New short film ‘Safe Space’ showcases LGBTQ+- inclusive football at Charlton and Millwall

Published by Jon Holmes on

A new short documentary film by Sam Clarke for Football v Homophobia tells the story of Charlton Invicta and Millwall Romans – the LGBTQ+-inclusive football teams in London supported by their respective EFL clubs’ community trusts – their first-ever meeting, and the personalities involved…

By Sam Clarke

Millwall Romans’ Paul Loding and Charlton Invicta’s Gary Ginnaw chat with film-maker Sam Clarke in ‘Safe Space’

On the eve of the second-ever fixture between Charlton Invicta and Millwall Romans – with both clubs under the umbrellas of their retrospective professional football clubs and community trusts – Football v Homophobia has released a short film that follows the story of the first team these two sides met.

Produced and presented by Sam Clarke, ‘Safe Space: The LGBTQ+ South London Derby’ explores the culture (or lack of) LGBTQ+ inclusion in South London, and how a fixture between two teams representing two of the region’s most iconic clubs is a shining light for change.

Watch the ‘Safe Space’ documentary for free on YouTube

“Growing up, football was my life,” says Clarke. “It wasn’t until I started going into my teens that I felt a little bit different towards it.

“I didn’t even know what it was at first, just a certain feeling of not being comfortable to be myself in a football environment.

“This game for me, for a queer kid growing up in South-East London, for someone who didn’t feel they had a place in South East London and didn’t feel they had a place in football – it means so much to see two teams with those badges playing an LGBT+ football match.”

Players from Romans and Invicta and staff from the two clubs’ Community Trusts join together for a group photo

Charlton Invicta, previously Bexley Invicta, were the first LGBTQ+-friendly football team to be officially affiliated with a professional football club and community trust when they linked up with Charlton Athletic FC and Charlton Athletic Community Trust back in 2017.

Gary Ginnaw, Invicta’s co-founder, says: “We talk about visibility a lot. We have a lot of Charlton fans in our team, and they’ve joined us because they’ve seen us – at The Valley, on the club’s social media, or on the website. You can’t question how important that visibility is.

“If anyone is watching, to see two professional clubs in South-East London supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion in football, it speaks volumes and is so powerful.”

Gary Ginnaw and his partner Sam Timms have been pivotal figures in the Invicta story

The film also features Gary’s partner Samuel Timms, and his dad Colin Ginnaw, who both play key roles in Invicta and are pivotal to the success the team has had.

In the summer of 2020, London Romans would follow in the footsteps of Invicta, but with Charlton Athletic’s local rivals Millwall Football Club. This would lead to a move from North London to South London for the Romans, and of course a name change to Millwall Romans.

Paul Loding, Romans’ general manager and ambassador for the Millwall Community Trust, says: “It was a big step for us, being a North London club coming down to South London, but what Millwall were offering us and what we can provide now for more people, it was just a no brainer.

“As an LGBT+ player, it is really hard in the football mainstream to feel at home, and that is why we exist, to create that safe space for footballers to come along. Whatever your background is, it doesn’t make any difference.”

This game marks not only the first LGBTQ+ South London Derby, but also the first-ever competitive meeting between two inclusive teams officially affiliated with professional football clubs.

Watch ‘Safe Space’ in the video above or head over to the Football v Homophobia YouTube channel.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor