Football has a vast association with homophobia. Offensive chants, abusive behaviour, and a bravado attitude have made the sport often feel inaccessible for some LGBTQ+ players and fans. However, a new partnership could help change the status quo and drive positive change.
The football association has signed a new strategic partnership with Stonewall in order to take a head-on approach to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in football. The initiative shows The FA’s commitment to creating an inclusive game where all LGBT people are welcome and accepted.
The partnership will kick off with a ground-breaking fixture at Wembley Stadium between Britain’s most successful LGBT football club, Stonewall FC, and Wilberforce Wanderers AFC.
The match is set to take place during this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign that will see sport across Britain turn rainbow. From 17 November – 7 December, fans, players, sports officials and organisations will proudly demonstrate their commitment to LGBT equality by taking part in the campaign.
Kirsty Clarke, Director of Sport, Stonewall said:
It’s so important that we’re now working with the FA. We need everyone involved in the national game at every level of football, from the community to the elite, to feel included and welcome.
“To have Stonewall FC invited to play at Wembley is a symbolic demonstration by the FA and it sends a powerful message that LGBT people are a welcome part of the football family.”
As part of the partnership, The FA has signed up to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Stonewall works with more than 760 organisations to help them create workplaces that are welcoming and accepting of LGBT people.
As a Diversity Champion, The FA and Stonewall will work together to review policies, practices and staff training and work on changes needed to ensure every person can be themselves. This will include delivering a programme for non-LGBT employees to learn about how they can be an active ally in creating an inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people at all levels of the organisation.
Paul Elliott, Chair of The FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board [IAB], said: “This new relationship presents an opportunity for football to help change hearts and minds beyond the stadia, as well as ensuring that everyone who makes football happen feels included. Whether players, supporters, members of the vital volunteer workforce, employees of The FA, contract staff or anyone else connected to the game, no one should be left behind.”
The principle behind this partnership, therefore, embraces the philosophy that the game is for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
A 2017 report from Football Forza and Stonewall found that anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes within football could be slowly changing. The report saw 55 per cent of those polled saying they would have no issue with a gay player representing their country – up from 46 per cent in 2014.
Earlier this year, Minnesota United’s midfielder Collin Martin came out as gay saying that he was proud to be able to play sport as an openly gay man. He added: “I want to take this moment to encourage others who play sports professionally or otherwise to have confidence that sport will welcome them wholeheartedly.”