Women in Football’s ground-breaking #WhatIf campaign launched in May 2018 aiming to change the football landscape by helping create new opportunities for girls and women.
In the latest of a special mini-series we take a look at another key pledge made since that official launch at Twitter’s London HQ and find out what has happened since.
#WhatIf Lewes FC’s men’s and women’s teams take to the field for the 2018/19 season wearing the #WhatIf motif on their shirts?
When it comes to leading the fight for equality, you would be hard-pressed to find a football club more actively engaged than Lewes FC.
Like Women in Football, the club strives for a world where we are all valued as equal.
Indeed, so much so that in 2017 Lewes FC became the first football club to have equal playing budgets and equal facilities for its women’s and men’s teams, under the banner of Equality FC.
And in 2018, the club fully got behind #WhatIf by dedicating its home shirt to the ground-breaking campaign.
“Lewes FC is about deeds not words,” said Karen Dobres, “So when we found out about #WhatIf it fitted absolutely with where we are coming from as a club.
“Asking people to make pledges with words that could be actionable was a bold, pioneering idea that we could see would have an effect in real life.
“What particularly appealed so much was the alignment with our belief in taking action, especially as a club that is 100 per cent community owned.
“People can talk all day long about improving the women’s game but if those words are not matched with action, that gap is where the stagnation and lack of progress happens. Women in Football’s campaign was right up our alley.
“We thought ‘Let’s put the #WhatIf logo on the front of our shirts - it is such a prominent space. In football, it is what sponsors look at and it seemed a perfect way to give the campaign a massive platform.”
Not only did Lewes FC women’s team proudly take to the field wearing the bespoke home shirt, so too did the men’s side. In doing so, the visual impact of the logo also helped spark discussions about gender equality that may not have happened, or certainly so quickly.
“Some support the whole club, some go to women’s matches only and some just the men’s team,” added Karen. “By putting #WhatIf on the front of both sets of shirts meant we drew everyone’s attention to the conversation about gender equality.
“If it wasn’t for football, this type of conversation and an understanding of what gender equality is and means, may not have happened. Getting behind the campaign was a no-brainer; it aligned with our vision, matched our values, agenda and social purpose.”
Like Women in Football, Lewes FC understands the value using football as a vehicle for social change.
“We are on a journey with gender equality at Lewes FC - but we can’t just push it up everyone’s nose,” added Karen
“The fact we are campaigning and will continue to campaign to make a change, is what makes Lewes FC so unique. Our vision is total equality but we understand that you have to prepare the ground, then do the reveal, then transmit.
“When the team’s first wore the #WhatIf shirt, I suspect that a number of them did not know or understand what it meant. They were there to play football and the shirt they pulled on was simply part of playing a match.
“The difference is that now in 2021, more of the men’s team know about equality and our own Equality FC campaign. I have no doubt that had it not been for #WhatIf, the numbers of men players and supporters who understand that would be significantly less.”
Apart from encouraging and enabling such important discussions to take place by providing a visual platform for the campaign, one of the special team shirts now takes pride of place somewhere rather special.
“It is the only women’s football shirt on display as part of the ‘Get Shirty’ exhibition at the National Football Museum,” said Karen. “That was how important a message it was and why we were so proud, and still are, to work with Women in Football in helping make a change.”