FvH issues call to action across the game, urging everyone to take a strong vocal stand against all forms of anti-LGBTIQ+ discrimination; recent studies show high frequency of homophobic abuse sent online to elite footballers, and reporting spikes at grassroots; FvH supports the LGBTIQ+ community in sport, with director Lou Englefield stressing the need to sustain the campaign’s important work amid “divisive times”…
LGBTIQ+ representation and visibility in football has never been greater – and with that comes an even greater responsibility to tackle discrimination.
That is the message being sent out by Football v Homophobia, marking its 15th annual Month of Action in February 2024.
In what is also LGBT+ History Month in the UK, organisations and individuals are being asked to activate the initiative across their football spaces, such as on the pitch, in the stands, in training sessions, and on social media.
Back in 2010, FvH was launched by The Justin Campaign, named after Justin Fashanu, the first professional player to be publicly out as gay. The call to action in February is linked to his birthday on the 19th.
Later extended to a week, and then the whole month, clubs and leagues are encouraged to get involved by showing support on a selected matchday.
Over the years, FvH has held national conferences, run tournaments, delivered education and training, produced resources, surveys and podcasts, partnered on projects, and more.
Country-specific strategies operate in Scotland and Cymru (Wales), as well as international strands made possible by grants from the Fare network.
High-profile figures have lent their voices to the campaign, such as Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany, star of stage and screen Sir Ian McKellen, and Thomas Hitzlsperger – the only footballer to have played in the Premier League and come out publicly.
Among the positive developments seen in that time are the rise of the women’s game and its many role models; the growth of the LGBTQ+ fan groups movement; the beginnings of out gay and bi representation in men’s football; and the creation of more grassroots clubs that are helping gender-diverse people feel welcome and included.
The nature of the fight against discrimination continues to change too, as recent studies have shown.
A report issued by FIFA and players’ union FIFPro after the Qatar 2022 World Cup stated that “homophobia was prolific” online around the tournament, while equivalent research after the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand found that “homophobic, sexual and sexist abuse accounted for almost 50% of detected verified abusive messages” sent to players.
At a domestic level in England, three clubs have been fined six-figure sums by the Football Association in recent months as a result of homophobic chanting by sections of their supporters on Premier League matchdays.
Meanwhile, the most recent reporting statistics released by Kick It Out showed reports of discrimination related to sexual orientation were up 58% on the previous year at grassroots level.
To help counter this, FvH has created ‘Allies United’, a groundbreaking new education programme supported by Just Eat that is delivering LGBTIQ+ inclusive training directly to those taking part in the game outside of the professional tiers.
Crucially, FvH also celebrates the LGBTIQ+ community within football. The FvH Awards gala returns for its fifth edition in Manchester on February 23, and the LGBTQ+ Professionals in Football Collective – an industry network group founded 18 months ago – continues to attract new members. An FvH Youth Panel has been running since 2018.
Lou Englefield, FvH campaign director, said: “So much has changed since 2010. LGBTIQ+ fans are visible across the game, we have a professional network for the football industry and phenomenal growth in representation across football media.
“We need to ensure this momentum continues, particularly during the divisive times in which we now find ourselves.”
For the 2024 Month of Action, there is a new version of the iconic FvH rainbow football, in Progress Pride flag colours, as well as other exciting developments in store.
Clubs are set to benefit from a new professional membership scheme that will bring together a pool of expert associates to offer bespoke advice, guidance and training.
The campaign is also launching an ‘Allies United’ benchmarking scheme, which will help grassroots clubs ensure they are welcoming LGBTIQ+ people into the game.
FvH team member Jon Holmes, who helps to deliver the programme’s workshops and also advises on media and comms, said: “There is a crystal-clear message behind this 15th FvH Month of Action – we all have a responsibility to tackle hate.
“LGBTIQ+ people have always been part of football, contributing in a variety of roles. Having achieved a degree of visibility, the community’s place in the game is threatened by increasingly toxic attitudes and behaviours.
“This February, there are more ways than ever to engage with FvH. By activating the campaign, you are part of a global anti-discrimination movement united under the ‘Football for Everyone’ banner. Thank you for standing with us.”
Visit www.footballvhomophobia.com for more information on how you can get involved in the Month of Action in February.
Check out our archive of related content, including episodes of the FvH Podcast.
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