When founder and editor-in-chief Felicia Pennant was deciding on the theme for the next issue of Season Zine, one question was on her mind: “We all say we love football. But what does that mean?”
At first glance, this might seem like too broad a question to try tackling in one issue of one magazine. But one important and incredibly unique aspect of the zine narrows it down quite a bit: the “we” refers specifically to female fans.
Born out of Felicia’s frustration that women’s experiences and perspectives have been ignored in conversations on football culture, Season has been filling that editorial gap for three issues now with a blend of fashion and sport — or as Pennant describes it, “why these fans care and what they wear.” And now, following “The Female Fan” (Issue 1) and “Paris” (Issue 2), summer 2017’s “Love” issue focuses on the multitude of ways that passion intersects with, arises within, and is portrayed by female fans of the game.
It includes a women’s ultras group in Brighton, who have taken the connotation of ultra — “fanatical, obsessive fans who are usually sexist and racist” — and completely “turned it on its head”; a look at girls with football tattoos because, as Pennant says, “you really have to love something to get it permanently on your body’; and feature on nail art involving WAH Nails founder Sharmadean Reid, because getting a football-themed manicure is an “extra effort” of love in addition to throwing on a kit that female fans can flaunt.
The issue also highlights broader topics that deal with love, such as homophobia — following the success of the film “Wonderkid,” about a gay footballer, Pennant thought it would be interesting to have that same discussion about women — and the upcoming women’s Euros this summer.
But whatever they feature, “it’s always about putting the ‘Season spin’ on it.”
“These are things a news channel might cover any day, but we add something deeper,” Pennant says, “ And always something from a female point of view.”
Though it is the main focus of this particular issue, female fans’ love for the game is always influencing the zine. Not to mention that Season was born out of that love — Pennant’s own for both fashion and football.
While she always had love for the former, the latter really crystallized in 2004 when she was 12. She first perked up to the Euros that summer — she “remembers seeing a young Cristiano Ronaldo crying [after Portugal lost the final] and thinking ‘why is he crying? It’s just football!’” — and then that newfound interest snowballed into the Premier League season that followed.
Pennant decided she would be a Chelsea fan. “I live quite close to Chelsea, and they’re my dad’s team — so I was like ‘okay, Chelsea’s going to be my team, too,” she explains.
She admits she got lucky in picking the right team at the right time; that year, Jose Mourinho led the Blues to their first title win in 50 years, and they’ve continued consistently winning ever since.
Naturally, Pennant was hooked; at boarding school later on, she’d always make sure to finish her prep early on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to be able to watch Chelsea in the Champions League.
It took a few more years, after she was at school for fashion full-time, for her passions to fully come together. She decided to write her final year thesis on metrosexuality in football, specifically how players are shot and portrayed in magazines and why they’re always wearing suits for these spreads. It was aptly titled “From Beckham to Balotelli: Shoots, Suits, and Metrosexuality” and was, unsurprisingly, formatted as a magazine.
But during her research, she noticed one key thing: there was a “glaring lack of women” in every football fashion book she found.
“I remember thinking that there must have been women there,” says Pennant. She also remembered all of the creative women who loved football that she had met over the course of her internships, from ELLE UK and Nylon in New York to The Green Soccer Journal and Talksport (“There was a period I thought I’d be a sports journalist but I changed my mind because I like fashion too much!”), as well as the stats pointing to the fact that 25% of those who go to games are women.
But despite their very real existence, their voices and experiences were nowhere to be found.
So now, Pennant and her team “champion them first” in the pages of Season. They even decided to make the first issue pink because of how patronizing male-dominated football culture can be; “we had to reclaim the color pink,” Pennant explains, because of how frustrating it is to walk into a club shop and see that the women’s options are pink.
“We want to be that beacon of light.”
And not just on the page, either. The Issue 3 launch, which took place at the end of April, provided an opportunity to bring together all the incredible women they’ve met to talk about it all in public.
The panels featured a general discussion of what it’s like to be a female fan, featuring Amy of This Fan Girl, as well as the founder of the grassroots organization “She Can Play” which runs training sessions for young girls and their moms as well. Wrapping it all up with a review of the Premier League season because, after all, we’re all here because we love football.
The event was also DJ’d by Bip Ling, who is the cover star of — and Pennant’s favorite part of — the new issue.
“[Bip] exploded into the scene a couple of years ago — she was a blogger, an ‘it’ girl. People knew about her,” Pennant describes. “And then she just disappeared.”
When Pennant recently went to check on her Instagram feed, she saw that all of a sudden it was all Charlton FC stuff. “I thought, ‘I didn’t know she was into football!’ But she has a season ticket and has painted a Charlton mural on her wall.”
“It really makes you think, ‘What is a stereotypical female fan?’ I don’t know that there is one.”
Even though Issue 3 is still hot off the press, having been released April 22, Pennant and the team keep looking towards the next step for the magazines and for the fans. They’re already thinking and brainstorming for Issue 4.
Pennant also expresses the zine’s interest in becoming more international as they continue to grow, as well as expanding more beyond female fans into female players, who are fans and into fashion too, as women’s football becomes more popular in the UK.
“It’s sad because everyone’s open to it, but you can’t find [coverage] anywhere,” explains Pennant. “It’s May, and there’s not really any coverage of the women’s Euros [that start in two months].”
But whatever Pennant and Season end up covering next issue, you won’t want to miss it. What started as a slow-burning email from Pennant asking people if they’d want to be involved in her small project has already grown into a cult classic zine — and will only keep growing.
To keep up on everything that Season has been up to, make sure to follow them on Instagram. And to buy Issue 3 as well as loads of other merch, from Issue 2 to patches to illustrated stickers, check out their shop!
Photos from article were taken by Georgie Grainger at Ace Hotel London.