Norwich City, BK8 and Sexism in Football

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I don’t often talk about football related things, in general now, as I always worry that what I say might get taken hugely out of context and cause me potential issues at work. But with this, sexism in sports, I’m happy to talk about it, because it needs talking about. Let’s talk about BK8.

Disclaimer, of course, these views and opinions are mine, and absolutely not related to my employer in any way.

*For the purpose of this post, I do not share any of the content mentioned from BK8. I’d advise you not to search for it, because it’s absolute trash. It’s easy enough to find should you wish to report it, though.

Background

Norwich confirmed last week that they were ending their sponsorship deal with their existing primary sponsor, Dafabet. No shock here. As fans, it’s always been a talking point having a betting company as a primary sponsor, it doesn’t sit well with many, and I totally get that. It came as no surprise that the next sponsor would follow in the same suit, another betting company.

Hello BK8.

Never heard of them? No, of course you haven’t. They don’t exist over here really – but due to some incredibly strict laws against advertising and gambling in Asian countries, these companies use Premier League football teams as their marketing outlet. Having their name and logo on the front of a kit means that they get the advertising they’re not normally allowed. As soon as a Premier league game is shown in Asia, their name is there for all to see. It’s very sly and quite sneaky – but it’s more and more prominent in top-tier English football now, and these companies are literally dropping millions of pounds to be shown on TV screens across Asia – a huge market for them that they simply can’t advertise in normally.

Wolves, Burnely, Huddersfield and Newcastle (to name but a few) have followed this trend over the years, with their sponsors Fun88, ManBetX, Laba360 and OPESports (although some of these don’t exist any more, it’s frequent for these companies to vanish and rebrand). So it wasn’t really a shock to the system to see Norwich go down a similar path with the announcement on BK8.

You can read more about the Asian gambling companies and English football teams just here.

I’ve been bought up in a sporting family – my mum, both Grans, and the majority of the female members of my family, are all huge sports fans. To me, a lady watching a sporting event is nothing but normal. For others, it’s not the case. And herein lies the issue. Sexism in sports is a huge issue that we need to tackle.

What’s the issue?

Only a few minutes after the announcement that BK8 would be our primary sponsor was made by the club, the fans started to research the company. It came as a shock to all to find, especially on Instagram, that BK8 use a very unpopular marketing tactic. That tactic, is to have young ladies (wearing not very much) doing things that could well be classified as soft pornography.

Now that may sound extreme, and many have said “She’s only trying to fit a whole sausage in her mouth” or “She’s bouncing up and down on a bike pump to pop the balloon, nothing wrong with that” – well, sorry, but there is. There really is.

Lets start with the main issue here (in my eyes).

Take a look at the #herGameToo hashtag. Football is rife with sexism. It’s often been perceived that football is a mans game, and whilst on the pitch, unfortunately, that still very much is the balance, off the pitch, that isn’t the case. And it hasn’t been the case for a very long time.

In a recent survey, over 65% of women asked said they had been victim of (or witnessed) some form of sexist comment whilst at a football match. That, in my mind, is over 65% too many. Whilst it’s an issue across the game, here lies the specific issue with Norwich City, and BK8.

Norwich is very much a family orientated club. They encourage fans of all genders and age. They actively support the LGBTQ+ community. They even engaged in their own survey, which showed that 1 in 5 female supporters had experienced some level of sexism whilst at a match. It’s too much, and it needs to be stamped out. The club were very keen to ensure that the support is in place to help eradicate this – and yet, here we are, surrounded by a primary club sponsor who actively degrade women for the gratification of their male target audience.

Not only is this degrading, sexist, and borderline x-rated – it’s also going to be seen by many, many children on social media. In an era where body confidence and gender some of the main causes of mental health issues in children, to have our family based football club be proud to promote a company who are happily associated with this kind of portrayal, it’s a worrying sign.

What have the club said?

The club moved fast to ensure the Instagram account from BK8 that hosted some of these images was removed. It’s amazing to think that NO ONE at the football club did any due diligence on BK8 prior to this. I can’t comment for Norwich City, but I can say that these deals aren’t rushed through without any time for due diligence. The procurement process for a primary club sponsor can be months, sometimes longer, and would involve many many people from many areas of the football club to ensure that everything is in line. I find it impossible to believe that no one, at any time, checked BK8s social media.

Norwich announced that they didn’t know about this from BK8, with a club spokesman saying:

The club worked swiftly with BK8 to remove the posts following the announcement of the new partnership. These posts and marketing do not align with the wider Norwich City vision and values and we will be reviewing our due diligence process going forward

Eastern Daily Press

But that’s not enough. It’s just not enough! There are YouTube videos and Instagram posts in their hundreds, promoting BK8 and their “Sexy Gaming”. I heard someone say the club reported it as “cultural differences” – that is simply not an excuse for this kind of attitude.

Quite simply, it undermines the amazing work being done by so many to remove sexism from our game – and I for one am ashamed of our club for taking this stance.

What happens next?

Well, let’s be honest. As fans, we have a few options. Firstly, be prepared for the club to stick with BK8 behind an apology, and an agreement to “be better”. It’s a weak stance, and the damage is done. But here we are.

Our options, though, as fans:

1: Do not buy the kit. I know it’s a pain – but unless the club offer a sponsor-less shirt in adult sizes, then our best bet is to boycott promoting BK8 in any way. Whilst this won’t bother BK8 (because we’re not their target audience here, remember that), it will make the club realise that the fans can speak, and will.

2: Support the fan groups that are getting behind this. The Canaries Trust (Website) have been incredible in their movement to stop this. Support them where you can – share their content. Make a noise. Norwich has a huge fan base, let’s be heard.

3: Do not let it drop. Don’t let this be a flash-in-the-pan. Keep at the club, report any BK8 posts you see that are explicit or sexist. Be the better person.

4: Stand up to sexism – especially if you are male. If we don’t call other men out, then it becomes accepted. That’s been the problem for way too long. Next time you hear a “shouldn’t you be in the kitchen” or “you’d have enjoyed shopping better than this” comment, question it. Ask the person why they think that’s acceptable. Make it awkward, you’re doing the right thing.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then report it to the club, or if you’re at a game, tell a steward.


Times are changing – and we need to do whatever we can to simply be better people.

If you’ve read this, and you think I’m being over sensitive – then please do take the time to educate yourself. Below are some really useful resources. Then put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine sitting at a game and have someone question your validity to be there, your knowledge and understanding of the game purely based on your gender. To feel like you don’t belong. It’s not a nice thought is it? Let’s eradicate sexism from the beautiful game.

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