Mission Accomplished: The Supporters Who Made Sanitary Products Available At Celtic Park

I’m so happy to hear that the women behind this online petition can now declare victory and announce that Celtic, as the first football club in the UK, will provide free sanitary products on all female toilets at Celtic Park, at no cost for the fans on a trial basis with the aim of installing them as a permanent feature by December.

These are such great news, demonstrating the power of working together and how you, with a little persuasion and grit, can achieve big things. It’s also yet another testament to how intimately intertwined football and politics are. A few weeks ago I was fortunate to catch up with these women and talk to them about their hard work, promoting their initiative to highlight period poverty as well as their love of football. You can read the first part of the interview here.In the wake of this success, we hope to see more football clubs follow.

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​- What pushed you to initiate the petition on free sanitary products at Celtic Park?
(everyone turns to look at Erin)

E: Well, there’s a few reasons. The period poverty is a pure hot topic in the now, politically and socially really. I found myself at Celtic Park one day, thinking, ‘why haven’t we done this here? Why is there no talk happening at football grounds?’ And it just felt oddly right that we should start this and do something about it. I think I speak for all three of us but I don’t know, after the act got repealed I was pure politically energised, it was proof that working class people organising could actually work. So we thought ‘let’s just give it a go’ and we started the petition and got in touch with Celtic on the same day, advertising the petition and asking to meet with them, because we had some ideas about it, and then we didn’t hear back from them for a wee while, because our contact was on annual leave. But we have just kept going and cheering on the petition, Mikaela has been making up wee info pictures, like reasons why we started it, and they have been taking off really well as well.

M: I think that’s how it kind of started, with the Offensive Behaviour at Football act, that’s had a huge impact on most fans I think, in the Scottish game.

E: The petition has gained momentum so quickly. I didn’t expect it to get this much attention but it’s definitely a positive. There’s been a lot of backlash but the good outweighs the bad for sure. We’ve gotten so much support from MSP’s, fan magazines and podcasts, and even mainstream media. It’s crazy!

O: It’s not just a group of girls crying out for free sanitary products, that want things for free. That’s not the reason, we don’t want them for free just for the sake of it. I think the people that have signed, they’re the ones that have looked into it and what the campaign is about. We’ve had a few messages from people that have said that they were totally against it but now that we understand what it is about we’ve changed our minds.

E: That’s the positive, minds are being changed about it. We’ve always said that it’s good it started a discussion and a debate, even though we get some really harsh comments.

– Could you describe these comments more?

E: I have so many screenshots …

M: To be fair they’ve given us quite a good laugh but some people have been so extreme.

E: Aye, we just try and take it on the chin. Because we agreed to not get into arguments – if we’re going to reply, just try and be as progressive as possible and answer questions, that’s how minds are getting changed. But this guy was tweeting us, like ‘football’s a man’s game’, just pure medieval stuff, ‘keep this out of football’, and he was saying that we don’t care about Celtic’s trophies this season because we’re causing the fans to argue among themselves, that winning the treble again is not enough for us, so we’ve just had to start this. It’s just been madness some of this stuff, but the people that get it, get it. Minds are getting changed. But see if we implemented this over night, none of these guys – it’s mostly guys – would know, because they’re not on these toilets, well generally speaking anyways, so they wouldn’t notice. And it’s not like it’s increasing the ticket prices, we’re not selling a player to fund it, it’s not about a lot of money. It’s just a running cost of running a business. It’s the same with toilet paper.

if we implemented this over night, none of these guys would know, because they’re not on these toilets

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​M: It’s just such a huge and important message that Celtic have got the opportunity to stand out. We were saying, this is how we believe that things eventually are going to work, period products are going to be free – so why not do it first and show we’re inclusive and make things more comfortable for the fans. There’s been guys that have been really fighting for it, that really get it, and there’s then been that extreme that’s just been so against it, writing stuff like ‘these girls obviously don’t know what to do with themselves next’, ‘just for attention’, ‘pure world warriors’ and ‘extreme feminists’. But I think most people draw the line and say ‘well, if you can afford a season ticket, you can afford your sanity products’ – but that’s missing so many of the reasons why we’re doing this.​

O: So many men seem to think that if females are at Celtic Park it’s because they are season ticket holders. They don’t think about the charities that Celtic work with, week in and week out. Not every female that is at the game is a season ticket holder or have bought their ticket, they’re there with charities. Even if they are there with a season ticket, what about these 13-14 year old girls that are there with a male, and get their period. How do they come out to who they’re with and say ‘oh, by the way, I don’t have any sanitary products with me’.

