Thursday, 31 March 2011

Anton Hysen: an inspiration

The fourth tier of Swedish football does not normally get a whole load of international press coverage.

But that was before Anton Hysen, a midfielder for Utsiktens BK, decided to publicly declare his sexuality.

Hysén, the son of former Liverpool and Swedish international Glenn Hysén, recently came out as Sweden's first openly gay male footballer.

He is only the second high-level footballer to come out in the world, ever, after the Justin Campaign's figurehead Justin Fashanu.

But reading this article from the Guardian newspaper highlights that even with strong family support and being away from the intense media pressure of the top tier of football there are still many questions unanswered.

How will it affect his football? Will opposition taunts ever die down? What impact will it have on his personal life?

Reading the comments in the piece it is clear Anton is a very strong-willed individual who is simply living his own life.

He says: "There's nothing to be a role model for – you're gay, it's not a big thing. People tell me I'm a celebrity now, and I shouldn't be. But as long as it helps [others by speaking openly], I'll do everything I can. If there's anyone afraid of coming out they should give me a call."

The support he has received has also been fantastic, which can only be encouraging for LGBT fans and players across the world.

He says: "Everyone has been very positive. I was on the train last weekend and this girl said: 'You've made the world a better place, thank you for being there for everyone,' and I haven't done anything.

"But when you think about it, I kinda have. Obviously I haven't been playing in the top league but I'm still going for it, and I'm still the only active player who has come out, so of course it's huge.

"If you're a real man in the Premier League you'd say, 'If you've got a problem, call me.' There has to be some way – whoever plays in the Premier League should try to support them."

A TV programme in the UK featuring Anton alongside Rugby star Gareth Thomas and England cricketer Steven Davies planned for the coming weeks will also further bring the subject to the country's attention.

The Justin Campaign has already publicly supported Anton.

Whether his actions will lead to a UK professional player coming out in the next few months or even years it not important. Such a decision is ultimately down to the individual.

But the key thing is that clubs and authorities see it as an issue and have a support network in place to ensure that anyone who wants to can do so with as much backing as Anton has received.

His lead has already shown that homosexuality in football is less of an unspeakable "taboo" but uncharted territory that authorities, players and fans should not be afraid.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Football clubs are workplaces too

The Justin Campaign inbox is full of emails from LGBT and equality campaigners from across the world.

This week we caught sight of this report and survey from Northern Ireland.

The report by the Rainbow Project claims that one in four gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people hide their sexuality while at work in the private sector.

The figure itself is shocking for part of the UK which, as a whole, appears to have really taken steps towards a more equal society in recent decades.

It also highlights the large steps we still need to take before people can feel proud and free to be themselves.

This is clearly apparent in the comments from Matthew McDermott, equality officer at the Rainbow Project and the report's author, who said: "This should enable government and employers to consider the measures they think appropriate to improve working life for all LGBT people."

The Justin Campaign welcomes the report and these comments.

But we also must make it clear that this covers not just offices, factories, shops and public buildings where the majority of the population head to earn their keep.

It also covers all professional and semi-pro football clubs too, both on and off the pitch.

We hope clubs across the country sit up and take note of what is a significant piece of research and ask "what can we do" for its employees.

Education workshops and picking up on negative language are just some of the simple steps that would very quickly improve things for LGBT people.

Creating an accepting culture behind the scenes is as integral as having a visible presence on the pitch in the ultimate aim of ridding homophobia from the beautiful game.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Justin Campaign Nottingham Tournament Is Approaching!

The Justin Campaign, in partnership with the University of Nottingham LGBTQ staff network, is delighted to announce details of a fantastic summer football tournament to be held at the University of Nottingham Sports Centre on July 2nd.

The day will consist of both a male tournament and a female tournament (no mixed teams) and teams need to be submitted by June 1st (including payment of £4 per player).

There will also be a stalls fair, and spaces are now available for this too!

So for both team and stall submissions, please contact us at

Ahead of this fantastic day, Notts County football club have issued the following statement:

As a club, we recognise and appreciate that homophobia, like all forms of discrimination, have no place in football and work hard to combat them. We therefore fully support the work of everyone associated with the Justin Campaign and give our full backing to events such as this. May the best team win!

The Justin Campaign can't wait to see you all there!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Justin Campaign Signs Up Aslie Pitter MBE

The Justin Campaign is delighted to announce that Aslie Pitter MBE is to become the organisation’s new patron.

Aslie, who is gay football club Stonewall FC’s longest serving player, received his MBE, awarded for his work in tackling homophobia, at the end of last year.

On joining forces with The Justin Campaign, Aslie (pictured in red with Justin Campaign founding director Jason Hall) said:

“I’m delighted to join with The Justin Campaign. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The campaign is very important as we need to highlight the fact that, in sport as in life in general, people need to be able to be themselves.

Justin Fashanu had no support when he came out but hopefully now,

through organisations like the Justin Campaign, there is support waiting for players who do want to come out.”

Aslie’s new role with the campaign comes just after the hugely successful FA-backed Football v Homophobia initiative in February, which saw events taking place all over the world to celebrate the fight against homophobia in the game.

The Justin Campaign is honoured to welcome Aslie on board and is excited about this high-profile new-signing!

For more information please contact Alan Duffy at or on 07814347566

Monday, 21 March 2011

German Football Boss Promises Support For Gay Players

Yet another positive piece of news has appeared, this time in the German media and regarding DFB President Theo Zwanziger.

In an article in the German press, Zwanziger has pledged his support for gay players in Germany who want to come out.

We at The Justin Campaign would like to applaud Mr Zwanziger for his comments. For the game to become more welcoming to members of the LGBT community both on and off the pitch, the footballing authorities need to be far more visible in their support for anti-homophobia initiatives and the inclusion of gay people in football, something which Mr Zwanziger has himself done perfectly.

Here is the link to the German article

And here is a translation, which, while not perfect, will give you the gist of what Zwanziger is saying.

German Football President Zwanziger Promises To Support Gay Players Who Come Out.

DFB president Theo Zwanziger has pledged his personal support and the assistance of the Association to any gay Bundesliga players who decide to come out. "I’d find it brave and welcome, if a football player came out. He would have the support of both the DFB and myself ", Zwanziger said before the Congress of the European Football Union (UEFA) in Paris.

On Sunday, a German TV show “Murder In The First Division” from ARD has the issue of homosexuality in the Bundesliga as its theme and Zwanziger was please to see the issue being covered in the media.

"I welcome it, " he explained. "It is important that TV shows, with their audience of millions, show taboo topics from all areas of society because keeping taboos such as sexual orientation or depression amongst others hidden, is contrary to the ideas of freedom and human dignity."

In relation to whether players should come out, Zwanziger also said: “Whether someone wants to make his sexual orientation public, they have to decide that for themselves”.

If you'd like to hear our views on this or any other issue, then please contact Communications Director Alan Duffy on 07814347566 or at

Monday, 14 March 2011

Another step along the way

Regular readers of this blog will know the importance we place on small victories towards the ultimate aim of LGBT acceptance in football.

So it is with pleasure that the following news reached us: a charter signed by national sporting bodies against homophobia and transphobia.

Among those signatures was Alex Horne, the general secretary of the FA.

In a statement, he said: "The FA and its stakeholders have worked hard over the years in providing football for all and ensuring that football stadia are open to everyone and are both family and LGB and T friendly.

"We’ve seen real progress over the last 20 years when it comes to tackling racism and that’s something football should be proud of.

"We remain committed to our long-term goal of removing all forms of discrimination, such as homophobia, out of the game."

Coming shortly after the FA announced its backing to the Justin Campaign's Football v Homophobia initiative, it is clear that those in the halls of power are sitting up and taking notice of the game's last taboo.

Praise must also be directed towards the coalition Government and in particular equalities minister Lynne Featherstone.

But quite what impact the charter has is another question.

Darren Ollerton, director of the Justin Campaign, said: "The Justin Campaign applaud this move by the FA to make public their commitment to tackling homophobia and transphobia in the UK game.

Whilst it is important for the FA to publicly assert their values around equality within football, the future worth in signing this charter will be seen in real change on and off the pitch.

"The Justin Campaign is clear that there must be real tangible outcomes to this move, and look forward to working closely with the FA to ensure that all points on the charter are fulfilled."

