Leicester and Foxes Pride do the double at Football v Homophobia Awards

Published by Jon Holmes on

Foxes pick up Professional Game Award at third annual FvH Awards, with Foxes Pride triumphing in Supporters Group category; inspirational P.E. teacher and footballer Hayley Wood-Thompson named FvH Hero; event in Cardiff, hosted by BBC Sport’s Jo Currie, streamed live on social media – watch a replay here

By Jon Holmes

BBC Sport’s Jo Currie hosted the Football v Homophobia Awards live from Cardiff (images courtesy of EatSleep Media)

It was a night of Foxes festivities at the third annual Football v Homophobia Awards as Leicester City and its LGBTQ+ fans group walked off with two of the most prestigious prizes.

In an event streamed live from Cardiff across the FvH channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and hosted by BBC Sport’s Jo Currie – Leicester were the winners in the Professional Game category and Foxes Pride were named Supporters Group of the Year.

Joining via a live link-up to give his reaction, Graeme Smith – the chair of Foxes Pride – said: “For us, it’s great. I’m almost prouder of the fact that Leicester City won the [Pro Game] award, because I know that’s in no small part down to the work we’ve done with them over the last six years since we’ve been formed.

“We’re just so proud. While it’s not about awards, it is about the importance of visibility and we have always tried to be a really visible group.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had our Football v Homophobia fixture and some of our members were in the club store sharing our stories. Almost everyone who came in said they’d heard about Foxes Pride and were taking our badges to show support for the LGBTQ+ community – that’s a recognition of the work we’ve done in partnership with the club.”

There were nine categories in this year’s FvH Awards, again sponsored by Puma, and for the first time, an FvH Americas ceremony recognising those across the pond doing stellar work on inclusion in football for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.

Hayley Wood-Thompson – a 32-year-old P.E. teacher at the John Warner School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, who also plays for Cheshunt FC – was named FvH Hero following the huge impact she made in her school, local community and virally on social media when she posted a video about her journey as an out gay woman for LGBT+ History Month 2021 and put on an assembly.

Reflecting on the journey of the FvH campaign since it began in 2010, director Lou Englefield said: “Over time, more and more organisations have joined us in this space and there’s now a lot happening. It’s really about acknowledging the fantastic work and progress taking place, and celebrating that. Let’s shout it from the rooftops!”

Jason Webber, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at FA Wales, praised FvH for the guidance and assistance that the national governing body has received in setting up an LGBTQ+ fan group for the Wales teams, club sides, and other inclusion activations.

He said: “Next week – excitingly – we’re going to have the first ‘Proud Together’ conference bringing together groups, allies, the LGBTQ+ community, so everyone feels it’s a game where they belong regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

FvH’s Lou Englefield praised the outstanding LGBTQ+ inclusion work being done across football

The first award of the night was for County FAs, and it was Sussex who claimed the gong ahead of Cheshire and Herefordshire.

Jade Harker, Development Team Lead, and Sean Lofting, Football Development Officer, discussed the work Sussex County FA have done to provide more opportunities for gender diverse people to play football in the Brighton area, particularly educating around inclusive language.

“The feedback was just brilliant. They all loved it – and there’s a lot of work for us now to do off the back of it!” said Jade.

“I’d encourage all county FAs and organisations to do as much as they can to make football more LGBTQ+ inclusive,” added Sean.

The inaugural Fare International Work Award was won by the Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP) for its ‘Gay or Straight, We All Wear the Same Jersey’ initiative which ran across French football in May 2021. Sport for Tolerance (Cameroon) and AJ Auxerre (France) were second and third respectively in this category.

Piara Powar, Fare’s executive director, said: “This campaign by LFP was really something very impactful. It’s important that the players are seen to be giving it support – more and more, they are championing LGBTQ+ rights in football and society.”

Stonewall FC’s Women and Non-Binary Team claimed the Women’s Game Award ahead of Helen Hardy of Manchester Laces FC and Brighton Seagals FC. Joining the event was Stonewall FC’s Lui Asquith, who said: “A huge thank you to FvH – the team will be so pleased, and we can’t wait to celebrate at training! We work super hard and have an incredible manager in Betty (Mayeya).

