Thursday, 30 December 2010

Football v Homophobia 2011

Only a month and a bit to go people.

For details on how you can observe Football v Homophobia 2011 click here.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sign of the times.

Originally posted by Greg Theoharis.

In last week’s Dispatch, I did promise to write about something positive seeing that the soul of football has taken somewhat of a battering in the last few weeks. It might give you a better insight into my psyche that I find it easier to rail and wail against the wantonly amoral forces which seem to suck the lifeblood out of the game, rather than celebrating the good things but trust me, I will give you something positive to take away with you by the end of this post, in preparation for all the good tidings you will no doubt be wishing upon your fellow man over the coming days. You might have to read closely, but it’s there somewhere.

The week in football began with many of us shaking our heads in disbelief with the sheer flippancy and ignorance coming out of the ubiquitous Sepp Blatter’s mouth yet again. When FIFA’s president was questioned about the impact that Qatar’s banning of homosexuality might have on the already controversial choice of venue for the 2022 World Cup, Blatter caustically proclaimed that “they [gay fans] should refrain from any kind of sexual activity” whilst in the Middle Eastern state. I’m sure Blatter was not intentionally trying to cause offence, but his giggling mirrored by members of the press corps shone a further light on how football perceives the issue of homosexuality. Perhaps Blatter is still under the impression that all gay people can be encapsulated in the form of a 1970s sitcom in which they all mince about with limp wrists, lasciviously eyeing up anything in trousers whilst screaming out crass suggestive catchphrases like “Hello, Ducky” or “Chase me, chase me”. If he was so open to taking football to new frontiers as he so often likes to remind us, maybe he’d think carefully about trading on misguided stereotypes with a media, which by and large, although paying lip service to political correctness enjoys salivating over misconceived notions of sexuality.

By the end of the week however, the monumental news arrived from the US that the senate had finally voted to lift the controversial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy which has forced so many servicemen and women to unnecessarily hide their sexuality because it was felt that such inclinations within an individual would damage morale during combat operations. Think about that concept for a moment. No, really, think.

There seems to be a prevalent perception amongst the ‘moral majority’ that homosexuality somehow equates with decadence and depravity and subsequently leads to the ruination of all that was fine and upstanding in the first place. A conversation down the pub (if we’re trading in clichés, we may as well do both sides) about gay footballers will inevitably throw up the argument of ‘well, I wouldn’t want to get showered around them, would you?’ Time and time again, footballers are derided if they show any kind of assumed femininity. David Beckham was ridiculed for wearing Alice bands and sarongs, Graeme Le Saux was mocked and has his sexuality questioned for having the audacity to read The Guardian. On the playground every day, I hear boys throwing the ‘gay’ epithet at each other as a way of provoking a negative reaction. I have a student who recently said, ‘yes, I am’ to such taunts. And guess what? The taunting just dissipated.

All it takes is for one footballer to make that statement; ‘yes, I am’. I appreciate that it is easier said than done, considering the tragedy that befell Justin Fashanu who was forced to ‘come out’, twenty years ago. However, despite what the dinosaurs like Blatter and The Man Down The Pub might believe, the world has changed since Fashanu’s time. When that footballer does decide to bite the bullet and tell us he is gay (and only when he is ready to), then he will have a whole host of support from supporter’s groups, prominent and progressive sporting bodies and hopefully from a squad of his team-mates who’ll value his sporting excellence over his choice of sexual partner. Is Wayne Rooney’s procurement and payment of heterosexual sex really more acceptable than the same-sex relationship that Footballer X finds himself in?

One such organisation is The Justin Campaign which was founded in remembrance of Fashanu’s suicide and seeks to combat and eradicate all aspects of homophobia which still remain prevalent in the game. Through educational workshops and the Justin Fashanu All-Stars football team, the campaign seeks to pressure football’s governing bodies to foster an environment in which gay, lesbian and bisexual people do not feel the need to hide who they are or fear discrimination. By focusing on grassroots, it is hoped that such issues will not even be issues in the coming years. As Jason Hall, the Campaign’s founding director says:

“Justin Fashanu forced the world of football to acknowledge that you can love men, whilst at the same time be a world-class footballer. His bravery has created inroads for our community in the football world and has inspired a generation of gay and bisexual men, who now believe that we too, can be part of the beautiful game.”

Justin Fashanu might be considered the pioneer in that regard. What the game of football now needs, is a watershed. I wrote about football being in the midst of its Dark Ages a couple of weeks ago. That may be the case, but in 2010, the inability by some in the game to accept that it is not the exclusive domain of the heterosexual just as in years past, it was not the exclusive domain of the white man, needs to be challenged, dispelled and nullified as quickly as possible. If you’re a brilliant footballer, you’re a brilliant footballer regardless. Likewise, if my gran is a better penalty-taker than you, then you must be truly dreadful - whether you fancy men or not. Football really is a simple game.

Merry Christmas, one and all, wherever and whoever you are.

You can read Greg's wicked blog @ Dispatches From A Football Sofa


Football v Homophobia is as much about inclusion and the celebration of the diversity in the LGBT community as it is about demonstrating against homophobia in football.

This year The Justin Campaign wanted to ensure that Bi and Trans communities internationally feel represented and empowered by Football v Homophobia and that they feel the global initiative is relevant to their own cause.

And so.. The Justin Campaign this year are proud to present two unique variations of the world renowned Football v Homophobia logo:

The JC team look forward to hearing of Trans & Bi inclusive events springing up globally as the LGBT community strives for recognition and inclusion in the game that we love.

In the next few weeks the new Football v Homophobia website will be launched - Logo's will be free to download from the website at that time.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Football for all?

Fifa president Sepp Blatter's philosophy is clearly emblazoned across the footballing authority's website.

"Football for all; all for football".

Strange then that such a media-savvy head of a multimillion pound industry should make a mockery of the gay rights issue to a room full of reporters.

Blatter joked that gay people should simply "refrain from any sexual activities" during the Qatar 2022 World Cup so as to avoid draconian punishments.

His comments have since been widely reported and Blatter has rightly spent the last few days defending his misguided and downright offensive comments to the world's media.

It is yet further evidence that leadership on the subject is not going to come from world football's governing body.

Fifa has long come under fire as being an authority with more security guards than common sense.

It makes most of its decisions behind closed doors in the glamorous surroundings of Geneva and, as the BBC Panorama documentary proved recently, any challenge to its hierarchy is regarded as blasphemous.

It is a strange situation for Blatter to be in, given that he is more used to blowing his own trumpet.

The reason the much-more impressive and practical bids from England and Australia were overlooked for 2018 and 2022 respectively was due to his vision of a "global game".

Surely it would be more fitting for a global game to promote equality rather than alienating tens of thousands of fans and players who may feel they are being driven away from the sport they love.

We have already said that a boycott of Qatar 2022 is not the answer.

But, would you feel comfortable travelling to a country where your sexuality could see be publicly beaten or thrown in prison?

Now is the time for us to highlight these issues - write a letter, contact your local decision makers, get involved with the Justin Campaign - all these things can help make a difference and hopefully reclaim football from the authorities who quite clearly do not promote the ethos "football for all".

Boycotting Qatar is not the answer

A version of this article first appeared on the Morning Star's website -

Boycotting the World Cup in 2022 is not the answer for LGBT supporters angry at Fifa for awarding the event to Qatar.

That was the message today from Jason Hall - founding director of The Justin Campaign, which aims to rid football of homophobia.

"We should encourage LGBT people to go over to Qatar and rub salt in the wounds," said Hall. "There's no point shunning it (the World Cup) and pretending it doesn't exist."

The Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) last week called for an LGBT boycott of "all activities associated with World Cup 2022."

However, Hall believes that the issue of gay rights in Qatar would simply be swept under the carpet if LGBT fans chose not to attend.

"There's a lot less to talk about if we (LGBT people) aren't there," Hall said. "But if thousands of us head over, it would make a lot more impact than simply saying: 'Well, we're not going.'

"It wouldn't register with the wider community if we didn't go. And at least people in Qatar will experience gay people in their country and it would give hope to LGBT people living there. I would love something like the Gay Games or another gay sporting event to be held in Qatar at the same time as the World Cup."

He added: "If taking some lashings and getting six months in prison is the price I have to pay, then so be it."

"The World Cup didn't go to South Africa during the apartheid years and it shouldn't go to Russia or Qatar now.