Show your support by signing the charter here.

“Let’s just all go for it…”

Keph Senett is a Canadian writer living in Mexico who’s proudly played soccer on four continents. You can read more from her at She’s the Communications Officer for The Justin Campaign.

As a professional footballer with a pedigree, twenty year-old Anton Hysén could probably count on some column inches throughout his career. But with a single disarmingly blunt proclamation, the defender for Utsiktens BK overshadowed his team, his game, and his famous football father.

“I am a footballer. And gay,” Hysén told the soccer magazine Offside. Then, “If I perform as a footballer, then I do not think it matters if I like girls or boys.” And with that, Hysén proved again that confidence is attractive.

To fully comprehend the revolution in that simple sentence, it’s necessary to understand a little bit of history.

Pro football has only ever had a single out gay player. Justin Fashanu was a phenomenon. A graceful and deadly forward, Fashanu hit a career apex in 1980 when he scored a spectacular goal against Liverpool FC, a strike that would win him the BBC Goal of the Season. The following year, he became the first black player ever to earn £1m. In 1990, Justin Fashanu came out to the press, and eight years later, he hung himself in a garage in Shoreditch, London.

But it’s this matter-of-factness that will save him and the sport. After all the agitating and emotion and endless debate about whether someone should come out, Hysén just did it. Sure, it’s cocky, but isn’t that how we like our young professional athletes? Controversial, bold and unapologetic?

Professional football’s been waiting ever since. In the last eleven years, the game has changed. Women have increasingly made their way onto world class pitches. Anti-racism education campaigns have muted the notorious hooliganism associated with the sport. Yet, homophobia has lingered, an ugly scar on the beautiful game.

Due in large part to the efforts of grassroots organizations like The Justin Campaign – which is named after Fashanu and which has organized two years of their banner action, the Football v Homophobia Initiative – things have begun to shift. In 2011 both the FA and UEFA announced their official support for the Initiative. There’s a page about homophobia on the Kick it Out web site. Still, it’s not an out, proud, alive pro player, is it?

In recent years gay professional athletes in other sports have begun to come out. In February 2007, pro basketballer John Amaechi came out, but in 2010 he was widely quoted warning gay footballers to remain closeted. In December 2009, professional rugby player Gareth Thomas came out, and like Fashanu, was subjected to taunts by spectators. Less than two weeks ago, cricketer Steve Davies told the world that he was gay, saying “[i]t’s something I’ve lived with for a long time.”

Then straight professional wrestler Hudson Taylor brought the issue even more into the mainstream by founding Athlete Ally, “a sports resource encouraging all individuals involved in sports to respect every member of their communities, regardless of perceived or actual sexual-orientation or gender identity or expression, and to lead others in doing the same.” His willingness to lead an anti-homophobia campaign as a heterosexual – and to wrestle with a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his headgear – took some of the onus off LGBT athletes to advocate for themselves. Hudson’s action drove the point home: hate in athletics hurts everyone.

Still, professional footballers were curiously silent, absent from the swelling team of diversity proponents.

And then, finally, Anton Hysén with his youthful boldness, his utterly disarming swagger.

“It’s so weird when you think about it. It’s so fucked up, the whole thing. Where the hell is everyone else?” Hysén asks in the Offside interview. “It’s barely any other footballers who are openly gay, right?”

The question’s laughable. While thousands of advocates have been toiling in the human rights trenches, where has he been?

But it’s this matter-of-factness that will save him and the sport. After all the agitating and emotion and endless debate about whether someone should come out, Hysén just did it. Sure, it’s cocky, but isn’t that how we like our young professional athletes? Controversial, bold and unapologetic?

In a BBC podcast posted today, presenter Alan Green asks Hysén about fallout. “You’re still young,” he says. “Do you think it’ll damage your career in any way?”

“I really don’t care. If you respect me for the person that I am and how good I am in my sport, you shouldn’t care.”

“Most fans will accept this but some won’t,” Green persists. “[They] are likely to make homophobic comments during the game. Do you think you’ll be able to cope with that?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hysén says, his voice weary. “Well, you know, if they say anything… they can call me whatever they want. I am who I am, I really don’t care. Maybe I should just go dance with them.”

“Your brother, Tobias, is a Swedish international, and I know he backed your decision to come out and he hopes more players will follow your example. Do you think that’s going to happen?”

“Um, I have no good answer to that,” Hysén says, ”but I really hope so, because there’s enough things to be afraid of. I mean, let’s just all go for it. If there is anybody else, I strongly recommend now would be a good time… I’m sure there is somebody, but it’s going to be like a first step to the future, to a better place where gay people can play football.”

With that comment, Hysén dragged his sport, willing or not, into the 21st century. Football might refuse to evolve, but you can’t stop the willfulness of youth – and why would you want to? It’s a characteristic that just might help him win matches. Still, Hysén understands he’s the beneficiary of a strong and necessary support network.

“I hear [Fashanu's] brother didn’t want to talk to him…,” Hysén comments. “When that happens, when the teammates refuse to talk to you and turn their backs? … You have to have your family and friends as well. That’s just a tragedy.”

And what of Hysén’s famous footballing dad? “Jag är ruskigt stolt över grabben,” Glenn Hysén tweeted after the story broke. “Stöttar honom till 100 %.” I am very proud of the kid. I support him 100 %.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Justin Campaign Statement On News That Swedish Player Anton Hysén Has Publicly Come Out

The Justin Campaign is delighted to hear the news that Anton Hysén, who plays for Swedish 4th tier side Utsiktens BK, has decided to publicly come out.

Hysén, who is the son of former Liverpool and Fiorentina star Glenn Hysén, reveals his sexuality in an interview with Offside magazine.

Coming not long after England cricketer Steven Davies publicly declared his homosexuality, Hysén's move is another positive step on the road to total equality for all in football.

The Justin Campaign applauds Hysén's honesty and bravery and is sure that his declaration will inspire others to simply, and openly, be themselves whilst being part of the beautiful game.

We also hope that the Swedish footballing authorities will do all they can to support Hysén in the coming weeks and months.

For further comment from the Justin Campaign, call Alan Duffy on 07814347566 or email on

Here is the link to an article (in Swedish) on Hysén -

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Equality in the stands 2

A few weeks ago we published this blog post. We subsequently received this reply from Tęczowa Trybuna and have, at their request printed it in full. All comments are welcome.

Dear Justin Campaign,

We read the entry on your blog and would like to explain ourselves. There is no doubt that the decision we made is hard, but we find it to be a proper measure to avoid harassment and aggression against homosexual supporters during European Championship, that would be hosted by Poland and Ukraine, in 2012.

As you know, conditions which homosexuals in Poland have to deal with aren’t easy, the best example could probably be the initiative of LGBT activists to introduce civil unions in Poland, the initiative that is being slowed down by the representatives of the government and as for the moment isn’t likely to be introduced to the parliament. Thus, as we decided, calling for raising the awareness about homophobia in football and launching campaigns so that we all could enjoy the game in safety, both gay and straight, would do no good, because – sincerely – hardly anybody among Polish officials cares.

Searching for solution of our problems, we thought of the stands that are on Camp Nou or the stadium of AC Milan, where the members of gay fanclubs can feel safe and focus on the game, rather than uneasily look around just in case there was someone who would prefer them beaten up (and that’s what happened to some of the members of Teczowa Trybuna 2012).

In Poland we met with disapprovement, not only from the side of other supporters, but even Polish gays and lesbians considered our idea nothing more but ghettoization. But none of them even thought that creating separate stands for disabled people (rather than enabling them to access all the
places) or VIP stand to divide the society, although it is division due to criteria of physical abilities or wealth. If we are all there just to watch the game, why shouldn’t we be there all together? If it truly doesn’t matter, who you are, and just which team do you support, why shouldn't we all be in one place?

What we care about is safety. We are threatened right now, and we want to watch the games of European Championship that would be co-hosted by our country in safety. We know what’s the situation of gay supporters and we know that Polish Football Association (PZPN) is doing nothing to improve it.
And we want homosexual people – both Polish and from abroad, that will come to watch the games in 2012 – to be able to watch the games in safety.

That’s what we believe Rainbow Stands could increase. We ask you for support us!

Best regards,
Tęczowa Trybuna 2012