Monday, 28 February 2011
The England and Surrey wicketkeeper today “came out” with the support of the cricket community, saying: “I want to be remembered as a good cricketer, not a gay cricketer”.
The Justin Campaign, which works towards promoting LGBT equality and inclusion in football, would like to add its public support to Steven’s decision.
Alan Duffy, of the Justin Campaign, said: “Steven’s decision and the support he has received from everybody in the game is proof that it is what happens on the pitch which counts.
“It is definitely a positive move and one that can only help promote equality in UK sport.
“Once again we see other sports take the lead while football remains one of the only major sports where people feel afraid to freely admit who they are.
“We look forward to the day when professional footballers feel able and free to make the same decision without the invisible barriers of bigotry, discrimination and hatred that is entrenched within the game.”
The Justin Campaign, which is named after the Justin Fashanu, the only openly gay professional footballer in the UK, who had to battle abuse throughout his career.
It works not to “out” players, but to create an environment where players and fans feel free to enjoy the beautiful game.
The campaign recently held an international initiative, Football v Homophobia, which was celebrated across the globe and had the backing of the FA and Uefa.
For more details on the announcement see here.
For more details on the Justin Campaign’s work visit www.thejustincampaign.com and www.footballvhomophobia.com.
Friday, 25 February 2011
Football v Homophobia, the international initiative begun by The Justin Campaign last year, has been a tremendous success.
Events on three continents and in more than a half dozen countries have really raised awareness of the issue on inequality in the world's most popular sport.
Yet just as our volunteers were getting some much needed sleep, came this idea from eastern Europe - separate stands for LGBT fans at the Euro 2012 competition.
No one is doubting that in Poland and Ukraine, members of the LGBT community face hatred, bigotry and abuse on a regular basis.
Indeed as Teczowa Trybuna 2012 (Rainbow Stand 2012), the Polish national team's fan club, state: "Unfortunately, during trips to matches in Poland, we often encountered unpleasantness, harassment and violence from the ‘real’ fans."
But, while the idea is to to encourage people to be aware that football is a game for all, we feel it would only end up having a negative effect.
It seems that many football fans across the globe are in agreement.
Eager to gather thoughts on the issue I asked the question on Twitter - see @justincampaign.
@Norfolkblogger wrote: "Terrible idea. Should we have separate teams too? Ridiculous!" while @SteveJB84 told us: "Really bad idea, should be integration not separation. Homosexuality isn't contagious."
As shown by the Football v Homophobia event in Ukraine, progress can be made through people uniting together, not through taking an independent stand.
After all football is a team sport and no matter how strong the individual, a collective effort will always shine through.
Thursday, 24 February 2011
Just days after Football v Homophobia, The Justin Campaign continued the celebrations and the positive action by unveiling an anti-homophobia hoarding at Brighton & Hove Albion's Withdean Stadium, the first of its kind to be installed at a league ground in England.
The hoarding, which faces the away stand at the Withdean, arguably the most homophobic stand in the whole of league football in England, was unveiled just before the Seagulls' League One clash with Plymouth Argyle. Luckily, the home team did the business on the pitch too, winning 4-0 against bottom of the table Argyle.
The hoarding is yet another positive step on the road to equality for all in the game we all love so much.
Monday, 21 February 2011
If he'd lived, February 19 would have been footballer Justin Fashanu's 50th birthday.
The Norwich City FC, Fashanu's club between 1979 and 1981, posthumously inducted him into their Hall of Fame earlier this week at Carrow Road.
Norwich City's Chief Executive David McNally unfurled Fashanu's banner with the help of The Justin Campaign's founding Director, Jason Hall.
As reported by the Norwich Evening News, McNally backed Fashanu's induction and the work of The Justin Campaign.
"Discrimination of any kind shouldn’t be accepted in any form of society and especially at the football club," McNally said.
“We deplore racism of any kind and will do all we can to help the Justin Campaign and the people from Norwich Pride achieve their aims and if it means together we can kick homophobia from this great game of ours and this great club then all well and good.”
“Norwich City nurtured a fantastic footballer - the world’s black first £1m player - a tremendous talent," said Jason Hall.
"It's been a long time coming for Justin to be put in the hall of fame but he fully deserves it.”
The delay in the recognition of Fashanu's contribution to his club and to the world of football can be at least partially attributed to a culture that has a history of racism and homophobia.
Justin Fashanu's extraordinary skill - most famously on display during a match against Liverpool in 1980 - demanded that the football world sit up and take notice.
If he'd been a different sort of player only in that he was black, he might have been honored sooner. He might have survived.
But Justin Fashanu was also gay, and in 1990 he publicly came out. The move essentially ended his career.
Though he was still in peak condition, no club offered him a full-time contract.
Some of his colleagues spoke out against him, and his brother publicly disowned him.
The press used the story to run sensational headlines, and he was the target of abuse hurled from the crowds in stadiums.
Eight years later, in the shadow of a sexual assualt allegation, Justin Fashau hung himself in a garage in Shoreditch, London.
February 19 marks the second annual Football v Homophobia Initiative, an international day opposing homophobia in football. On this, what would have been his 50th birthday, Fashanu is still the only professional footballer to disclose that he is gay.
Still, for an event that is only two years old, it's been wildly effective.
"This year it’s going to get bigger, better, louder and prouder than before," Campaign Director Darren Ollerton pledged earlier this year.
The Campaign made good on this promise with more than 30 events scheduled worldwide in places including Canada, the Netherlands,Spain, the Ukraine, and the USA, as well as the United Kingdom.
And while the spirit of the Initiative has always come from the grassroots, perhaps the most impressive gains from this year come from the big organizations.
This week, both the FA and UEFA officially announced their support of The Justin Campaign, proving once again that with a little determination and the support of a great team, a worthy player will find their breakaway.
Join the team
To learn more about The Justin Campaign, check out the web site at www.thejustincampaign.com.
To find out about Football v Homophobia Initiative events happening near you, visit the site at http://www.footballvhomophobia.com.
And as always, fight discrimination on your home pitches by supporting LGBT and mixed league sports.
Friday, 18 February 2011
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
We are delighted to announce the issuing of the following official statement from Willaim Gaillard, UEFA Senior Advisor to the President, Michel Platini.
"UEFA is pleased to offer our support to the 2011 Football v Homophobia Day this weekend.We believe that the principles of equality should run throughout football, there is no room for discrimination of any kind within our sport.Through our partnership with the FARE Network and contacts with the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation we are actively contributing to the struggle against discriminatory attitudes and will continue to ensure that we do everything possible to support initiatives that challenge and educate.My personal congratulations to the Justin Campaign for a creative and inspiring idea to remember a genuine pioneer of football.”
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Schalke and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has urged homosexual footballers to stop hiding their sexuality.
The 24-year-old, who has been recently linked to Liverpool and Manchester United, told a German celebrity magazine that coming out would lift a great weight from gay players' shoulders.
He added the fans would soon accept it saying what matters is the performance delivered by a player.
Neuer's comments follow on from those of Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez last November.
Once again it is encouraging to see footballers speak positively about the issue.
The majority of players are actually very bright and aware of the wider world, contrary to popular belief.
More statements like this and both players and footballers alike will feel more comfortable with the fact that being LGBT is both fine and acceptable.
The launch of our new website today was obviously so popular that our current server wasn't able to handle the attention!
A short note to say that we are currently dealing with our technical issues and both our home site and the new Football v Homophobia website should be back online soon.
The Justin Campaign team.
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Last week, as we often do, my 12 year old son and I joined 2,000 or so Leicester City fans in making the short trip up the M1 to Sheffield for a game at Bramall Lane. It wasn't exactly a classic, but Andy King's cracking volley in the fourth minute was enough to steal all three points for the foxes, so we mostly went home happy.
Besides a seeming over-reliance by both sides on aerial attacks and a pitch that wouldn't have disgraced a potato farmer, only one thing spoiled the evening.
Midway through the first half, with Leicester already in the lead but the football less than enthralling, the away fans began the customary baiting of the home crowd. There were indeed empty seats, and the ground was too big for them, and given the weather and the standard of the football, it was understandable that the visiting support wanted to go home. Then they spotted a new target.
Sitting in the South Stand, not far from the away support, was a chap in his mid to late 20s wearing a pink sweater. Pink! That could only mean one thing, right? Before long, a sizeable chunk of the away fans were directing their hostility in his direction - from straightforward homophobic name-calling, through suggestions he indulged in anal sex, to a strangely polite "we can see you holding hands" directed at him and the chap sat next to him.