"There is a sexual apartheid taking place in Qatar right now, and Russia's not much better - they have a terrible record there with regards to LGBT rights. To give World Cups to countries where apartheid is still happening is unacceptable."

Friday, 10 December 2010

A losing battle?

A key aspect of The Justin Campaigns work is to challenge the negative stereotypes around LGBT people in society and in particular, sport.

Negative stereotypes that portray gay men as weak, effeminate and promiscuous are all to common in society. They are perpetuated throughout our education system, our industry and our media.

Is it really possible to counter negative stereotyping around LGBT people effectively? How can we impact upon the problem adequately when the exposure of our youth to these stereotypes is an everyday fact of life, one that we seemingly have no control over?

One solution might be to engage our youth with more positive representations of LGBT people that reveal our diversity and our strengths. Positive representations that reveal the contradictions that exist between the stereotype and the real person.

But are one off classroom sessions enough?

Does the occasional football coaching session, where young men & women are introduced to gay and bisexual coaches, contrary to familiar stereotypes, help to the debunk entrenched ideas about who gay and bisexual people are?

Possibly, but what happens afterwards, when our children turn on their computers or their TV's, go to the cinema, read the paper, a magazine, a book....

Is all our hard work undone?

The fact is that these stereotypes, the building blocks for hatred against LGBT people in society, are pervasive throughout our media. A media which relies on the heterosexual logic of its audience to provoke laughter at the expense of LGBT people.

Collective efforts to educate children on the fallacy of such stereotypes are welcome and should continue but these efforts need to be combined with proper strategy and actions that hold our media to account on their portrayal of LGBT people.

Perhaps then, after engaging our youth on the pitch and giving them a run for their money we can rest assured that they head home to some positive reinforcement rather than the negative portrayal of LGBT people they face day after day.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Third Justin Fashanu Cup deemed great success

Dozens of footballers united in a tournament which was truly representative of all aspects of the beautiful game.

Twelve teams from across the south of England took part in the the third annual Justin Fashanu Cup.

The invitational tournament, which was organised by the Justin Campaign, saw both men and women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community all participating.

The event was also a protest against the decision of Fifa to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively - countries which have appalling records on homophobia.

The highlight of the weekend event in Hove was a six-a-side tournament.

Despite the wintry weather, which forced a number of teams to pull out, nine men's teams and three women's teams took part in the indoor competition.

BN Elite won the men's tournament and The Tigers won the female competition.

On the Saturday evening, all the teams gathered to take part in a table football competition and enjoyed an evening of live music.

Jason Hall, founder of the Justin Campaign said: "It was a terrific event. One which was truly representative of all people who love football.

"It was brilliant to see so many people enjoy themselves while promoting such an important issue.

"With the Fifa announcement it was also right that we brought to attention the awful human rights records of both Russia and Qatar and the effect it would have on members of the LGBT community who may want to travel to be spectators at this event."

The tournament will now become a travelling competition with the next event likely to be held in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

For more pictures stay tuned to the blog or see our Flickr page.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Justin Campaign statement on FIFA's decision to award Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups

The Justin Campaign is deeply concerned by FIFA's decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Both of these countries have extremely poor records on the issue of LGBT rights. Only last year, the mayor of Moscow deemed a gay pride march in the capital as "satanic", while participants in the march, including Peter Tatchell, were arrested.

In Qatar, homosexuality is still illegal with both lashes and imprisonment often the punishment.

Therefore, despite their apparent commitment to humanitarian values and the promotion of global solidarity through football, FIFA is sending out a message loud and clear that the rights of the global LGBT community do not even register on their agenda.

This institutional indifference to the rights of LGBT people is symptomatic of the challenge facing all of us who are fighting against homophobia in football and it is a stark and sad reminder of just how much work we still need to do.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Justin Fashanu - a figurehead.

Further to our original post which referenced an incredibly comprehensive article by Juliet Jacques on the career of Justin Fashanu, we thought that this interview with Fash might be of interest to you.

Its an incredible interview which illustrates how Fashanu was affected by his "coming out". This piece was filmed in 1992 six years before Fashanu tragically took his own life.

His confidence and strength here is in stark contrast to how he must of been feeling in 1998. Perhaps indicative of how the burden of homophobia, an obvious obstacle for him in 1992 became just to much to bare five years later.