Monday 27 August 2012

"Being gay and playing a team sport can be incredibly frightening" - the view of one young footballer

Every once in a while you read something which really sums up something at the forefront of your mind.

The Justin Campaign was set up to highlight the prejudices in football towards the LGBT community and show that, in its current form, the sport cannot truly claim to be the beautiful game.

Some are in denial over the homophobia in the game, others prefer to let abuse pass by. But it really does affect people, both players and fans, who love the sport.

One such example is Stephen Bickford, a United States U-18 player, who was 2004 NSCAA/Adidas National High School Player of the Year  and University of North Carolina striker, all while living the life of a young man in the closet.

Within a personal blog post for US website and campaign group gay4soccer, Stephen writes: "Scoring goals was my job, and it was also my favorite thing to do on this earth. Fortunately for me, the team I had playing behind me made my job a whole lot easier than it could have been, and I have to give them credit for getting me the ball as much as they did.

"One would think that my life couldn’t have been happier: playing for a fantastic team, winning trophies and scoring goals at will. What could I possibly be unhappy about? Well, I knew I was gay.

"Being gay and playing a team sport can be incredibly frightening. You live in constant fear of having your teammates find out your secret, and in constant terror of what the consequences will be."

The entire post, which was posted by US website gay4soccer, is well worth reading. In fact, we INSIST you do. Follow the link here.

Monday 13 August 2012

Olympic celebration - but a games for all?

With record crowds, some great sporting action and memories to inspire future generations, the 30th Olympiad was a triumphant success. But, beneath the cheers, celebratory music and fireworks there was a worrying statistic. Tim Ridgway, of The Justin Campaign, asks where were the openly gay sporting role models?

For two weeks, the world's gaze was on London as the city hosted the Olympic games. From world records to unprecedented crowds, it was a fortnight to remember as the finest athletes from across five continents gathered in a small corner of the east end to battle it out for the coveted crown as the world's best.

TEARS OF JOY: Sir Chris Hoy
There were tears of joy - Sir Chris Hoy (right) and Jessica Ennis for two - and tears of disappointment - Victoria Pendleton and the Brazilian football team among them - as competitors gave their all.

But, while the International Olympic Committee made much of the fact this year's games saw some Middle Eastern countries send women athletes for the first time, there was a very low number of athletes who were openly gay.

According to Outsports, there were 23 athletes at London 2012 who were openly gay.

The research adds that this in an increase on previous games, in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

Of the 23 there are some inspiring stories and a hell of a lot of success.

More than half won medals of some colour, with US footballer Megan Rapinoe and GB equestrian star Carl Hester among those heading home with Gold medals.

It led to comedian Sue Perkins jokingly tweet: "So there you have it, today's syllogistic argument has taken us to the conclusion that if you're gay you WILL win a gold".
INSPIRING: Megan Rapinoe

One of the more famous gay sportsmen is Australian diver Matt Mitcham, who failed to progress beyond the semi-final stage of the 10m diving competition despite being defending champion.

Then there is the South African archer Karen Hultzer who hopes coming out at the London Olympics will help people struggling with their sexuality and add to the fight against homophobia in sport.

But considering there are nearly 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries competing, this is a shockingly low percentage which is not even worth calculating. It is certainly far lower than the three to eight per cent figure which population experts believe to be LGBT in the world.

Why is it that when the world comes together to celebrate there is dismal number of people who are openly LGBT?

For some representatives of certain countries, notably those in African and Middle Eastern countries where homosexuality is illegal or met with the death penalty, there are clear reasons for perhaps maintaining silence on the issue.

But countries in western Europe, such as USA, the Netherlands and Great Britain, surely there are more athletes who are LGBT but have chosen not to publicly admit it?

The oft used arguments in football is that there is too much pressure on any individual that does come out; that fans are not ready for it; that the media will make the person's life difficult. Perhaps, with the intense four-year training programme that people that go though, the last thing they want is the added publicity of known as, to use an example, "the gay rower" or "that lesbian boxer"? 

Whatever the reasons, sporting authorities across the world must ask themselves if they really are delivering a games for all. Nutritionists, physiotherapists, sports psychologists - all are seen as integral to a winning team. But is there enough of a support network for those who want to come out? 

