I was really pleased to have the chance to interview Maria Ryder about the work that she has been doing to develop a better relationship between Lincoln City and the club’s female supporters, writes Alicia.
This very inspirational person works for the Football Supporters’ Association and runs the Ladies Imps Supporters Association. One thing that made me think when interviewing her was that she hated football up until three or four years ago. She had no one in her family that could take her to football. She never experienced playing football and all of her thoughts about the game were quite negative. The results were on the TV on a Saturday afternoon or on the news about football and there always seemed to be a lot of violence. However, this all changed when she had a son and her son was into football. So, she took him to some of the matches. She and her son stood on their own, the team played rubbish and she really did not enjoy it. So how did Maria’s views on football change over the years?
What encouraged Maria to start the LISA project was that she started going to games more regularly and it was something to do on a Saturday afternoon. Then Lincoln played in the FA Cup game against York and it was the second leg. Unfortunately, Lincoln lost and Maria left the stadium feeling miserable and something was just not right. Later that evening she went out for dinner and she wasn’t interested in her food. When she got home, she realised that the game and football really meant something to her and she was disappointed that the Imps had lost. So, she wrote what she was feeling about football and posted it on social media and she got lots of responses from women. Maria then set up a Facebook group to bring female fans together to chat about football.
Maria set up LISA to let women share their experience in football. This was because for Maria there was nowhere where she could do that. This came as a surprise to her when so many people are interested in football and watch football. She knew that women go to football games but she wanted more women to be there at the games.
How football has changed for Maria in terms of LISA is that she had supported the men’s team for many years because that is what Lincoln had. However, in terms of women’s football, the supporters have changed for the better and it is her role as a Supporter’s Association worker to encourage them to come to games because people have different experiences of the game. Although women’s football is totally separate, Maria thinks that, since the World Cup last year, women’s football has got so much bigger. Also, she thinks that it is interesting playing the game as well as watching the game.
Over the last few years Maria’s favourite event that she got involved in, was at the Engine Shed. It was called Cowley vs Cowley and it was based on a programme on TV and they sold tickets for charity. The two managers had former players and current players on their teams. There were 700 people in the Engine Shed watching or participating. It was recorded on BBC Radio Lincolnshire and raised about £8,000 on each occasion. Maria thought that this was a brilliant event to be involved in. Another event that Marie enjoyed was engagement activities that she took part in and bringing people from a range of communities into the club by asking them how the match day works for them, and encouraging them to come to games.
Maria mentioned that women’s football was fairly new to her, although she has been following the men’s games for three to four years. For Maria, women’s football came on to the horizon when she was working and involved in the Football Supporter’s Association. Also, because at the start of last year Lincoln City launched the Lincoln City women’s team this was because historically, they had had a hard time and folded. To have the team again is important for the club and to girls and women that follow football in the area.
Maria was thrilled that women’s football is becoming much bigger and is being played on a higher scale. In the FA Cup last year two main things happened that Maria mentioned. The first one was that they were broadcast, showing games more than they ever have on TV and people were open to see women’s football taken more seriously. The women’s game is completely different from the men’s game so there is no point in comparing the two and there is a lot of talent and skill in the women’s game. The other thing that happened is the investment in sponsorship, and that big companies want to put their name to women’s football. This shows that it is something to aspire to get involved in.
In Maria’s opinion, LISA has had an impact on local football and Lincolnshire and on women being visible as supporters. Many women have been supporting Lincoln City for years and are season ticket holders and don’t have anyone to talk to at the game, their husbands don’t like football. It has had a positive impact and brought people together. Thanks to Maria we now have a better understanding of the relation she has with Lincoln City.