To be fair, the Blades fan in the pink didn't seem to be upset by the chanting - if anything he revelled in the attention, conducting some of the chants, waving his rear end at us in response, and smiling broadly as he returned to his seat for the second half to a chorus of "he's just been for a bumming".
But that's not the point.
Unlike football ground racism, the victims of homophobia on the terraces are often not those who are the targets of the abuse, but those fans of either team who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And since the victims are not so obvious, it is also harder for them to speak out, to challenge the intolerance or to end it.
In both stands, amongst both sets of supporters there would be young men and women struggling (to a greater or lesser extent) to come to terms with their sexuality in a society that tolerates sexual differences only barely at best. To a young gay man, or even a young man who thinks he might be gay, the sustained homophobic chanting that night will have had only one message: you're not welcome at football, sonny, you don't belong here. Even worse, some will feel under peer pressure to sing along with the bullying and the intolerant, for fear of being singled
When I first watched matches at the old Filbert Street, racist and sexist attitudes pervaded football. Female programme sellers would be treated to a barrage of wolf-whistles, and "he tackles like a girl" would never raise an eyebrow. Black players expected, and received, monkey noises and banana skins, and the only reason there was no anti-Asian racism was the almost complete absence of Asian faces - even in Leicester - from both pitch and terraces.
Over the past couple of decades the situation as regards sexism and racism has improved dramatically. As women and ethnic minorities have won greater equality in society, football has tagged along, sometimes positively but often reluctantly. Andy Gray's comments about female officials now draws swift retribution but in his playing days such attitudes would have been commonplace. Racism on the terraces has retreated, although the growth of the EDL makes clear that the battle is far from over. Nowadays outright anti-Black racism is rare, although I've never yet watched a long-haired player put in 90 minutes without being asked where he left his caravan - gipsy and Romany people remain the 'legitimate targets' for racists in football, just as Baroness Warsi suggests muslims are in wider society.
But homophobia continues to rear its ugly head. Anyone who challenges it is accused of "not getting the joke", or asked to define their own sexuality before their views are considered, as I was when I raised the issue on an internet radio show phone-in the day after the game. You can't imagine someone being asked "why do you object to racism, are you black?" any more, although in the 1970s such an enquiry would have been commonplace. It's now widely understood (outside the ranks of the scapegoat-chasing EDL and their ilk) that everyone, black and white, has reasons to object to, and directly confront and challenge, racism and racists. The same cannot be said about homophobia.
Homophobia won't be eradicated from football until it is eradicated from wider society. But football doesn't have to lag so pitifully behind the curve of social progress as it is doing right now.
People talk about the need for gay players to come out in order to challenge homophobia but I think this misses the point. Openly gay players would certainly help, both in terms of making fans question their homophobic attitudes and in providing positive role models for LGBT football fans. But making gay footballers the driver of change, we actually let everyone else off the hook. Every single footballer, coach, manager and fan - whether in the Premier League, or Sunday pub team - can play a part in getting homophobia out of the game. We shouldn't have to wait for the next Justin Fashanu.
I didn't challenge the homophobic chanting at Sheffield last week. There were too many of them, and I was too scared. I stood quietly and shook my head in sadness, but I lacked the courage to speak out. If the Justin Campaign and the Football v Homophobia day on February 19 can give other fans the courage to speak out against homophobic chanting on the terraces then all of us, gay and straight, will be able to concentrate on the important stuff on the field: like getting the mighty foxes back into the top flight where they belong.
This blog post sparked a debate on Foxes Radio, an independent Leicester City radio station which ran for a week in February. To read more of Nick's work visit http://4glengate.net/
The most familiar type people are subjected to is verbal shouting of all sorts of horrible, misguided and bigoted statements.
It is with great regret when the Justin Campaign learnt that this sort of language was on display in one of the biggest French league games this weekend.
A banner in the stands of the Stade Velodrome in Marseille read: "Band of faggots. Be men."
The huge poster was spotted by a member of the Paris Gay Football Association during the match between Olympique de Marseille and Avignon Arles.
A statement from the group said: "It is now more than three years we've alerted club Marseille, on the need to tackle the problem from recurring homophobia of some supporters."
They added that there had been a history of homophobia abuse from fans of the French team when, after one incident in 2008, the club's director of communications at that time, Nathalie Paoli, said: "Marseille is not sufficiently exemplary to rebel against such comments."
The story was originally reported in the French media here.
Of course these comments may be a little skewed to an internet translation package.
But there is no doubting that this banner was not lost in translation.
Many questions from the incident. How did the banner get into the ground in the first place? Why did club officials so nothing to take it down? What impact did it have on other fans?
What is clear is that this shows how far football must travel if homophobia is to be pushed out of the game.
But as long as there are groups such as the Paris Gay Football Association then people will see what is right and what is wrong.
Monday, 7 February 2011
But from all the fantastic feedback and response we have had it is clear that this year's Football v Homophobia will be bigger and better than 2010.
Here is just one example of a new group that is on side - Wiltshire and Swindon Men's Sexual Health.
With the backing of local football team, the health teams will be using the Football v Homophobia banner to present a number of extremely important messages.
As Trowbridge Tigers player Nick Pitcher said: "Well when you look at what happened to Justin Fashanu, when he was disowned by members of his own family and being dropped into the reserves and all the adverse publicity, he went and committed suicide, so it doesn't set the stall up for other players to come out.
"And it's obvious that every football team, and every league, there are going to be gay players, but they can't come out because of the repercussions, which is a great shame."
This is just one of the many events happening across the world to mark February 19. To let us know about you event please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Thursday, 3 February 2011
The last taboo.
That oft-spouted mantra that by now has a familiarity to all within the LGBT community vis a vis the issues of homophobia, homosexuality and football.
It raises the perpetual questions as to why the national game has not yet succeeded in creating an atmosphere where a player can enter into the public domain that his sexual orientation differs from that of most, if not all, of his colleagues.
My career in the game was brief, a blood condition was sufficient in ensuring that my lifelong aspirations were to be curtailed not long after my teenage years were a reality.
I was in the game, and moreover the environs of the changing room long enough however to perhaps locate one of the areas which is contributory to why the aforementioned atmosphere has yet to be realised.
The answer, ironically may not have its roots in homophobia per se but more so around the sexism and, some would contend, borderline misogyny that permeates through the 'locker room' and acts almost as a de facto clause on one's contract of employment.
We should put to bed instantly any promotion that football is engulfed by the profoundly intolerant.
The game, certainly not from experience or knowledge, is not immersed with Westboro-esque attitudes, the 'Christian' collective hailing out of Topeka, Kansas whose raison d'etre is hatred of many but have acquired infamy through their spleen being directed at the LGBT community through their 'Godhatesfags' promotion. Real Christian eh !!!
Within the discourse around this it is more important to emphasise that the obstacles to a player placing his sexuality into the public arena are more likely to be because the player, or players, are reticent owing to the reality that this feature of their identity emasculates them in an environment of overwhelming manliness, a manliness which many within the game pursue through persistent promiscuity with adoring fans and wannabee 'wags'
Footballers, particularly the younger players, enter the lair with a greenness, their learning of the game coinciding with being brought into a sub-culture of socialising, excesses and omnipotent peer pressure which stipulates that scoring on a Saturday night is as important as finding the net hours previous.
This almost inescapable aura is contributory to why any player, either gay or bi-sexual in earlier years or who has realised this in a post-pubescent period will go through periods of uncertainty, not around his sexuality, around whether such a public proclamation is conducive to maintaining his place amongst the pack.
For most, a declaration that one is asexual would be a preferred option, their inner turmoil convincing them that it would be better to state that I am different, but I am not that different which may lead to an instinctive thought amongst others that screams 'What if he fancies me'.
It would be laughable if without an underlying seriousness.
With the celebrity of footballers at unprecedented levels, it is difficult to see how this will alter any time soon. Fame and fortune are magnetic, both have an allure to the impressionable and as this is a reality that abounds throughout all genres of entertainment it is somewhat unrealistic to expect the beautiful game and its nuances to manifest themselves in a wholly different manner.
And so the question remains, how can the atmosphere be created where players would, if they wished, be prepared to make known that they are gay or bi-sexual?