The Justin Campaign has always held the view that it is up to individuals to decide if and when they want to come out. No one should ever be backed into a corner and forced into making a highly personal decision under the media microscope. But it should also not be something people are frightened of.

Looking at the examples above, there are plenty across a wide range of sports who have come out. Anyone that wants to take the step should not be scared. Look at the above role models. There are people out there who are out and proud. What's more they are quietly doing their bit to smash prejudice and picking up a few medals along the way.

SUCCESS: The closing ceremony of London 2012
In football in particularly there have been major strides in recent years towards making the beautiful game an equal one. Perhaps, with soccer becoming an established sport at the Olympics, it could lead the way in promoting LGBT inclusion? Perhaps it will be led by individual countries? Perhaps it will be led by the International Olympic Committee?

Former NBA basketballer John Amaechi, who worked for the BBC during London 2012, summed it up best in a recent interview. He said: “I do see encouraging signs. There is a generation of young people for whom achievement is important and sexuality is secondary.

“But there is another generation who are dinosaurs. Who want things as they used to be without those pesky women, black people and gays getting in the way. And quite a few of those people work in sports administration.

“In the end, perhaps we will get to the point where it doesn’t matter so much, it doesn’t define you. But we need help to get there. No minority in history has gained any measure of acceptance without the help of the majority.”

Looking ahead to four years time in Rio, would it not be great to see the numbers of openly LGBT athletes rise again? Perhaps this is the legacy that organisers of London were talking about: a true games for all.

Sunday 12 August 2012

LGBT football coaching course on offer

While football is a team game, it is often individuals at the highest level of the sport who get the most attention.

However, if equality in football is to be achieved then it is at the grassroots where there has to be real meaningful change.

This is why it is so encouraging to see Surrey Football Association be the first county to offer specific coaching courses to LGBT people who want to get involved with running the game.

It will run as part of the ongoing programme to train up new coaches which is open to everyone.

According to the website, it is part of an FA initiative to get more people the LGBT section of society involved in football coaching.

It will run from August 24 to 27 at Grafham Grange School at a cost of £130, which includes accommodation and all workshops required to achieve the Level 1 qualification in a single weekend.

Funke Awoderu, FA Equality Manager, said: "This initiative is one part of the FA's LGB&T Action Plan, Opening Doors and Joining In, which we launched in February.

"This addresses a range of issues from reporting abuse to education on inclusion and wider representation in the game."

The Justin Campaign backs this move as a way of giving people confidence to take the first steps in becoming role models and helping coach those who want to play the beautiful game.

To register on the course, click here.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Cassano fined 15,000 Euros after homosexual comments

Italian and AC Milan striker Antonio Cassano has been fined by Uefa for homophobic comments during Euro 2012.

The footballing body for Europe waited until nearly three weeks after the tournament in the Ukraine and Poland before issuing the 15,000 Euro fine.
This was after Cassano responded to questions about reports in Italy which claimed there were two homosexual players in Cesare Prandelli's 23-man Euro 2012 squad.

Cassano reportedly said. "If I say what I think...I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that's their business."

However this was not enough to appease Uefa.

A Uefa statement said: "Following the opening of disciplinary proceedings against Italy's Antonio Cassano for a discriminatory press statement during Euro 2012, the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has decided to impose a fine of 15,000 euros on the player.

"An appeal can be lodged against this decision within three days of the dispatch of the full, written decision."

A Justin Campaign spokesman said: "We welcome this high-profile action from Uefa as a step in the right direction.

"Antonio Cassano's comments were wrong, particularly given his high-profile and the media attention that was on him at the time. Sadly the fine is hardly going to hit Cassano in the pocket but the fact footballing bodies are showing it is not welcome, is a positive sign."

Doncaster Rovers support Pride

Doncaster Rovers will again be supporting its town’s annual Pride celebration this year.

The football club will be making its own stand against homophobia in football when its home ground the Keepmoat Stadium will be the venue for hosting Doncaster’s sixth Pride festival.