“We want to dedicate the award to every player, coach, supporter and to every club doing its bit to create a future that doesn’t discriminate. Everyone should be able to play as themselves without fear and celebrated as themselves.”

Next up, Cardiff crossed live to Canada where FvH Americas’ Keph Senett announced the winners of their five categories. They were:

  • Professional Game: 3rd, Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team; 2nd, Liga MX Feminil (Mexico); 1st, Sacramento Republic FC (USA)
  • Grassroots: 3rd, Asociación Nacional de Deporte LGBTQ+ (Mexico); 2nd, Minnesota Gray Ducks (USA); 1st, Zorros LGBT (Mexico)
  • Supporters Group: 2nd, San Diego Rainbow Loyals (USA); 1st, Porra de Orgullo (Mexico)
  • Women’s Game: 3rd, Minnesota Gray Ducks / Ryan Adams (USA); 2nd, Miranda Sanchez Salman (Mexico); 1st, Noemi Arzate (Mexico)
  • FvH Hero: 2nd, Nicolas Pineda (Orgullo Deportivo LGBT+, Mexico); 1st, Rafael Villanueva (Didesex, Mexico)

Returning to Wales, the contenders for the FvH Cymru Award were two football clubs based in Wrexham and it was FC Bellevue that ultimately proved successful, going head to head with FC United of Wrexham.

Bellevue’s founder and secretary, Delwyn ‘Sheep’ Derrick, recently had a Football v Homophobia tattoo added to his leg, spoke of his pride at both clubs being nominated. “I like to think about us being a beacon for other clubs in Wales who are also doing great work – be louder about it! Us and FC United are making noise. Imagine if we had every club in Wales doing that?”

Helen Hardy was a runner-up in the Women’s Game category, but she was able to celebrate a victory as well with Manchester Laces FC getting the Grassroots gong ahead of Nottingham Lions FC and St John’s Deaf FC.

Speaking live to Jo, Helen said: “Wow! I’m so shocked and overwhelmed! Right back at the beginning of our journey, Lou Englefield was helping us find space to play amateur football which is a huge issue.

“Lockdown was a difficult time to launch the club but actually it was the most important time. I felt I needed a community in Manchester – everyone was trying to get back to normal after Covid. It was challenging but incredible. We just wanted to put kindness, enjoyment and fun at the forefront of everything we did. Our one rule was we open football to everyone, and it’s just blown up from there.”

Following the announcement of Leicester’s success in the Professional Game category – pipping previous winners Tottenham and newcomers Sheffield United – Jo spoke again to Jason and also poet Sarah McCreadie, a player with Titws Taf Cymric, about ways men’s football might be made more inclusive compared to the women’s game.

“I think that language is really important,” said Sarah. “The women’s game has come so far in that. In men’s football, it’s not just about hearing what fans are chanting and offhand comments, it’s about players themselves. If something’s bad, don’t call it ‘gay’!”

Titws Taf Cymric FC’s Sarah McCreadie with Jason Webber from FA Wales

Dulwich Hamlet FC took the honours among Non-League clubs, with Sheppey United and Ashford Town (Middlesex) FC also nominated in the category, while Proud Lilywhites (Tottenham) and Proud Baggies (West Brom) were in the mix along with winners Foxes Pride for the Supporters Group award.

Hayley Wood-Thompson’s FvH Hero prize brought the evening to a close, with The Rainbow Wall and Proud Swans’’ Carys Ingram and The Athletic football writer Adam Crafton also recognised.

In her acceptance speech, Wood-Thompson said: “I had people message from all over the place when I posted the video. It was so much bigger than I thought.

“Football has always been my safe space, and so was P.E. – but I never really had the role model that I needed. Now I’ve got the confidence to be the role model that others might need.”

For more information on the FvH Awards nominees, see our previous article here.

Thank you to EatSleep Media who produced the event and live stream. The Football v Homophobia Month of Action runs until Monday, February 28 – then in late March, it’ll be the Football v Transphobia Week of Action. Show your support!

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor