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.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

USA football player comes out before London 2012 Olympics

 An international football player has come out just weeks before the start of the London 2012 Olympics.

Megan Rapinoe is a key part of the USA soccer (football to the rest of the world) team which is expected to challenge for the gold medal at the games, which start later this month.

The 26-year-old midfielder, who plays for the Seattle Sounders, has now told national US media that, "for the record", she is gay.

It comes as in the male side of the sport there are still huge barriers between players and fans accepting people for being LGBT.

Rapinoe told Out magazine: "I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out.

She added: “In female sports, if you’re gay, most likely your team knows it pretty quickly. It’s very open and widely supported. For males, it’s not that way at all. It’s sad.”

According to reports she has been dating her girlfriend, an Australian soccer player, for three years.

Rapinoe added she has never tried to hide the fact she was gay but had never been asked.

However, she did say that sport needed role models is the LGBT "stigma" was to be broken.

Talking about the issue further with USA Today, she said: "That stigma is only going to be broken when people come out and see that there is a positive response.

"That doesn't mean there will be no negative response, but if people can have the courage to be one of the first, which is very hard, those barriers can be broken down very quickly."

A Justin Campaign spokesman said: "With the Olympics nearly upon us and the world's eye casting towards London, this is great news for the sport of football.

"Megan Rapinoe already has a huge following in the United States but her actions will only serve as an inspiration to tens of thousands of people across the globe.

"We hope that Rapinoe's actions will give a boost to other players and fans in the United States and abroad to see that it does not matter what your sexuality is, football is game for everyone."

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

STATEMENT: Italy's Cassano apologies for "misinterpreted" comments

Italy and AC Milan striker Antonio Cassano has apologised after reportedly saying he hoped there were no gay players in the national squad.

The comments, which are sure to spark controversy, came after reports in the national media that two players in the Italian squad were homosexuals.

A hastily written statement issued on the official website of the Italian Football Federation last night clarified the Italian talisman's views.

It said: "I sincerely regret that my statements have sparked controversy and protest from gay rights groups.

"Homophobia is a sentiment that is not mine. I did not want to offend anyone and I can not question the sexual freedom of other people.

"I only said that it is a problem that does not concern me and it is not for me to pass judgment on the choices of others, who are all respected."

The apology came 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."

In response, the Justin Campaign said: "Once again we see a top footballer making homophobic comments to the media. Once again we see footballing authorities making a hasty u-turn in clarifying the words said to avoid a PR disaster. Once again the world receives an apology.

"With such a backdrop is it any wonder why footballers don't openly admit their sexuality?

"This is about more than PR management, it is people's lives. Change will not happen overnight. But Cassano's comments are at best unhelpful, at worst homophobic, and football needs a better example set by its figureheads if true equality is to be reached on and off the pitch."

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ukraine: a fit and proper place for Euro 2012?

On the eve of Poland and Ukraine hosting Euro 2012, thousands of fans who were going to make the trip east for the tournament are staying at home for fear of their safety. Tim Ridgway, of the Justin Campaign, asks if the tournament will be memorable but for all the wrong reasons.

Every four years, the best footballing nations from across the continent come together for the European Football Championships.

Featuring some of the best players in the world and with its heritage as the birthplace of football plus a fair few international disputes stretching back hundreds of years (England v France, Germany v Holland, Serbia v Croatia, Spain v Portugal) it makes for one of the best spectacles in sport.

Who can forget Gazza's celebration after scoring a wonder goal at Wembley in 1996? Or van Basten's volley to finally win a tournament for the Netherlands? And did anyone really see the Denmark team succeeding in 1992?

Yet what is intended as a showpiece for football on the continent has been overshadowed by some very visible signs that Ukraine and Poland, the hosts for the 2012 event, simply are not welcoming places for all followers of the beautiful game.

Since the documentary famous figures from across the footballing world, including David Beckham, have urged supporters to keep safe. Others have unconvincingly disputed the accuracy of the portrayal.

Yet, it is hard to disagree with the fact it it does not appear to be a safe place for members of the LGBT community.

Only last month Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of Gay Forum Ukraine, was attacked in full view of some members of the world's media after informing them the first gay pride in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev had been cancelled.

Such open acts of violence hardly fit in well with Uefa's vision of football for all.

If the footballing authorities and national Governments were prepared to use the tournament as a catalyst to promote equality in the country then perhaps hosting the tournament there could be seen as acceptable. But so far there seems to have been very few positive messages coming from anyone with real power.

If we use the BBC documentary as a basis then equality appears to have been absent from the dictionary in both the headquarters of the Ukrainian FA and police force. There appears to be little appetite for controlling these acts, either from individuals or those dishing out orders. Are arrests completely out of the question? And what about a warning from the Ukrainian government that any acts of violence will not be tolerated? With further reports of "monkey noises" aimed at the Dutch players after a training session on the eve of the tournament, surely enough is enough. 

With the tournament starting tomorrow, the event cannot be cancelled. But individuals and national FAs can take their own stands. If there are signs of abuse of any nature then why not just walk off the pitch and refuse to play? Uefa will soon have to act when faced with an unexpected egg dripping down its face.

Quite simply Euro 2012 is in danger for being remembered for all the wrong reasons. The footballing authorities have to realise that this is not just about Uefa spreading football across the continent and making money. Football should be a sport for all and by advocating nations that do not tolerate and accept people for who they are, it is failing those that make it so special.

Wear a rainbow for Euro 2012, ask equality campaigners

The issues surrounding fans attending Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland have been well publicised. With the competition starting tomorrow, a number of fans have been asking us what they can do to show solidarity to the LGBT community. The following has appeared on the Gay Games blog (

The European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation (EGLSF) has teamed up with the Pride Solidarity Campaign (supported by FARE) to identify opportunities for LGBT inclusion and human rights during Euro 2012.

Clare Dimyon, of Pride Solidarity, has been in Ukraine since Kyiv Pride, visiting Ukrainian LGBT communities including those in the four host cities of Kyiv, Karkhiv, Lviv and Donetsk. Clare has been promoting Football v Homophobia, the global campaign against prejudice and discrimination towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in football in preparation for Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, EGLSF has been preparing for the opening of Euro Pride House in Warsaw on Friday June 8 (part of the Football for Equality initiative). Euro Pride House is a space for all fans, players and football supporters during the Championships. Its focus is on the LGBT community but is open to anyone who wants to challenge homophobia in football.

During the tournament, the partners will be delivering two specific campaigns, ‘Wear a Rainbow at Euro 2012’ and ‘YOUR Euro Pride House’. 

Wear A Rainbow at Euro 2012

Last month people witnessed with horror the brutal beating of Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay-Forum of Ukraine, at the first ever gay parade in Kiev. This sparked major concerns over the safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people in Ukraine as well as those attending Euro 2012 in Ukraine in June. ‘Wear a Rainbow at euro 2012’ is a campaign to show solidarity with LGBT in Ukraine during the Euros. Anyone interested in challenging the violence perpetrated against LGBT in Europe can wear a silicone rainbow wristband to show support. Wristbands will be available at Euro Pride House in Warsaw and from various venues in Ukraine and those not in Ukraine and Poland can join in with this simple act of solidarity.

YOUR Euro Pride House

This campaign aims to enable LGBT people in Ukraine to hold their own Euro Pride Houses in environments in which they feel safe. Clare from the Pride Solidarity Campaign is facilitating a range of ‘Euro Pride Houses’ in various locations across Ukraine and supplying activists with Football v Homophobia leaflets, t-shirts and, of course wristbands for the ‘Wear a Rainbow at Euro 2012 campaign.

The YOUR Euro Pride House campaign also enables other European LGBT people to engage in Euro Pride House. Obviously many LGBT players, fans & activists will be watching Euro 2012 matches in their own countries, and will not be making the trip to Poland or Ukraine. YOUR Euro Pride House is a campaign to engage these fans in LGBT human rights issues in Central and Eastern Europe through football and enable us to use Euro 2012 as a vehicle to mobilise support. The campaign will enable fans, wherever they are in Europe, to be a part of Euro Pride house, by printing out the Euro Pride House logo from the Facebook page and posting a photo of themselves and their friends/team mates celebrating Euro 2012 wherever they are in Europe.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Gay England Fans Told To Keep Low Profile In Ukraine

By Hayley Paterson, Press Officer for the Justin Campaign

I saw something in the news this week which made me despair at a time when as fans of football we should be excited.

Anxiously waiting for Euro 2012 to kick-off in just a couple of weeks time,’s news site has reported that gay England football fans travelling to joint-host country Ukraine for the tournament, have been told to keep a low profile for their own safety. 

The warning has come after Kiev’s first ever gay pride event was cancelled because of concerns that homophobic attacks would take place.

Even more worringly, the news piece shows Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, being brutally beaten by thugs - and that was AFTER the pride parade was cancelled.

Amnesty International said that it was police who advised organisers of the threat of violence from football hooligans - a sport which should be at the forefront of celebrating all minorities coming together to cheer on their clubs.

Sadly not though.

Now, gay England fans going to eastern Europe next month SHOULD fear for their safety it seems.

Amnesty campaign Max Tucker has said not only will football fans have to put up with violent hooligans targeting gay people and those from ethnic minorities, they will also face “an extremely corrupt police force”.

Football can sometimes be very dark. Violence should never be at the forefront of anything, let alone regarding football, or any sport for that matter, and even more so it should never be used as a tool to attack minorities.

It’s still quite abundantly clear that educating people about tackling homophobia in football is going to be no easy task... but that's not going to stop us!

And don't forget to please join us in our campaign to tackle homophobia in football. Follow The Justin Campaign on Twitter @JustinCampaign.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Fans' Feedback Gives Us All Hope For The Future

Amy Barnett is a student at the University of Leicester.     

I went along to Peterborough United vs. Watford on Saturday 21st April to conduct a pilot study for my dissertation research on sexuality in football. Overall I was very encouraged with the outcomes. 

The main aim of my pilot study was to gauge how willing fans were to talk about the issues, assess the quality of my questions and address any theme that came out of the participants responses. From the results I can elaborate and add to my extended list of questions for the final study.

