Football v Homophobia Month of Action launched as incidents show need for campaign

Published by Jon Holmes on

FvH begins annual February activation, supported by Sports Media LGBT+, with superb Charlton Athletic FC launch show – while reports of homophobic incidents underline its importance…

By Jon Holmes

The importance of the Football v Homophobia message has been put in sharp focus on a weekend when Charlton Athletic helped to launch the campaign’s annual Month of Action.

The Addicks had designated their League One fixture at home to Portsmouth on Saturday in support of FvH but heavy rain in south-east London resulted in the match being postponed.

However, the evening’s launch show broadcast went ahead as planned, the culmination of a week of activities organised by the club’s LGBT+ and allies supporters group, Proud Valiants.

Watch a replay of the Football v Homophobia launch show

Learn more about Football v Homophobia and access resources on the campaign’s official website

Sadly, an evening event staged by the group was ‘Zoom-bombed’ by individuals who used discriminatory slurs to temporarily disrupt proceedings.

Meanwhile, an incident in the Morecambe vs Tranmere match in League Two the previous day resulted in Rovers issuing a short statement reiterating their anti-homophobia stance, and the Rover & Out! fans group publishing a statement of their own, which has been endorsed by Kick It Out.

For the FvH launch event live streamed by Charlton on their official club Twitter account, Proud Valiants co-chairs Rob Harris, Bhavisha Ravji and Gary Ginnaw joined the show to share their stories and discuss how the group ties in with Charlton’s long-running work in tackling all forms of discrimination in football.

Also appearing by video call was FvH campaign director Lou Englefield, who described how the initiative traces its origins back to 2008 and how it continues to make progress 13 years on.

“The FvH campaign was originally set up by The Justin Campaign, a small organisation based in Brighton,” explains Englefield. “It was the right thing at the right time – it was the first time that homophobia or LGBT+ inclusion had been spoken about in football.

“They reached out to my organisation Pride Sports after a couple of seasons and asked, would we get behind it? And we did, because we knew it was going to be a really important campaign and would make some real change.

Show host Scott Minto and FvH campaign director Lou Englefield

“We got involved because we could see the power of the campaign, and the power of talking and naming the issue specifically.

“We’ve seen some real change in the time that we’ve been working in football. Last season alone, we sent out just under 600 campaign packs to football clubs, mainly in the UK but some further afield. We’ve had the support of the Fare network which is football’s global anti-discrimination network and this season, they’ve helped us reach more countries outside of the UK. They’ve funded 14 projects in 13 different countries – and as for ourselves, we’ve sent footballs and packs to the US, Uganda, Mexico, and a whole range of countries.

Gary, Bhavisha and Rob

“There’s still a lot of work to be done but one of the things that really strikes home is that when we first started working, there were no LGBT+ supporters groups. There was no visibility of LGBT+ fans in the stadiums anywhere, but now we have groups like Proud Valiants who are able to talk to their clubs, who are consulted and taken seriously, and who are a voice and provide that visibility.

“We have more media support than ever before – we have our friends at Sports Media LGBT+ who are doing really great work to try to tell more positive narratives about LGBT+ inclusion.

“And we have LGBT+ professionals working in the game and representing our community in a really positive way.”

Also appearing on the launch show were Charlton manager Lee Bowyer and the club’s Wales international right-back Adam Matthews, in pre-match interviews recorded on Zoom in which they discussed their support for the FvH initiative.

“It doesn’t matter what your background is, this club supports everybody and everybody’s welcome,” said Bowyer, with former Celtic and Sunderland defender Matthews adding that FvH is “a great message to get across… people shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves”.

Further contributions to the show were made by sports journalists Sam Clarke and Danyal Khan of the FvH Youth Panel, both of whom are also part of the Sports Media LGBT+ network; Football v Transphobia campaign lead Natalie Washington; the PFA’s Simone Pound; Espen Correll, the chair of Loyal Rainbows, the LGBT+ fans group of San Diego Loyal who have recently partnered with Proud Valiants; Anwar Uddin, the manager of the Fans For Diversity campaign; and the Pink Singers, who sang out the show with a rendition of the 1984 hit ‘Together In Electric Dreams’.

You can also watch the Pink Singers’ performance via YouTube

A range of events, webinars and workshops are being held in February to mark the FvH Month of Action, including the annual FvH Awards sponsored by Puma on the evening of Friday, February 5.

See FvH events and more on the Sports Media LGBT+ calendar

One of the events is being held by Sports Media LGBT+ on Wednesday, February 3 and is titled ‘A Welcoming Message: Media and Comms for LGBT+ inclusion’.

The webinar is designed for anyone in a media or comms role in football and will assist them in publicly discussing the LGBT+ aspect of the equality, diversity and inclusion work that their clubs, county FAs and organisations are undertaking.

Meanwhile, the Proud Valiants have said on Twitter that they plan to follow up on the discrimination that marred their event.

Developments are also expected in the coming days on the incident in the Morecambe vs Tranmere game that prompted Sunday’s statements, with referee Paul Howard’s report sure to be studied carefully.

Speaking to the club’s official website, Shrimps boss Derek Adams said: “I don’t know what happened with the red card and we will have to wait and see what the report is.

“The referee didn’t say anything, the fourth official didn’t say anything, so we will have to wait and see.”

The red card incident in the Morecambe vs Tranmere match can be viewed here (from 55s)

Football v Homophobia is an international initiative that exists to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression at all levels of football. Launched in 2010, Football v Homophobia runs an annual Month of Action, which takes place in February during LGBT+ History Month. The Month of Action calls on individuals and organisations at all levels of football to take meaningful action to create more LGBT+ inclusive spaces in the game and address all forms of discrimination.

To learn more, visit the official FvH website.

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBT+ people and allies in sport. Learn more about us here.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor