Doncaster Rovers in spotlight over sexist chanting by fans

Female assistant referee Helen Byrne.
Female assistant referee Helen Byrne.

Doncaster Rovers have come under the spotlight over sexist abuse aimed at a female official at the Keepmoat Stadium.

The BBC has passed footage taken during a recent game between Rovers and Bristol City to the Football Association which shows sexist chanting aimed at female assistant referee Helen Byrne.

It is not clear from the film whether Doncaster or Bristol fans were responsible for the chants during the game which ended in a 3-1 win for the west country side.

The FA is now calling on fans to report sexist abuse at games after being shown footage which also showed Chelsea’s female medic Dr Eva Carneiro being taunted.

FA board member Heather Rabbatts described the abuse as “horrible”.

She said it should not be tolerated, adding: “We are absolutely encouraging people to report incidents like this.”

The footage was taken at Chelsea matches against Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as Rovers’ game at the Keepmoat on February 24.

This season, 25 match-day incidents of sexist abuse have been reported to anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out and equality group Women in Football (WiF). Last season, there were just two.

However, a lack of evidence means no club or fan has ever been punished by football’s governing bodies.

There have been a number of high-profile sexism cases in football in recent years:

Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys resigned and pundit Andy Gray was sacked in 2011 for claiming assistant referee Sian Massey did not know the offside rule because she was a woman.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore apologised last May after private emails he had sent to friends and colleagues were revealed to contain sexist content.

And Northumberland County Football Association official John Cummings was sacked in 2014 for telling referee Lucy May that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”.

The FA also says it is trying to encourage more women to get involved in football via several initiatives - but Rabbatts admitted more needs to be done to stamp out sexism in the game.

The former Millwall deputy chairwoman said clubs, leagues and authorities needed to take “collective responsibility” for tackling the issue.

“It’s about how we all try and ensure the game is open and available to everyone,” said Rabbatts, the only female on the 11-strong FA board.