‘Euro 2024 is a rare tournament for us’ – England’s LGBTQ+ fans group on FvH Podcast Pride special

Published by Jon Holmes on

Three Lions Pride say they will be out in force at the European Championship in Germany; the last two men’s World Cups have been hosted by countries with anti-gay laws; the group’s co-founder Joe White joins the Football v Homophobia Podcast to preview the Euros through an LGBTQ+ lens…

By Jon Holmes

Joe White and Tash Bispham of Three Lions Pride at Italy v England in Naples in March 2023

The co-founder of England’s official fans group for LGBTQ+ people and allies says they will be “as visible as possible” at Euro 2024 in Germany.

It’s the first major men’s international football tournament since Three Lions Pride was formed in 2018 that has been held solely in one country that doesn’t have an anti-gay law.

Co-founders Joe White and Di Cunningham travelled to Russia in the group’s first year, meeting with fellow LGBTQ fans and activists campaigning there. Some of those they met have now been forced to flee the country amid worsening discrimination and the war against Ukraine.

Euro 2020, delayed by a year, was held in cities across the continent, including in St Petersburg and in Baku, Azerbaijan, where LGBTQ citizens have barely any protections in law. Meanwhile, Hungary ultras attending games in Budapest displayed homophobic banners.

Three Lions Pride had no visible presence at the Qatar 2022 World Cup as the vast majority of the group’s members did not feel safe to travel to a country where LGBTQ people are criminalized.

White says it is therefore hugely refreshing to have a tournament in Germany, which was recently rated among Europe’s top 10 queer-friendly nations on the ILGA Rainbow Europe map. Organisers have been making additional efforts to stage a sustainable and inclusive event.

Speaking on a special Pride Month episode of the Football v Homophobia Podcast, they said: “We’ve got record numbers going, plus four new banners that we’re launching.

“We’ve also got thousands of biodegradable, holographic stickers and we’re using the slogan ‘Football’s Coming Homo!’ – so we’re really going all out to be as visible as possible and have a good time.

“It’s a very rare tournament for us in the lead-up. We’re not having to discuss how to stay safe as someone who’s queer, or how trans and non-binary members who might be going need to have equal protection.

“We’ve got that safety in numbers, and it will be nice for people to have the option of going off and doing what they want and not having to worry so much.

“That should be the standard and not an exception.”

England’s Group C fixtures against Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia will be held on the western side of Germany, in Gelsenkirchen, Frankfurt and Cologne respectively.

But even though Gareth Southgate’s team are highly unlikely to play in Berlin unless they reach the final, White and their fellow Three Lions Pride members will be keen to visit the capital when possible, whatever happens on the pitch.

That’s because Pride House Berlin promises to be an essential destination for LGBTQ fans at these Euros. The venue at the Poststadion – just a 15-minute walk north of the central train station – will screen all 51 games live and host talks and activities in an inclusive space.

Project manager Alice Drouin from LSVD Berlin-Brandenburg is also a guest on the FvH Podcast and she gives listeners the full lowdown on what to expect.

She’s also encouraged by the support the Pride House is getting from German politicians and the media.

“We can feel the attention and interest,” she says. “Mainstream media have already agreed to partner with us on our events and are giving us visibility.

Alice Drouin

“And that’s big for us because with this, we are entering the football world that’s maybe not aware that we are part of it too.

“It’s so great to have this opportunity and I know that the organisers of the main fan zone in Berlin will host a panel on one of the days without games – they are working on that in cooperation with the Berlin Pride organisation committee.

“That’s going to be a nice moment. This year’s Pride has several focus topics, and sports is one of them.

“We all know how difficult it is sometimes, to link queer people to sports. So to have the opportunity with this event to do that, we’re already succeeding.”

It’s particularly encouraging to hear that the Pride House Berlin message is being amplified by the media.

Sports writer Andrew Henderson, who has shared many LGBTQ+ football stories through his Pride of the Terraces platform, will be cheering on Scotland from back home and says it will mean a lot to see LGBTQ+ people and strong allies on screen as presenters and pundits.

Alex Scott, Jen Beattie and Rachel Corsie are all set to be part of the BBC coverage, while Conor Coady will also be among the pundits. Over on ITV, experts include Graeme Souness and Ian Wright who have both shown support for inclusion in recent years.

Andrew Henderson

Henderson tells the FvH Podcast: “There’s a quote that’s stuck with me for years now – ‘someone said, where are all the gay football players? well, where are all the people for them to tell their stories to?’

“You need to have both sides of that to really drive that message home because otherwise it’s probably not going to be at the forefront of a lot of journalists’ minds.

“It’s not going to be at the forefront of a lot of pundits’ or hosts’ minds either unless they are part of the community or have those ties [as active allies], so having that representation there will hopefully keep it at the forefront of the conversation.

“To what extent remains to be seen but it’s enough to give me hope and make me think that if and when they do touch on these subjects, it will be done fairly well too and they will hit some of the key points and be something substantial.”

Also on this special episode, Alice from Pride House Berlin discusses the national mood in Germany and why she’s not expecting to see players in Julian Nagelsmann’s squad making a statement or gesture about human rights.

Meanwhile, Joe and Andrew share their hopes for England and Scotland at these Euros, give their predictions for who will lift the trophy, and share their LGBTQ+ wishes for what might unfold across the month-long festival of football.

Find out more about supporting Football v Homophobia on the FvH website and for more LGBTQ+ chat on Euro 2024, listen to the FvH Podcast Pride special in full!

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher and can help with your content requirements. Learn more about us here.

We’re interested in your news and stories. Share with us and tap into a worldwide audience through our Google News affiliate website which attracts thousands of visitors, and our popular social channels. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor