International Women's Day: Amy Drucquer

The This Fan Girl founder and Vicky Park Queens gaffer speaks to us about her role in the explosion of women's football

Beyond the commemoration, International Women’s Day commands reflection, and helps to amplify voices that have historically been muted. With the rightful rise of women’s football, at both a professional and grassroots level, I had the joy of speaking with Amy Drucquer; a leading voice in the football world, who has helped to redefine the industry’s portrayal of the female football fan, and encourage safe spaces for everybody interested in the sport. After the success of her 2016/2017 photo series, which documented diverse female fandom across all of the UK’s Premier League clubs, she now does this predominantly through her creative football consultancy, This Fan Girl. From taking on projects such as producing campaign imagery for Arsenal x adidas by Stella McCartney, hosting pre-match panels discussing women in football at Old Trafford, hosting large scale women’s grassroots tournaments and even managing her own women’s grassroots team, Vicky Park Queens, it’s safe to say that she’s an exceptional driving force in elevating diversity within sport. Perched in her Leicester office, decorated with team polaroids, football shirts galore, and the words “football can change the world” - Amy thoughtfully answered a series of questions discussing her iconic female fan photo series, reflecting on her work at This Fan Girl and Vicky Park Queens, and of course, expressing her palpable adoration for Leicester City.

When did you first become a football fan?

You know what, I’ve probably never actually said it in this way before. I became a football fan in 2017. Before that, I wasn’t a football fan, I was a Leicester City fan. It was very different, I didn’t care about football. People always ask about my first memories of the Champions League, but I don’t remember, why would I watch the Champions League if Leicester weren't in it? When Leicester won the Premier League - holy fuck - that just blew my football world into orbit. That’s when I became a football fan, but I’ve loved Leicester City since I was nine.

Initially, did you find entering what has historically been a male dominated space intimidating?

As a kid, not really, because I was always protected by my Dad. He probably created that. We missed things like walking by the away fans. As a kid I found it really exciting, it was the first time I was ever allowed to swear, because everyone swears at football, so that was fun. When I passed my teenage years I definitely felt that very clearly this space was not mine. I was a bit of an add on in these spaces. It didn’t really feel like a space I could be my full self in. 

Would you say that you noticed a shift in people's behaviour when you stopped going to matches with your Dad, and started going on your own?

When I didn’t have the protection of my Dad, it was different. People will see that you're with a man, and they’ll leave you a little bit more alone versus if you’re by yourself, or with another woman. It’s a different experience for sure. I got my first job when I was 16, I stopped going to football as much because of the weekend games. I realised that my friends weren't watching football, it wasn’t typically something that girls were massively into. At every single junction you're getting removed from the game. I remember being 18 and watching the 2004 Euros, it was the big WAG season. My boyfriend at the time asked me to go to the pub and watch the Euros with him. I thought sick, number one, I can tell them that Frank Lampard is a fucking bellend, number two, I can dress like Posh Spice. I had my fake Chloe bag from Leicester market. Nobody really gave a shit about what I had to say. It was a journey, learning again and again and again that this space wasn’t for me. I really want to write a memoir one day - falling in and out and in and out of love with football. It’s happened so many times.

To expand on that, there are obviously preconceived ideas about what a football fan ‘should’ look like. Why has it been so important for This Fan Girl to challenge that?

Football was becoming such a big part of my life, and my identity, and my connection with where I’m from. If I didn’t feel represented, I knew that was probably the case for a few other people. I needed to do it for myself first and foremost. Over the years, especially when we did our photography project, we noticed that there were so many people who felt unrepresented and just nervous to be in this space. I set it up for my own reasons, but kept it up for other people’s. 

To expand on that, there are obviously preconceived ideas about what a football fan ‘should’ look like. Why has it been so important for This Fan Girl to challenge that?

Football was becoming such a big part of my life, and my identity, and my connection with where I’m from. If I didn’t feel represented, I knew that was probably the case for a few other people. I needed to do it for myself first and foremost. Over the years, especially when we did our photography project, we noticed that there were so many people who felt unrepresented and just nervous to be in this space. I set it up for my own reasons, but kept it up for other people’s. 

How did you go about challenging these perceptions?

