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July 7, 2017

Romance + I-D

Original article by I-D magazine's Fifth Sense section - find it here

Despite a lack of mainstream coverage, women’s football actually has it’s roots in the 1800’s when a group of female factory workers from Preston in England formed The Dick Kerr Ladies in 1894, going on to become one of the most successful women’s teams in the world. Discredited by male counterparts, women’s football was only granted official credibility when The Women’s FA formed in 1969. 

Today, hundreds of all-female teams from all over the world continue to indulge in the sport, and the London-based creative collective and football team Romance FC, formerly known as Boiler Room Ladies FC, are one of them. A 30+ strong team made up of the likes of photographers, stylists, producers, editors and designers, Romance FC, with their pro-feminism approach to football, are not only exemplary for sports inclined women, but for all others through their empowering collective mentality based on unconditional support, inclusivity and social interaction, all while honing a new skill. Here they share five points on what Romance FC stands for, how their team continues to strengthen and grow, what they hope to represent and some changes they’d like to see in the sporting world.

Photo credit: Flora Maclean

We believe in the shine theory – that you can’t shine unless you help those around you shine too.

‍We welcome women and non-binary / gender nonconforming individuals to play, create and collaborate with us. We are into football, community, art, skating, design, music and friendships. We are body positive, age-positive and pro feminism, LGBTQ and community. We are not into unpaid labour, racism, transphobia, fascism and all the rest. We strive to be friendly, inclusive and open to learning from each others experiences and perspectives.

We’ve found that the three most essential things required to make an all-female collective work together as effectively as possible are:

Advocacy: (support for ideas or a cause)

Sisterhood, I don’t shine unless you shine. Pushing each other to think bigger, be braver and bolder with what we each do individually and as a collective. We hope to encourage our players to run with things and we will support in anyway we can.

Autonomy: We do not need to recreate unnecessary power-structures but we also need to delegate ownership especially now that we are diversifying. Still figuring out how to make collective decisions in the most dynamic way but the main thing is to be able to try stuff out and change our approach if we need to.

Tech: Use tools to make communication easier, whatsapp, instagram, google docs. We’re on it all. We can build or design pretty much anything (so hit us up)

We hope to represent a positive, more inclusive alternative to traditional team setups.

‍A more body-positive, age-positive approach to playing football, where the goal is always, collective fun, collective wins or losses and supportive community on and off the pitch.  To show a demographic that is underrepresented in the sporting world, being smart, diverse, stylish females who like to play a team sport. We are seeing other teams who are adopting a similar ethos – using social media to shine a light on their players talents and successes off the pitch and being really creative about how they leverage their collective force.

We also hope that we inspire more women to take up team sports and reject the pressures of modern society, especially when it comes to looks, fitness and “healthy lifestyles”. There’s nothing wrong with going to the gym, but you have to be mindful of who you’re doing it for and whether the environments make you feel good about yourself or isolated. We think the social support network that comes with team sports is such a positive alternative and addition to solo activities.

What keeps our team together is get-togethers.

‍Everyone gets busy, it’s London after all but, we all make the effort to take time out each week to rock up and play. It’s never a chore or a requirement –  but it does reflect people’s commitment to each other. We all love playing football, but it’s the social element that makes you show up every week and feel uplifted about playing even if you make a million mistakes.   

There’s something different about five-aside in general. It has more of an organic feel and easy for beginners to find a place within the team regardless of playing ability. It’s a fast paced game, you have think on your feet but it doesn’t have the legacy of 11-aside macho sunday league vibes.  We play in the city, in confined spaces – there’s simply not enough room for egos to run away with the ball.  We have very little tolerance for negativity and blame. Yes, it was a bummer you scored an own goal but we’re not going to dwell or make you feel bad about it. Feeling humiliated has never improved anyones skills or boosted moral.

It would be great to see the football world paying more women.

It’s unbelievable that in 2017 you have professional players barely making a living or needing second jobs to get by. Don’t blame lack of viewers – start investing in players and showcasing their games then the return will follow. Can you imagine a male player representing their country and having to sleep in a car at the same time because they can’t afford to pay rent? Fara Williams did that. We stand with Fara and everything her adverse situation represents.    

We want to see the women’s game more integrated into everyday life. All schools should have the option for females to learn how to play football with the possibility of representing a team. There should be female footballers on the front covers of more newspapers, magazines, billboards, bus stops, tv adverts and on the bedroom walls of aspiring youths.  More female fandom! Managers, directors and board members in the football industry are predominantly male, much like most other industries. It’s the reality we operate in, fuelled by capitalism but it’s not working for the majority of people. We need more female run businesses, more women in the boardrooms, c-level mothers and more women-led co-ops. On a more pragmatic level, we are really struggling to find referees for our tournaments that do not act or make calls inappropriately just because we are different than what they are used to. 

Photography by Flora Maclean, Stephanie Sian Smith and Keturah Cummings

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