside waiting for her. So it spurred me on to ensure the club knew this wasn’t acceptable.
I recalled seeing Manchester City had launched a similar scheme recently and I had read comments on social media from males saying that if females are getting free tampons, can we get free razors, free beer, free deodorant – that just shows there’s still a lack of education around the subject. I can imagine there are a lot of teen girls attending games with their dads/carers who would find it utterly embarrassing if they were to be caught short at a game and have to explain they needed sanitary products.
So I got home and emailed the club alongside the facilities manager to explain what had happened and said we can’t allow this to happen again. By the next day I had an email back to say they were fitting 44 new sanitary dispensers across all the ladies’ toilets in the stadium (at a small cost per item) and that the Supporters’ Trust could implement the baskets with free products. It’s fantastic to see how seriously the club took it and then actioned it immediately.
We’ve been working closely with Tina Leslie, who is founder of a Leeds based period poverty charity, Freedom4girls. She said: “Supplying all 44 ladies’ toilets with product-filled baskets is a fantastic step forward. At Freedom4girls, we believe that the more we talk openly about periods and period poverty, the more we can educate people about the issue. These conversations, in turn, begin to break the taboo, stigma and embarrassment that so often lead girls and women in need of sanitary protection to feel ashamed to ask for help.
“Football is generally seen as a very male-dominated sport, so we hope that Leeds United’s initiative will help to educate male and female supporters on the issues faced by those who menstruate, whether it be a lack of money to buy products or simply being caught short and having to ask or use inadequate alternatives. Education is the key to ending the taboo.”
The free menstrual products will be in place ahead of the Sheffield Wednesday game on Saturday 13th April. Baskets will be provided in the ladies’ toilets near the wash area so female fans can help themselves to the products.
Fiona Kyle, a Leeds fan for 30 years, said: “What the Trust has achieved with regards to the provision of sanitary items is to be saluted. It’s difficult to believe that in 2019 there was no sanitary provision in the female toilets and the thought of young female fans getting caught short like this is pretty shocking so it’s great that the club responded so quickly. I used to be a teenager going to the match with my dad so I can imagine how mortified the girl – and others in her situation over the years – must have been. The product-filled baskets to address period poverty is a fantastic scheme from the same people that initiated the food bank collection which has collected more than 6,000 meals thanks to the generosity of Leeds United fans. I’m proud to be associated with a club that provides for women and girls who can’t afford this basic necessity.”
Leeds United has become the sixth club in the Championship to offer free sanitary items, following in the footsteps of Aston Villa, West Brom, Sheffield Wednesday, QPR and Bristol City.
The provision of free menstrual products at football grounds was originally set up by On The Ball, a campaign which was started at Celtic by three friends and is now at more than 80 football league clubs. They were inspired to take action because of period poverty, where women cannot afford sanitary products.
When you consider that toilet roll and other hygiene essentials aren’t something you are required to pay for in public toilets, then you raise the question as to why a lady should have to pay for sanitary products.
On The Ball, Period Poverty campaigners said: “It’s fantastic to have Leeds United on-board with our On The Ball campaign. Football is leading the way on provision of period products and we hope this inspires others to make their spaces just as inclusive as Elland Road now is for female fans. We hope the fans will be just as delighted as we are by this fantastic move.”
Stacy Towson, Leeds United Supporter and admin on Total Leeds website said: “I’m very pleased to hear the club are on board with bringing in free sanitary products for females on match days. Women shouldn’t have to be put in these sorts of situations at any sort of venue. I would be very embarrassed to have to ask another lady if they had any sanitary products I could use, so this is a huge step forward for female fans.”
The Supporters’ Trust is really pleased that the club have listened to female fans and that going forward we shouldn’t have women encountering these embarrassing situations.