Chelsea Women defender Millie Bright spoke to 13-year-old Olivia Hancock, a gender equality campaigner, as part of BBC Newsround’s investigation into the opportunities for girls in football.
Olivia, who has been campaigning for gender equality since the age of seven, met up with the Blues No.4 and they both shared the difficult experiences they have had in football.
Specifically, Olivia spoke about a time where she had been punched by a boy while playing a mixed football match and Bright said: ‘I have experienced similar things to you, although it’s kind of like a flip because I had more hassle from the girls growing up because I was friends with the boys.’
Bright believes education for boys at a young age will see positive improvements in the women’s game.
‘I think it could come down to boys not being educated on women’s football from a young age. The positive now is that you’ve seen an increase of young boys coming to the women’s game. Now it’s time to maybe educate people more, not just adults and women, but young boys as well on the importance of women’s football. That’s someone’s dream, someone’s career and job for a very long time,’ she continued.
The young campaigner felt ‘honoured’ to see Chelsea Women play at Stamford Bridge for the first fixture of the Barclays Women’s Super League season, and she and Bright highlighted the importance of playing games at stadiums like the Bridge in order for women’s football to develop in popularity.
‘Boys can think of playing in stadiums like Stamford Bridge and Anfield but girls can’t dream of that. When we were at Stamford Bridge when you [Millie Bright] were playing, I felt honoured to see you and your team-mates playing there. I think that’s where women should play every week,’ Olivia said.
‘We talk about change and being equal in the game so for me to say that I wouldn’t want to play at Stamford Bridge every week would be a lie,’ Bright admitted.
‘That’s something that all clubs should be trying to do is playing at the big stadiums and we want to increase numbers in the audience so to do that we have to play at bigger stadiums to give fans the opportunity to come to games.’
When Bright asked Olivia what she would like to see happen to encourage growth in the women's game, Olivia said: ‘I think it has to start at primary schools. Set teams up there so they can start at an early age and work their way up in the game.’
Bright agreed with Olivia’s point and said the opportunity needs to be there for girls from a young age to see if they enjoy playing the sport.
Bright and her Chelsea Women team-mates are next in action at Kingsmeadow against Manchester United on Sunday 17 November, with a 2pm kick-off. Three days later we face Tottenham Hotspur in the Continental Tyres Cup, which kicks off at 7pm.