Whitehawk FC to host “a celebration of togetherness” on the Sunday of Brighton Pride weekend in August to support LGBTQ+ inclusion in the beautiful game
Former stars from Manchester United, Aston Villa and Tottenham – including Champions League winners and internationals – will be among the players to take part in a ground-breaking mixed-gender football match on the south coast on August 4.
Tickets are on sale now for ‘Football United – A Celebration of Togetherness’ which will be played at Whitehawk FC’s TerraPura Ground in East Brighton on the Sunday of Brighton Pride weekend. Gates will open at 12.30pm for a 3pm kick-off.
An ex-Premier League All-Star team which features Keith Gillespie, Lee Hendrie, Kevin Davies and Paul Walsh among its ranks will face off against ‘Rainbow Rovers’, an LGBTQ+ side of sportspeople, activists and celebrities.
Brighton legend Guy Butters is teaming up with Russell Beardsmore, who made over 50 league appearances for United before becoming a mainstay of Bournemouth’s team in the mid 90s, to look after the All-Star side.
The Rovers side will be player-managed by writer and broadcaster Sophie Cook, who was the first out trans woman to work in the Premier League during her stint as club photographer at AFC Bournemouth.
They will wear a special blue with rainbow sash kit, designed by Turner Prize-nominated artist David Shrigley and manufactured by O’Neill’s, which features a map of the Whitehawk Estate area of East Brighton where the club is situated.
A donation from the matchday takings will be made to the Brighton Rainbow Fund, the central point for LGBT+ fundraising in the city and which distributes grants to local projects.
“Football holds a unique position within our society to carry the message of diversity and equality into areas that are often ignored and written off,” said Cook, who was greeted with “love and respect” from across the sport when she first began sharing her story.
“The game is a universal language that transcends social barriers and this match will send out the message that the beautiful game belongs to everyone regardless of sexuality, gender identity, race, religion or gender.
“Football United? It’s bigger than that… it’s People United!”
The Football Supporters’ Association‘s Fans for Diversity initiative are one of the groups and campaigns supporting the event, along with Kick it Out, Pride Sports, and Football v Homophobia. Sports Media LGBT+ will also be assisting in order to help raise awareness.
Fans for Diversity Campaigns Officer Maria Horner said: “The FSA is all about showing people that live football is on their doorstep. Fans for Diversity helps those who may not think football is for them get along to the game.
“We’re proud to support and take part in this event at Whitehawk FC – it promises to be an excellent occasion demonstrating just how welcoming football can be.”
Former Dagenham defender Anwar Uddin, the Diversity and Campaigns Manager at the FSA who is also assistant manager of Aldershot Town, will lend his experience to help Cook and her Rovers side on the day.
Kevin Miller, Head of Commercial at Whitehawk FC, says the Isthmian League South club are “proud to be hosting such an inspirational game”, which is sure to be played in a carnival atmosphere assisted by the devoted Whitehawk Ultras supporters.
“On behalf of the club I’d like to thank everyone who has helped put this together,” added Miller. “We look forward to welcoming fans from the world of football and beyond.
“This match is an invitation to all ages, colours, races, faiths, and genders, to join us and celebrate Inclusion through football, on a weekend where The City of Brighton lights a beacon for inclusivity around the world.”
With names subject to change, those set to take part in the match include:
Ben Thornley (Manchester United); Keith Gillespie (Manchester United, Newcastle United, Northern Ireland); Russell Beardsmore (Manchester United); Lee Martin (Manchester United); David May (Manchester United); Guy Butters (Brighton and Hove Albion); Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers, England); Lee Hendrie (Aston Villa, England); Bruno (Brighton and Hove Albion); Paul Walsh (Tottenham); Mark McAdam (Sky Sports News); Sophie Cook; Anwar Uddin (Fans For Diversity); Ryan Atkin (referee); Lucy Clark (referee) – with many more names to be added!
Want to get involved in this great event? Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Or perhaps you can help in some other way? Contact Kevin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org