Get in the game! Past winners on why the Football v Homophobia Awards are fabulous

Published by Jon Holmes on

“You’ve got to be in it to win it!” Seven people previously shortlisted for the FvH Awards tell Sports Media LGBT+ why the community event is so important; nominations deadline for 2024 now closed; the gala ceremony to be held at the National Football Museum in Manchester on February 23…

By Jon Holmes

The Football v Homophobia campaign celebrates its 15th annual Month of Action in 2024 – and once again, those who make the game we love more LGBTQ+ inclusive will be celebrated too!

The last FvH Awards in February 2023 was the biggest and best yet. Nearly 200 people were in attendance at the National Football Museum in Manchester for an evening full of music, mingling and making memories.

With well-known sponsors, TV coverage and special guest presenters, the fourth edition of the awards was the first major opportunity since the Covid-19 pandemic for the LGBTQ+ community in football to come together and party.

Once again, shortlists will be drawn up in ELEVEN categories reflecting the good work that’s been done in the previous 12 months to lift up lesbian, gay, bi and trans folk in football and to kick out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

However, only those who receive nominations for the FvH Awards will be considered for shortlisting by the judges. Nominations deadline for 2024 now closed – the event itself is on Friday 23 February.

Our Review of the Year is a good starting point for some ideas, but hopefully you’ll already have nominees in mind!

Sports Media LGBT+ invites you to hear from seven people who have previously been shortlisted.

Read on, as our super seven give you the full lowdown on the FvH Awards…

Andrew Henderson, shortlisted for the FvH Scotland Award last year for his work on Pride of the Terraces

I was really surprised to be shortlisted, but it was so cool to have my name alongside some amazing people doing wonderful things!

I felt like I was in a bit of a different situation to a lot of people there, because rather than being “in” football, I write about football from the outside, and it was lovely to see that people felt like the work I was doing was good enough and impactful enough to warrant the nomination alongside some true history makers.

So much of the time, it feels like we are fighting an uphill battle towards inclusion, and it’s easy to feel like you exist inside a vacuum.

Having an LGBTQ+ awards event like this and showing appreciation for those who put in the work to make football a better place for all is recognition that it’s all worthwhile, and it serves as motivation to keep going when you know that you’re making a difference.

Those moments to celebrate with the LGBTQ+ community still don’t come along often enough in sport, so highlighting the achievements of the past year – and throwing a big party in the process – in a space where you can be your true authentic self is something that should be cherished.

As for contenders for this year, being Scottish, it’s really easy for me to look at Zander Murray in amazement. He’s been everywhere this last year!

Even moving past the history Zander made by coming out in 2022, he has kept going into club academies, he’s fronted a BBC documentary on LGBTQ+ inclusion in football and he’s made sure that the topic is not going away just because a male player came out.

In 2024, I’d love to see that momentum build. Clubs and governing bodies can always be doing more, but especially when it comes to campaign activations like FvH, they can still feel like an afterthought – at least in Scotland – so more proactive support from the highest level of the game would be amazing to see.

And if you can physically be at the FvH Awards event, be sure to go. There will be achievements being celebrated that you probably didn’t know happened, and that reminder that everyone in that room is pulling in the same direction is surprisingly powerful.

You never know what connections you will make, and the more we can all band together, the easier the fight for inclusion will be.

Selin Yildiz, Sportif Lezbon (Turkey), winner of the International Award sponsored by Fare

Receiving this award was important for the international appreciation of the fact that Sportif Lezbon has been creating a safe football environment for LGBTI+ people in Turkiye for almost 10 years – that is, since the years when grassroots LGBTI+ teams started to increase in almost all of Europe.

There are various awards and trophies in the world of professional sports. I think that LGBTI+ people being rewarded in a world where LGBTI+ athletes experience various discriminations in almost every country, alongside discussion of these efforts, encourages other LGBTI+ people who want to do sports and establish their own sports teams.

It was also meaningful for us to receive the award during the days after one of the most devastating earthquakes that Turkiye has experienced in recent years.

In the last 12 months, it continues to be a source of inspiration to me that LGBTI+ young people, who are subjected to discrimination in all playgrounds and sports spaces, including sports clubs, since their childhoods, persistently do not give up playing games and doing sports.

When those children grow up into adults, we see that they somehow establish safe spaces for themselves and others, and defend the game.

Who would I nominate for a 2024 Award? There are so many extremely inspiring stories. But I think the fact that almost one in every seven players in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 were LGBTI+ athletes was one of the most important events of the last year.

Poletti, shortlisted for the Football Media Award in 2023 for their work on Australian sports website the Inner Sanctum

It was a shock to make the shortlist, but it felt like an honour. To be recognised for my hard work in promoting the LGBTQIA+ community and the stories that come with doing so was amazing and overwhelming.

The FvH Awards are important because football, and the men’s game in particular, has not always been the most welcoming of places.