E: ‘Can I have two pounds for a tampon dad?’ You know what I mean?

O: And it’s not just ‘oh, here’s a fiver, go and get it. You would then need to go and exchange for coins and, it’s not very easily accessible as it is anyway, even with the price of it being extortionate but the fact that you need to have specific coins like that …

E: It’s just stupid to assume that everybody buys their own tickets, because that’s not the case. We got told during the week that you can get free sanitary products from the paramedics at Celtic Park, but that’s not well advertised. I didn’t know that and I’ve been going to the games for years. And it’s not comfortable, if I’m in the toilet and I get my period, I need to go find out where the paramedics are based – which I do not know – and I then need to ask them, and it might be a male, ‘can I have a tampon please?’. All this time I’m bleeding! It’s just not efficient. I mean, it’s good to know that it’s there and if someone asks you for a tampon and you don’t have one you can go to the paramedics, but it’s just not accessible enough.

​M: It’s not going to make female fans who go to the football have more periods and use up all of these free products, you know what I mean? It’s just not going to work that way. Nobody’s going to start stashing hundreds of them in their bag – that’s one of the other things that people have said, like ‘people are just going to stock up’ – well I’m sure that if they are stocking up it’s probably because they need them, and that’s the whole point, innit?E: We are a club that were founded on principles tackling poverty, so if we’re going to turn around and say ‘you can actually only take one tampon per head’ that’s just ridiculous and so far from the founding principles of the club.

O: Some might need one tampon per season, it’s not going to be ‘oh every single game let’s go in and take a ten pack of tampons’.

M: I think it sends a message. Celtic has a huge reputation, so for them to come out and do that, also the whole PR side of things, that just can’t be underestimated, at all.

O: And other fans from other teams have already shown interest and how they want their teams to get involved and I think for Celtic to lead the way and to do it first sends out a message saying, like you said, ‘we are a club founded on poverty’ basically. We want Celtic to be the first.

M: And we’ve had a few messages actually from fans, saying they’ve had to use toilet rolls when they’ve been at a stadium, whether that be because there were no products – there are machines – but I know in my toilet they are not really that well stocked and personally I’ve never had to use them but there have been girls that have come to us and said they’ve been out of stock. One girl had to go home, she had to leave at half time …

E: It’s just crazy.

M: One other girl was using toilet rolls to make a makeshift sanitary towel.

… this time a couple of weeks ago if you would’ve said to all Celtic supporters ‘do you think you’ll be involved in any sort of discussion about periods, period poverty – there’s no chance they would’ve expected this

– What is your own relationship to periods, was that something that was talked about or kept quiet about?

M: I found it so funny right, I’ve been online, talking to other guys about it, and then I thought ‘I still haven’t said to my own dad that this is a thing going on. So I phoned him after a couple of days and I was telling him about it, and I thought it was so weird talking to him about periods, you know that way it’s still a bit funny, but my dad is dead supportive, he told me how great it was and shared it on his feed, all the Celtic pages that he goes on Facebook and stuff, and that was pure great I thought that in itself has been huge, guys, see this time a couple of weeks ago if you would’ve said to all Celtic supporters ‘do you think you’ll be involved in any sort of discussion about periods, period poverty, sanitary products, availability of them and whether it should be free or not – there’s no chance they would’ve expected this, and the fact that some people have been so passionate about it – or even that some people aren’t but it’s just been the whole debate around it. We’ve been active online, sharing in the group chats but even on the threads which aren’t public, different Celtic fan boards, and on them some of them have apparently had up to 20 pages worth of debate whether or not it should be free, for and against. That in itself is absolutely mad, that you’ve got threads worth of guys and girls talking about periods.E: We’ve got so many guys on board, guys of all ages, but I’d say mostly younger guys though which is pure promising for years to come. It’s a female issue, gender spectrum aside I’m just going to say male and female to not overcomplicate things but we need male allies for sure because we are underrepresented and they’re the ones that are visible, they’re the ones with power, so we need that support. We need guys to be sharing it, signing it and speak to their pals. It’s something we definitely need and it doesn’t go underappreciated.

O: The fact that [sanitary products] are seen as such luxury products, even in the advertisements from these companies that make them, make them out to be these wonderful things – they are a necessity.

M: That’s a big point, discussing period poverty is obviously an issue but even underneath that, discussing periods is just as important, it shouldn’t be a taboo and it is. That’s partly what Celtic could do, they just normalise periods.

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