It will be the second successive year the League One club has staged the event which celebrates the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and attractions thousands of people each year.

Doncaster’s Pride committee spokesman Jen Dewsnap hopes other football teams will follow Rovers’ example.

She said: “We approached them and they received us as they would anyone wanting to use the stadium. There was no hesitation on their part at all. They have been enormously supportive and extremely professional.

“The entire team at the Keepmoat Stadium accommodate our every whim and our planning is made so much easier because of this, I guess that's their professionalism, but every member of the team is so supportive of Pride.

“The venue is a prestigious place for us and being linked to the Keepmoat Stadium helps enormously.

“Being gay really shouldn't be a big deal and hosting a Pride at the stadium proves Doncaster really is showing the rest of the country that that's what they believe.

“Let's use Doncaster as an example. Let's tackle the awful issue of homophobia and football, let’s make a statement and hope others follow.”

Gavin Baldwin, chief executive of Doncaster Rovers, added: “We work closely with our local community and its diverse members, this sees us working with a wide range of organisations and we see our growing partnership with Doncaster Gay Pride is a huge success.

“This is a relationship that we are sure will thrive, one that we are proud of, with an organisation that we fully support.

“Each year the Gay Pride event attracts thousands of people and we are pleased that this partnership means that the annual event is now hosted at the Keepmoat Stadium. We will continue to work closely with this organisation to help them to achieve their aims and make their event the best it can be.”

Premier League side Liverpool, a supporter of The Justin Campaign, have also backed its city’s Pride event in August and its men’s and women’s teams will be taking part in the parade.

Doncaster’s Pride will be held on August 5. For more details, visit

Monday 16 July 2012

Justin Campaign at Brighton and Hove People's Day

Volunteers from the Justin Campaign were among hundreds of people to attend this weekend's People's Day in Brighton and Hove.

The day, which aims to showcase the splendid variety of Brighton and Hove’s community, proved a great opportunity for the campaign to raise awareness its work and meet some great people from other community groups.

We recruited some new volunteers, and also got to challenge people to a game of table football. That was just part of a successful and fun day out.

Our stall also had examples of the education work the Campaign has been involved in along with photos of tournaments and education projects. It was really gratifying that so many people came over to chat and offer their support for the campaign.

 People’s Day was all about embracing difference and along with the Sudanese, Chinese, Gambian, police officers, singers, artists and cakemakers who shared the hall with us we learned a lot about how diversity makes you stronger.

And we got to play table football, with Bill Randall, the city's Mayor. Final score? Well, let’s just say it’s not the winning but the taking part, and People’s Day was all about everyone taking part.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Justin Campaign leads World Pride's sporting challenge to homophobia

The Justin Campaign led the way in campaigning for equality in football at World Pride in London.

A group of our volunteers joined a number of national sports for the international event to show their commitment to inclusion in sport and their support for LGBT equality.

Photo credit: Jeff Knezovich
All the associations invited grassroots LGBT sports group or club to represent them at the event. 
The Justin Campaign was honoured when the Football Association asked it if it would represent the beautiful game by raising awareness of our Football v Homophobia initiative.

Together with sports fans and players representing tennis, volleyball, netball, cricket, athletics, rugby league, softball the crowd paraded through London with chants including "2-4-6-8, are your players really straight?".

 Rebecca Sandles, of the Justin Campaign, said: "We were greeted by smiles and cheers along the route. It was a great day out and we bought Football v Homophobia to the heart of West End, marching down Regent Street and on to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall."
Photo credit: Jeff Knezovich
It came a few days before Liverpool Football Club announced it would support the city's annual Pride parade.

With staff, fans and players from its women's team walking behind banners provided by the club, the team will become the first Premier League club to be officially represented at a UK LGBT Pride event.

Ian Ayre, managing director at Liverpool Football Club, said: “Here at LFC, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that equality and principles of inclusion are embedded into all areas of Liverpool Football Club and for many years, we have taken positive steps to promote our stance against homophobia both on and off the pitch.”

Both events are further sign that the football world is slowly realising that there is no future for inequality in football. Let's hope we can all build on these events and make sure our beloved game becomes a sport for all and something we can all be proud of.