A campaign is currently underway to help shape a safe space for fans to enjoy women’s sports in an inclusive environment.
Whilst studying her Masters at Goldsmiths, Sana was tasked with writing a business plan for an entrepreneurial modelling course. With collaboration from friends, she decided that they were lacking a place to watch and openly celebrate women’s sports. Fast-forward to today and she’s currently campaigning to help launch Vs. Bar: London’s first-ever women’s sports bar.
With a BA in International Sports Development and her recent MA in Social Entrepreneurship, Sana’s professional background is cemented in events and sports for development. As well as working for an anti-hunger charity co-ordinating events and running a girl’s empowerment programme in her free time, she held a fellowship in the U.S Soccer Foundation and experienced how sport can be utilised as a tool to create opportunities for community development. It’s this vital experience that puts the expansion of Vs. Bar in safe hands.
Having grown up playing football, Sana has always been an avid supporter of women’s sports. In fact, the name Vs. Bar actually pays homage to her “beloved teammates” from her hometown in Takoma Park, Maryland. They were nicknamed ‘V-Squad’ and played together from first grade through to high school.
Currently, Vs. Bar is a well-thought-out idea with a strong business plan behind it but Sana has plans to create a more permanent location.
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“This type of space would serve as a unique and valuable catalyst to grow London’s fan community for women’s sports because it subverts the exclusionary fandom commonly practised in ‘traditional’ sports bars,” explains the founder.
She goes onto reiterate the importance of safe and inclusive environments, emphasising that “all guests will feel welcome to engage and contribute whether they’re watching for the first time or they identify as diehard fans.”
Vs. Bar is based on the fundamental idea of inclusiveness that is otherwise absent from traditional spaces to watch sport. Although today’s pubs are a second home for male sports fans, they lack coverage of female games and can often be the cause of intimidation to women wanting to follow a sport.
“Over the next two years, Vs. Bar will operate as a campaign to identify and develop London’s fan community for women’s sports,” Sana tells.
The founder goes onto explain that over the next two years, Vs. Bar will operate a community calendar “that lists matches and events relating to professional and grassroots women’s sports.” Alongside this, the campaign will be partnering with London venues to host events such as watch parties.
Research, findings and figures produced over the next two years will then help secure Vs. Bar a more permanent space by serving as a proof of concept to support fundraising efforts.
“Once the project reaches financial viability, we’ll secure a tenancy and serve as a home for all things women’s sport!” says Sana.
She goes onto explain what work has already been done towards the campaign.
“I’ve been working primarily on building a team and resourcing the project so that we’re ready to launch the website and start hosting events in 2020. It’s hard work but also extremely fulfilling because I’ve received so much support and guidance from professionals in both the sports and hospitality industry.”
This year has seen a huge increase in media coverage of women’s sport, but, as Sana explains, a business like Vs. Bar has never existed. Her hope is for fans to meet and build a community that could eventually help drive the demand for better women’s sports coverage and representation.
Sana explains the significance of understanding what the women’s sports community don’t currently have access to and helping to bridge that gap.
“I could spend a lifetime daydreaming about my perfect vision for the future of women’s sports but I think it’s important to stay grounded in the fact that this project is about creating a platform for everyone to celebrate the amazing work already taking place in professional and grassroots sports,” she says.
Throughout our conversation, Sana emphasised her willingness to include as many people as possible in the growth of Vs. Bar.
“I absolutely love talking to people about what they’d want Vs. Bar to look or feel like. Everyone has a unique perspective that they can contribute and it’s important that a variety of people (especially those who are typically marginalised in sport-oriented spaces) see themselves represented in this project,” Sana explains.
She finishes by urging anyone with an interest, idea or opinion for Vs. Bar to get in touch.