Call Him Out. The new Lewes FC campaign comprises just three words, but could have an incredibly powerful impact both in football and society.
The campaign, which aims to take action against the epidemic of misogyny, sexism and male-on-female violence, has already made a splash on social media.
Lewes FC’s male players and staff have taken to Twitter to pledge to #CallHimOut, promising to speak to anyone who displays disrespectful, sexist or harmful behaviour towards women.
The pledges soon attracted attention and spread beyond the club, with former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro among the proponents. “Blown away by this,” she wrote on Twitter. “I have a new team to support.”
With the campaign gathering pace, GiveMeSport Women spoke to those behind #CallHimOut, including Lewes FC co-director Karen Dobres. She explained the origins of the movement.
“After the Sarah Everard case and the Sabina Nessa case, we were seeing a lot of people saying the response to violence against women and girls – putting the onus on women to change our behaviour, even to hail down a bus or wear a rape alarm – is incorrect.
“It’s actually rubbing insult into injury. It’s men that have the power in a patriarchy, therefore it’s men who need to act. So we were seeing a lot of this kind of response, and lots of us at the football club were upset and angry.”
Dobres realised that as a football club with a lot of male members, Lewes FC had the power to change the way violence against women was discussed. She spoke to the Board, pointing out that something could be done involving the men’s team.
A male Board member then wrote up a statement and devised the hashtag #CallHimOut, and Dobres was soon on the phone to Lewes FC men’s manager Tony Russell.
“We spoke about it, and we had a good conversation,” Russell told GiveMeSport Women. “The conclusion we came to is that it needs to be driven by us, as men. If there’s going to be change it’s got to be from us.
“So, we spoke about the best way to do that. I went away and spoke to the men’s team, and we had a group discussion about it, about what we could do.
“The first point was to go on social media, and put our stance out there, and then we spoke about how going forward, how we’re going to put it into practice.
If we can make it uncomfortable for people to talk around us as men, in a certain way about women, then they stop talking in that way.
“If we can do that and drive that small little thing, we feel that over time we can grow that to the point where we can make women feel safer walking down the road. It’s as simple as that.”
Following the men’s team candid discussion around the campaign, Dobres revealed how further conversations had taken place around the wider club and community.
“We’ve got the statement up in our bar in the clubhouse and we ask our male members how they feel after reading that statement, and they’re feeling shame,” she said.
“Ashamed, guilty, angry, sad, and they want to take action. They don’t want to just feel like that, they want to feel that they’re doing something.
“So, it’s been very very moving. We’re a football club, and we want to have fun and we want to entertain, but at the same time, we’re harnessing the influence of football to move hearts and minds. And that’s what’s happening.”
Among the supporters of the campaign are the club’s female players, who, according to Dobres, were uplifted by the pledges made by their male counterparts.
“They were super engaged with it, they were like, ‘wow, that’s amazing’,” she said. “They were grateful, but they were also saying that it was about time. Not to our men’s team in particular, but it’s about time that the men publicly say they’re going to do something.”
With #CallHimOut taking off on Twitter, Dobres is hopeful a major name can propel the campaign even further, citing Ian Wright, Gary Lineker, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling as stars she’d like to see make a pledge.
“As we know, football can change society,” Dobres explained.
Yes, it does mirror society, but football can influence society, it has such power that we can harness.
“So if any of these big, major, famous footballers were to take it up, that would be a massive boost, and I think other men would follow.”
For Russell, he is hoping the campaign can have a long-lasting impact.
“This is the starting point,” he said. “We feel like putting stuff on our social media, and talking about being in groups with the men, and flagging things, is just the start.
“For me, I want to gradually change people’s mindset, and I feel we can make change over time.”
Lewes FC is aiming to become the most fan-owned football club in the world. To find out more about becoming an owner, visit https://www.lewesfc.com/owners