Manchester City host Manchester United in the FA Women's Super League
Women's football has shown how matches can be a safe space for female fans

Sarah Aitchison has been watching football for more than two decades and has felt violated, intimidated and frightened before.

There was a time when she was a hostess at a club where a man put his hand on her butt and another man asked if she wanted to take her home with him.

She has been objectified by a group of men chanting about what they want to do to your body, or beinglittled, when she tried to stick up for a female steward who was abused by her male colleagues.

There are comments that she doesn't have an equal place at games because she doesn't know anything about football.

Women who attend football games will not be surprised by this. Stories like this have not been reported in the past.

Many will say that it's been a long time since that has changed.

A supporter was banned from Goodison Park for sexually attacking a female fan. Usually, a club takes action publicly.

A female fan who is on the board for Her Game Too, a group that tackles sexism in sport, says that one of the professional clubs who are partners with the organization isEverton.

She says that a lot of clubs will look into things but may not respond or take action that people want. I think it's moving in the right direction but I want to see it more often.

How common is sexist behaviour in football?

Premier League16
League One28
League Two9
Types of incidents include offensive chanting and sexual harassment

More than 80 reports of sexual harassment or abuse have been received by Her Game Too over the last year.

There were 2,198 football related arrests by police in England and Wales last season, but there are no publicly available figures for sexual assault or sexual harassment. There were 797 arrests for public disorder and 19 for racist or indecency chanting.

Kick it Out received eight reports of gender discrimination in the professional game. There were 183 race related incidents and108 sexual orientation related incidents.

There are a number of reasons why women don't come forward, including inadequate reporting systems, sexism and other types of discrimination.

It is difficult to tackle a football culture which has misogyny ingrained into it.

She says there is a chant that talks about how wonderful the town is because it is full of female body parts. It would seem like a harmless bit of banter to many men.

When a lot of men chant something that reduces you to a list of sexualized body parts, it feels intimidating.

Roopa Vyas at World Cup
Roopa Vyas attended the World Cup in Qatar, where some women said they felt safer than at matches in England

Roopa says it is "difficult" to know if sexual abuse at football is on the increase or because women are starting to feel more comfortable about reporting it. But she says Her Game Too, which is set to undergo a restructure next year, has been told about a "huge spectrum" of incidents.

She says thatrogatory comments are the main ones that come up. Fans are not comfortable being in a stadium and hearing the singing. Women are often told they shouldn't be at the football because of the risk of sexual assault.

I wouldn't tell anyone a few years ago. With organizations like ours, and with clubs taking them more seriously, it shows that this behavior is not acceptable.

Sarah believes that the incident where she was raped would not happen now. She says she was told at the time that boys would be boys and that she needed to look after the sponsors. The club is able to cultivate a culture of equality.

She is unsure if that is replicated across the game, especially with fans, and says that there is more sexism than five years ago. She and the steward were Verbally Abused last season.

What more needs to be done?

Some female fans have said that they felt safer during the tournament than in England. The majority of these reports have come from visitors to Qatar, not those who live there.

Similar to the experience of attending women's football matches, equality is not an unrealistic ideal and can be improved at men's football.

The circle of reporting is one of the things that needs to be fixed. If there is a report, clubs can't do anything. Ensuring women are given the right support and discretion is important.

Male allyship and fans calling out bad behavior are two other things.

A lot of women don't report it because they don't think they'll be listened to.

She says that to be accepted as an equal, you need to act like one of the guys. A lot of women will feel like they won't be accepted if they speak up about things like this.

Men need to be prepared to speak up and say that it's not okay.

The clubs are on board. A Women's Action Plan is one of the measures Her Game Too is working on with the English Football League.

As it develops its gender equality strategy, the premier league spoke to a wide range of groups about their match day experiences.

We don't tolerate abuse of any kind. We and our clubs encourage supporters to report any abuse.

People need to think about what they say. Some people still don't accept the fact that women enjoy football.