England defender lends his support to first-of-its-kind programme that will deliver free inclusion workshops to clubs outside the pro game; “this will help build a version of football that is accessible to all,” says Coady; sign up at footballvhomophobia.com/alliesunited
England star Conor Coady says a new initiative called ‘Allies United’ which is targeted at grassroots clubs is a “landmark” moment for football.
The centre-back, who was part of Gareth Southgate’s squads at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup, has built a strong reputation in the game as an active ally to LGBTQIA+ people.
Coady is now using his platform to promote the opportunity for clubs further down the pyramid to access training and workshops from Football v Homophobia which will make their environments more welcoming and inclusive.
The need for such a programme is evidenced by new data, commissioned by Just Eat, which reveals that over three-quarters (78%) of people from the LGBTQIA+ community wouldn’t consider playing grassroots football.
Barriers include concerns about homophobic and transphobic language used (18%), lack of feeling welcomed as a member of the community (15%) and not enough conversation around LGBTQIA+ allyship (14%).
Despite this, almost nine in 10 (90%) grassroots football clubs state that they would welcome anyone.
Coady, who was the recipient of a special award at the British LGBT Awards in 2021, said: “Football has been my career, but it’s so much more than that.
“It’s given me moments I’ll remember forever and friends I’ll have for life, but as a straight man – I’ve always felt welcome in the game. For many in the LGBTQIA+ community, that is not the case.
“Active allyship is essential in ensuring everyone feels welcome, valued and included in football and that’s why I’m proud to support Allies United.
“By providing allyship education and training at grassroots level, this landmark initiative will help build a version of football that is accessible to all, regardless of how you identify or who you love.”
Representatives of clubs can sign up to register for free ‘Allies United’ virtual sessions delivered by experts from the FvH team.
These workshops will provide guidance on how to create a culture in which everyone can thrive and feel safe and supported, with a focus on language and terminology, behaviours, breaking down stereotypes and the benefits of being out for LGBTQ+ people, drawing on examples from football and team sport.
The new research data also shows that while there is a willingness from clubs to be more inclusive, there is also a need for more understanding among players and staff as to what allyship looks like.
One in four (25.7%) of grassroots football leaders and players say they aren’t sure what good practice is in this area and almost half admit it’s an important issue but are unsure how to approach it.
Additionally, almost three-quarters (72%) feel professional teams and bodies need to do more to lead by example and provide guidance and education in this space – believing that if allyship was encouraged at all levels, the game will become more inclusive and accessible.
Lou Englefield, campaign director for Football vs Homophobia, said: “For so many LGBTQIA+ footballers, poor experiences at the very start of their football journey affect them negatively for life.
“While tremendous strides have been made in tackling homophobia in football, if even one player feels unwelcome at grassroots level, there is still work to be done.
“That’s why we’re excited to be creating this programme with Just Eat and making a tangible difference at grassroots level. The creation of Allies United is a powerful message to LGBTQIA+ players that they are always welcome in the game.”
To apply to join Allies United with Just Eat and Football vs Homophobia, visit www.footballvhomophobia.com/AlliesUnited for details on how to make your team more inclusive.
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