Highlighting the important work journalists are doing in this space helps to show that having LGBTQIA+ people in football is a normal thing, which will hopefully change the toxic behaviours that have surrounded the sport for far too long.

In 2023, what inspired me was the growth of coverage around LGBTQIA+ people in football, their stories being told, but not in ways they have been in the past.

These were presented as just regular people living their lives the way heterosexual couples have always been presented. The ‘Matildas: The World at Our Feet’ documentary was a fantastic example of this.

I hope we see this continue in 2024, and hopefully I’ll knock down a few more interviews in this area myself to tell these stories that often go under the radar.

I hope that the people and organisations who make the FvH Awards shortlist this year and/or win cherish and appreciate the award and the acknowledgement of what they’ve done.

Tracy Brown, co-chair of The Rainbow Wall – shortlisted for the FvH Cymru Award 2023 – and of Chelsea Pride

Being shortlisted for an LGBTQ+ award such as this is a noteworthy recognition within the community. It indicates that your efforts, contributions, or advocacy have stood out, and you deserve to be celebrated. 

Showing appreciation for those working to make football more LGBTQ+ inclusive is crucial because it acknowledges their efforts in fostering equality.

Recognising their hard work is not only motivational but also sends a powerful message that inclusivity matters. It helps to create a supportive environment.

What inspired me from 2023 is our community’s resilience and courage. The stories from the FvH Awards reflect authenticity and the pursuit of equal rights, serving as a powerful source of inspiration for positive change and acceptance.

I hope for continued progress in 2024, breaking down more barriers.

Jacob Leeks, Mirror Sport reporter, winner of the inaugural Football Media award last year

It meant so much to me to hear that I’d been shortlisted for the award – it felt like recognition for all the hard work I put in throughout the year to ensure the LGBT+ community received the coverage it deserved.

Then the moment it was announced that I’d won, I was left utterly speechless, because I didn’t think I had a chance of winning. It was also nice to have recognition that some tabloid papers are changing their ways to become more inclusive.

It’s absolutely key to show appreciation for those working hard for LGBT+ equality in football. Obviously, we now have the likes of Jake Daniels and Zander Murray being very public voices, but a lot of important work goes on behind the scenes where the general public might not be able to see it.

So to have such a brilliant awards night is so important at showcasing the work those people do. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see and not everyone will be able to follow in Jake and Zander’s footsteps to become professional footballers.

The work of Chelsea Pride has been a real standout in the last year as they continue to work towards stamping out the ‘Rent Boy’ chant.

Another contender for the Fan Groups award would be Three Lions Pride, with all of their commentary around Jordan Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia which went a long way to raising the issues that mattered to the LGBT+ community.

Finally, Zander Murray’s work to stamp out homophobia in football both in interviews with the media and through his work in schools was a real inspiration this year.

I’ll conclude by just saying – Nominate! You’ve got to be in it to win it and the awards night is a brilliant way to connect with people who have also been fighting the good fight for LGBT+ equality.

The ceremony will be a fantastic evening in an amazing venue, so nominate yourself or someone you know!

Kian Ward, whose work for Concord Rangers FC was recognised in their Non-League Club category win last year

Getting shortlisted was incredible – we’d put in a lot of hard work over the course of the last couple of years to make the football club as inclusive as possible for not just LGBTQ+ people but also those less represented in the local area.

We came to the awards with the hope of just having a good night and enjoying an evening of inspiring stories from across football. To come out of it as a winner really made us feel like the work we’d put in was all worth it.

It was followed by a heavy night of celebrations and a very sore head on the Saturday morning! It was one of the best nights of the year.

I think the FvH Awards are massive as a way to show appreciation for those working to improve the game. It was inspirational to hear so many unique stories and meet so many incredible LGBTQ+ people.

We’ve come a long way over the last decade or so, but football still needs to become more LGBTQ+ inclusive. It’s down to the work that supporters clubs and individuals put in that is making a difference up and down the pyramid.

In terms of contenders for this year, I think one club that really does great work that sometimes gets overlooked by people is Exeter City. They’ve really pushed LGBTQ+ inclusivity this year and for years before. I think they’ve even produced a Pride range before as well! 

Elsewhere in 2023, Alfreton Town in the National League produced a unique rainbow kit and Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian League continued to push for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, wearing a variety of different rainbow laces this season as well hosting TRUK United earlier in the year. 

I hope 2024 becomes an even bigger year, with more football clubs and society in general taking huge steps forward from where we are now. We’ve got a lot of work to do and that starts today.

James Laley, founder of Rainbow Blades, shortlisted in 2021 and 2023 in the Supporters Group category

Personally, being nominated for an FvH Award on two occasions is a significant acknowledgment and achievement of Rainbow Blades’ commitment to promoting inclusivity and building a community of LGBTQ+ Blades and Allies.

It reflects recognition for the positive impact we have had on creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment. This is why we exist and is the core of what our group is about.

