Lucy Gillett, Crystal Palace’s goalkeeper, says that she was subjected to sexist abuse from male fans during her club’s match at Coventry on Sunday.
The American told BBC Sport that during the first half of Palace’s 3-2 defeat, a group of fans shouted the referee should “check the gender” of Palace players.
Palace’s women’s team play in the FA Women’s Championship, the second tier of women’s football in England, where they are seventh in the league.
Gillett, 25, was signed by Palace on loan from Brighton just a week ago.
She said, “In my 18 years of playing I’ve never had verbal abuse directly aimed at myself right behind my goal. It was an unpleasant experience. If it was a racist comment it wouldn’t be tolerated. We have had players walk off pitches for racist comments. Maybe I should have walked off the pitch in that match.”
Gillett said the abuse came from a group of about eight men behind her goal, which she reported to the referee at half-time. “At the time I wasn’t 100 per cent sure of the protocol or what I was supposed to do,” she said. “I tried to just ignore it and continue with the game.
“The behaviour was better in the second half but still not completely controlled and quite intimidating for the team. I can’t say what should have happened or shouldn’t have happened, but for me to be verbally abused for 45 minutes – to anyone that is unacceptable.
“If we are going to see more of these incidents in the women’s game then there needs to be protocols of what teams and security should be doing if they come across this kind of situation.”
Coventry said they were aware of the allegations and were looking into them. The FA said it is looking into the incident and is “committed to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football at every level of the game”.
At the end of December local non-league side AFC Croydon Athletic had a match abandoned when their opposition, Fisher, walked off as a group, alleging that one of their players had been racially abused during the South East Counties Premier League game. The London FA has yet to issue its ruling on the incident.
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