When Leicester were in their title winning season, I took photos of Leicester City Fans. As soon as I got home, you know when you’re just buzzing, I had just done something that I absolutely loved. Being in that space, chatting to people, I noticed that my Leicester accent was coming out so thick, it’s nice getting on a level with people. I loved being in that energy. The photos came out, for someone that's barely used a camera, pretty decent. We got them published in the blog on Topman.

During the men’s 2016 Euros, there were loads of articles about the 50 sexiest football fans, super hypersexualised. My friend suggested that we should do this photo series again but for female fans, and then it was like ding! We started the series, I’m pretty sure I've got late diagnosed ADHD, so I got really hyper focused and wanted to photograph all 20 Premier League clubs. It was genuinely one of the most fun projects that I’ve ever done. We wanted to prove that female fandom exists everywhere. It’s everywhere. I was happy to be able to prove that.

Your photographs now hold the number one Google ranking for the term “female football fan” - how does that feel?

I think that is mad, god bless SEO for that. It's just cool that we’ve been able to change that. We’ve always said that if you google “female football fan”...realistically nobody actually does that, but our photographs have been shared really widely. I think they’ve spurred people to think about their own connection to fandom. They’ve spurred brands and clubs to take female representation a bit more seriously. It’s not all come from This Fan Girl, but we’ve been part of pushing that, which is more than we could have hoped to achieve.

Football’s cultural impact is colossal, and has been the catalyst for some iconic fashion moments. Do you have a favourite kit, collaboration, or clothing item that springs to mind?

All of my favourite fashion moments have genuinely come from women’s grassroots. I think there was a moment in 2017, Romance FC released their kit and it was the first time that grassroots had ever, ever done that. They basically set the calibre for what those shirts could look like going forward. Since then there have been some incredible ones, Victoria Park Vixens have just come out with their latest Kappa one, it’s like a homage to a Greek kit. Whippets FC have just done their recent one with Umbro. I love seeing what women’s grassroots are going to do with their own customisations.

For the 2022 World Cup, This Fan Girl devised a charter for pubs encouraging inclusivity and safety. You also partnered with “Help Me Angela” in order to support women travelling to and from these spaces. Why did you feel this was so important?

A lot of people thought that this was really hyper-niche and didn't know if it was going to help, but we wanted to make the point that the experience of football for men and for women is different. Life in the UK for men and women is different. The main reason we did that was because of Vicky Park Queens. We used to play at Vicky Park cages. We had to change where we played or really change our behaviour when the lights went out, so October until March. The clocks go back, it gets darker, you have to think about where you’re parking, you can’t walk across the grass, because…well, we all know what we’re scared of. We have to be so careful all of the time. Men don’t not feel those things, but there's an extra layer of that for women. When we thought about the World Cup being played in the winter for the first time, I don’t think anybody had thought about it. I’m not comfortable walking down the road to go to the pub on my own, it gets riskier. Pubs can’t necessarily do anything to change behaviours past their doors, but they can do things to ultimately speak to female fans and understand that things are different for them. It went down horribly with some people, well, not horribly, but you can imagine. It made a lot of women really emotional, because the charter was a necessary thing. Overall, it was a really cool and really important campaign to run.

Did you receive any feedback on how this initiative helped support marginalised genders in these spaces?

We didn’t receive any feedback about that actually. If we are to do this again, that is something that we’d really like to narrow down on. A lot of our ten point charter considered non-binary people, that is something we’d definitely focus on in more detail going forward. 

On that, I’d love to know whether you believe we are on the right track to creating an equal playing field when it comes to marginalised genders in sports?

I think we’re definitely getting close. Women’s grassroots football really takes the lead with it, they are, by their makeup, really catered towards gender minorities. They really do welcome everybody. It’s part of their DNA. I think that women’s football is able to push these issues in a way that men’s football finds it harder to do. Women’s grassroots football pushes culture, fashion, and individuality. It’s the catalyst for a lot of things. 

Like you say, the female grassroots game has become so central. England’s number of women’s and girl’s football teams has more than doubled over the last seven years. As manager of Vicky Park Queens, what has it been like contributing to this statistic? 

It’s insane. There were many clubs that came before us, I always talk about Romance FC, Hackney women, so many clubs that came before us. It is such a growing part of football which is great. I sometimes look at those figures, and I’m like, yeah that’s great…but there’s so many issues of access within women’s football. It’s really hard to find affordable, accessible, and safe spaces to play. I’ve had so many issues dealing with police, dealing with councils, dealing with schools, it’s so difficult to find a place to house your team in a safe way, let alone grow it. They’re building new pitches in Leicester at the minute, I’ve emailed them to express that it is totally useless if you aren’t speaking to women’s teams, and women who play football. Women’s team’s require a different level of consideration.