Showing appreciation for those working so hard to make football more inclusive is crucial because it reinforces positive behaviour and encourages continued efforts. Recognition will motivate individuals and groups to keep going and continue creating a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ football fans.

I don’t think everyone understands the time that people and groups put in and at times, the strain it can have on one’s wellbeing. Breaking down barriers for the LGBTQ+ community in football is hard but rewarding work. So let’s reward!

For this year’s awards, I think there are some obvious contenders such as Zander Murray. The amount he has done over 2023, especially in schools, is breathtaking. I’ve had the honour to hear him speak in person and he has such a vitally important role as he nears retirement from professional football.

As you’d imagine, I also think there are so many fan groups that have once again gone above and beyond. These groups are run by volunteers and the time and energy to keep them going, growing and fresh is a huge job. We’ve seen some new groups launch with great success including Rainbow Owls, Rainbow Spirerites and Proud Forest, to name a few.

My hopes for 2024 are to continue this journey of inclusion and change, but I have a caveat. I feel in some areas things have become stagnant, with ideas for campaigns drying up.

This will be a year when we have a general election, where the LGBTQ+ community will be used as cannon fodder to lure voters, and it’s happening amid what looks to be increasing discrimination on the terraces. A serious gear shift is needed or we’ll face major struggles and resistance.

I’ve had the pleasure to attend the FvH Awards twice before. It’s a joyous night where we all get together to celebrate and recognise achievements of individuals, groups, organisations and clubs. It’s rare we can all be in one place at one time and this often fosters further connections and collaboration. 

I’d urge anyone to put a nomination in. Don’t be the one to think “Someone else will nominate them”. You be that hero!

FvH Awards Roll of Honour

Professional Club

2023: Sheffield United FC; Chelsea FC; Watford FC

2022: Leicester City FC; Tottenham Hotspur FC; Sheffield United FC

2021: Charlton Athletic FC; Liverpool FC; Sheffield United FC

2020: Tottenham Hotspur FC; Charlton Athletic FC; AFC Bournemouth

Supporters Group

2023: Proud Lilywhites; Rainbow Blades; Proud Grecians

2022: Foxes Pride; Proud Lilywhites; Proud Baggies

2021: Proud Baggies; Rainbow Blades; Proud Lilywhites

2020: Proud Baggies; Proud Lilywhites; Marching Out Together

FvH Hero

2023: Charlotte Galloway; Hannah Thornley; Zack Leader

2022: Hayley Wood-Thompson; Carys Ingram; Adam Crafton

2021: Rob Harris; Sinead O’Rourke; Gary Ginnaw

2020: Chris Paouros; Alan Quick; Rob Harris

Non-League Club

2023: Concord Rangers FC; Dulwich Hamlet FC; Harrogate Railway Athletic FC

2022: Dulwich Hamlet FC; Sheppey United FC; Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC

2021: Wrexham AFC

2020: Met Police FC; Whitehawk FC; Frickley Athletic FC 

Grassroots Club

2023: TRUK United FC; Camden Bells FC; Camp Hellcats

2022: Manchester Laces FC; Nottingham Lions FC; St John’s Deaf FC

2021: Charlton Invicta FC; Village Manchester FC; Deeside Dragons Girls FC

2020: Charlton Invicta FC; London Titans FC; New Milton Town Ladies FC

County FA

2023: Lincolnshire FA; Cheshire FA; London FA

2022: Sussex County FA; Cheshire FA; Herefordshire FA

2021: Manchester FA; Surrey County FA; Royal Air Force FA

Women’s Game

2023: Brighton Seagals; Sheffield United Women; Helen Hardy 

2022: Stonewall W&NB Team; Helen Hardy; Brighton Seagals

2021: Beth Fisher and Anita Asante; Goal Diggers FC; Jess Creighton 

FvH Cymru

2023: Brandon Gregory; The Rainbow Wall; Cardiff Dragons FC

2022: FC Bellevue; FC United of Wrexham

2021: Not awarded

2020: Conwy Borough FC; FC Bellevue


2023: Sportif Lezbon (Turkey); BK Vestia (Denmark); League of Tolerance (Ukraine)

2022: Ligue de Football Professionnel (France); Sport for Tolerance (Cameroon); AJ Auxerre (France)

FvH Scotland

2023: Lloyd Wilson; Zander Murray; Andrew Henderson

Outstanding Contribution

2023: Jake Daniels

Thanks so much to Andrew, Selin, Poletti, Tracy, Jacob, Kian and James for contributing. The FvH Awards night in Manchester is on Friday 23 February (from 6.30pm)!

Read more about the 2023 Awards event here and check out our interview with Hayley Wood-Thompson, who was named FvH Hero in 2022.

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 LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces in the game and address all forms of discrimination.

The Sports Media LGBT+ website is a digital publishing hub for news, stories and opinion from across our global community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport – and it’s open to all.

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