The answer, though I am not naive enough to think it is definitive, is in education and a greater awareness of their rights and as important, their responsibilities.
As a young player, I was bereft of any knowledge around employees rights. I paid by 'subs' to the PFA without actually knowing what the monies were for or indeed what I could expect from the players association if a situation required their assistance.
Professional football can be akin to the military, the new recruits are indoctrinated to a degree into respecting their seniors and any dissent, regardless of having a potent or justifiable argument, is generally met with contempt that one would have the audacity to question the authority of one of the deified.
This schooling only serves to de-individualise players, it prepares the players for clichés and conformity which in turn leads to robotic rhetoric about 'Me scoring is not important, as long as the team wins' and 'If I can be half as good as x player I will be doing well'.
Young players in particular know full well that other retorts to the mundane questioning of post match interviews can lead to scornful words from elder statesmen in the ensuing days in the workplace.
I recently said in an interview that to make a breakthrough regarding homophobia in society that an order of events would be a footballer making public his bi-sexuality or that he is gay, then in light of any abuse in the environment of his working life it would be imperative for stringent action to make clear that homophobia has no place in the game or in society and this would act as a deterrent for those prepared to exhibit their ignorance and intolerance.
Like racism in yesteryear the calm came after the storm as it were and I believe that challenging the issues of sexism, sexual harassment and discrimination will have gains made through events of late within Sky TV.
I daresay across industry in the ensuing days many who had absorbed the coverage of this episode learnt what actually constitutes sexual harassment or discrimination and have suddenly felt empowered and this new found knowledge may lead to employees across working life recognising that such behaviours cannot simply be excused as workplace levity which infers that a victim has 'no sense of humour' or are 'over sensitive' if they are unprepared to accept such jibes around their gender.
I can appreciate that within the stresses of employment humour is a vital component in absenting the anxieties that the job brings but wit is at its best when all concerned are genuinely laughing and not in order to secrete their angst at the subject matter.
Someone asked me recently if I thought we would have made great strides if one day the papers had splashed across the front pages that a top footballer was gay.
I replied that we will, but not as much as when we are at a stage when a professional player being gay is NOT front page news.
We may have to experience a storm before the calm so to speak, many social inequalities only begin to be deconstructed and the course of history altered through a pivotal moment and watershed when someone decides to take a stand, even if the person momentarily has little idea of the momentous events that can follow. I give you a public bus in Alabama, Rosa Parks and a disputed and dilapidated chair.
In the context of the 'gay footballer' we have to ensure that any public acknowledgement does not have diuretic properties for the footballing establishment. They have to be prepared to clampdown on any invective emanating from supporters, however, in order for the confidence to be created in the former players have to know that they have entitlements and protection as footballers, employees and as important, as citizens.
If that confidence can come through equality training and education then it is worth pursuing as the outcome, if managed aptly, will be beneficial in making a more egalitarian society.
To remove the last taboo it may be necessary for the authorities and clubs to say to fans in the strongest terms that you will be the last to boo.
Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance
"True and transparent Equality is only achievable when the suppressed, armed with conviction, see themselves as equal"
Kate Green, Labour, Stretford and Urmston
Peter Bottomley, Conservative, Worthing West
Paul Flynn, Labour, Newport West
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Islington North
Alan Meale, Labour, Mansfield
Marsha Singh, Labour, Bradford West
John McDonnell, Labour, Hayes and Harlington
Martin Caton, Labour, Gower
Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrats, Portsmouth South
Valerie Vaz, Labour, Walsall South
Stephen Hepburn, Labour, Jarrow
Tony Lloyd, Labour, Manchester Central
Naomi Long, Alliance Party, Belfast East
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrats, Carshalton and Wallington
Steve Rotherham, Labour, Liverpool Walton
Kelvin Hopkins, Labour, Luton North
Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru, Arfon
Katy Clark, Labour Party, North Ayrshire and Arran
Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrats, Bristol West
Kerry McCarthy, Labour, Bristol EastMike Weatherly, Conservative Party, Hove
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
The Justin Campaign in partnership with The FA and Kick It Out have released this press release which sees all three organisations working together in support of Football v Homophobia.
A great day indeed and a huge step forward for the LGBT community's relationship with the game we all love so much!
Read all about it on the FA website here!