Similarly, women’s professional football has grown hugely in popularity. This was evidenced when the 2023 Women’s World Cup final broke viewership records in both Spain and the United Kingdom. Do you think that increased representation of the female fan has helped this?

There are so many women that have been a part of the growth of women’s football. I think that you’ve now got a whole new sport to enjoy. If you look at the crowd of a women’s football game, it’s visibly very female. You can see why, the whole experience is just so much better in so many ways. It’s beautiful to watch. Before, people made the argument that it genuinely wasn’t as good as men’s football. You just can’t say that now, it’s just not true. From women’s football, there’s now a culture where fandom feels less policed. It’s really freeing, especially for LGBTQ+ women, that audience feel a much greater sense of safety in spaces dedicated to women’s sport. 

Copa 71, a film about the 1971 Women’s World Cup which is largely written out of sporting history, will be released this International Women’s Day. How do you feel about that?

It’s difficult for me to go back to that point. Sometimes I worry that with women’s football we spend so much time focusing on the has-nots and the negatives. As much as I do acknowledge it, and think it’s a really interesting story, I’ll always encourage clients to not wallow in that. We need to be moving the conversation forward, but that’s not to say that the film won’t be great.

So far, what has been your most gratifying moment as the manager of Vicky Park Queens, and head of This Fan Girl?

I think Vicky Park Queens; it’s every single week. We take a photo of everyone at the end of the session, we want to show what our club is and who our club is. I’m always really aware that there is so much nervousness in starting something new, starting football as a woman, you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for people. I’m always really keen for us to show the team actually looking like we’ve had fun. I remember my first few months with Vicky Park Queens, I’d get in my car and be so excited that we’d gone from nine to ten. There was one girl who was in the first session, her name was Ellie, she wouldn’t mind me saying that she was really quiet when she first started. Three years later, she’s still in Leicester, and says that Vicky Park Queens is the reason she still lives here. She’s a really different person now, so much more confident. I always think about the quiet confidence that it can instil in people over a course of time. It doesn’t have to be loud, it can just be more inherent for people. 

This Fan Girl, holy shit. There’s been loads. It’s a bit of a different beast because it's been going for so much longer. What we’ve been able to bring together, we did a tournament in St. George’s Park, we had like 300 people there. It was sick, so cool. We had Manny teams, Liverpool, so that was wicked. I think with This Fan Girl, it’s economic empowerment, I love paying people. I love being able to pay women for their work, that’s my favourite thing. That’s my dream really, having a This Fan Girl studio where I’ve got 10 full time staff members that I can pay, and be able to help them carve out a career. 

What are your hopes for the future of Vicky Park Queens, This Fan Girl, and football?

Vicky Park Queens, we want to continue the growth. Sustainable growth, I think there’s such a thing as growing too fast. I want to see more growth in women’s football across the Midlands, and create a bit of a mind shift with regards to women’s football in the Midlands. Like, stop people heckling us when we go to Vicky Park. That’s where Vicky Park Queens and This Fan Girl cross over, at This Fan Girl we’re launching our creative agency in March. We hope that it will showcase that we’re going to take on more creative, more consultancy, more communications work. We’re going to get our team built out, in the future we want to build up the This Fan Girl foundation which will support women’s grassroots football. 

My hopes for football…there are so many. To be more pointed, I think that we need to get better at communicating about all football. Right now it seems to fall into quite succinct silos. I think that’s gotten worse as women’s football has increased. Men’s football and women’s football live quite separately from each other. People approach women to talk about women’s football, and men to talk about men’s football. I’d love to see people talking about both, with This Fan Girl, that’s what we try to do. I do think we need to have a more honest conversation about access, there's no growth unless you are able to provide that access. That comes into the form of space, but it also asks how we are getting people into football at a grassroots level. What doors are we opening for different people to enjoy this? We’ve got an opportunity to welcome newer fans, and people who have got different historical connections to the game.

Article by Hannah Kitty Brownbill

Styling by Kiera Beeby

Hair and make-up by Grace Brown

Video DOP: Ell Cheatle

Photography by Martyn Ewoma


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