I approached a number of fans with two initial questions:  Firstly, 'what are your views on a potential gay footballer playing for Peterborough United?' and secondly, 'how do you think fans in general would react to a PUFC player coming out?'. 

Overall, I was encouraged by how willing fans were to talk to me and the depth they went to in their answers to my questions.

A few themes emerged from my research, mainly the fact that it wouldn’t matter if a player came out, especially if they were playing well. Participants thought that home fans would welcome and support a player coming out whereas away fans would make up chants purely as ammunition against the other team. It was not suggested that these chants would be homophobic in any way. All participants believed that it would take a ‘big name’ coming out to change and normalise the situation in football in the long term. Finally participants thought that the main thing stopping players coming out is the fear of the unknown both on the pitch, with the fans, with the media and in the dressing room.

A few points emerged that I had not considered prior to my study. Firstly the varying attitudes of fans in different areas of the ground. A steward in the Family Stand suggested that she could only speak from her experiences in the Family Stand and that other stands, especially the terraces may react differently. Secondly, the differences in the attitudes of fans across the country; It was mentioned by 3 different parties that fans at Elland Road often aim homophobic chants at players. These last two points have highlighted the need for my research to encompass experiences of Peterborough United fans from further afield than just London Road.

Overall, I am very encouraged by my afternoon at Peterborough United and I look forward to reporting my findings as my research takes shape.

Thank you for your support  

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Football Blogging Awards supports The Justin Campaign

Any subject as emotive, captivating and opinion-invoking is bound to spring a fair share of online commentators.

To celebrate people's efforts, the Football Blogging Awards (The FBAs) aims to celebrate football blogs and football bloggers, most of whom do the work for nothing more than the love of the game.

The awards ceremony will take place in Manchester in July and awards are available in ten categories.

The winners are decided entirely by the public.

And what's great is that all the proceeds will go towards the campaign. Truly a double win! So whether you're a budding blogger or keen campaigner check out the site here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Why I Joined The Justin Campaign: Hayley Paterson, Press Officer

Hayley Paterson, the Justin Campaign's new Press Officer, talks about what made her join us in the fight against homophobia in football.

I love football, I always have. I’ve played it for as long as I can remember. It’s a sport that can offer up a ridiculous range of emotions, that being pure ecstasy to total agony. I live for the sport, but there’s also an ugly side to football – and one which ultimately led me to getting on-board with The Justin Campaign.

I knew all about Justin Fashanu, I admired his courage and prayed that when announced he was gay, those words would change world football forever. It has in some instances I have no doubt about that. Without his brave stance we wouldn’t have people talking about homosexuality in sport today and trying, like this campaign, to stamp out the prejudice that surrounds sexual orientation in football.

Since Justin’s incredible act of bravery and tragic death, there have since been a couple of footballers who have taken the plunge to come out and say who they really are. But there is still so much more that needs to be done – and that is what I want to be a part of.

As I wince into my coffee cup realising how old I really am after working out that I have played women’s football for no less than 17 years since the tender age of 11, it is apparent to me that sexual orientation is much more accepted and talked about in the female game – that’s what I want to achieve in the men’s equivalent.
Sexual orientation in sport needs to be talked about. It’s time to challenge the small-mindedness where people think that players can’t possibly get changed in the same dressing room as a gay team-mate for fear of them coming on to them.

And pardon the pun, but it’s time to tackle the archaic views that top-flight football clubs cannot have a gay player in their side because they won’t be as strong or athletic as someone who is straight.

I want to talk to people about their views on homosexuality in football. I want to challenge the stereotypes and interview players, managers and whoever else concerned about a subject which should no longer be taboo in the world’s favourite sport.

That’s why I have got involved in this fantastic campaign. I don’t just want to focus on the top level men’s clubs, I want to challenge the thought processes of grassroots level and women’s football.

So, as I climb back down from my soapbox, I just wanted to sign off by saying it’s an absolute privilege to be involved with this campaign in a press capacity and I hope you all do the same – it’s time to change world football forever and if we’re all on the same team (so to speak) then I’m sure we can challenge those old-fashioned misconceptions and kick out homophobic discrimination once and for all.

Hayley Paterson

(Follow me on Twitter @HayleyP_11)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Former Chelsea player: "Homophobia needs to be challenged in the same way racism has been"

Those readers of the blog will have noticed an absence of posts recently - apologies.

During the brief hiatus, there has been some really positive comments from people who can inspire real change in the game we all love.

One of them is Paul Elliott, a former Chelsea and Celtic defender, who has since been awarded an MBE for his work as an ambassador against racism in the game.

In a recent interview  for the Fifa website, Elliot was asked what did he see as the next challenge in football in fighting discrimination.

His response is worth printing in full.

"Homophobia is a big one. That needs to be challenged in the same way racism has been. And there’s still what I would call institutional discrimination in football. We’re actually running a campaign at the moment called ‘Fair Share’, which is aimed at getting better representation for women and minorities in boardrooms, committees, councils and in coaching itself.

"What we’re talking about here is equality of opportunities. That’s a huge challenge for us, and I’m excited by the prospect of taking it on."

Elliott has a long history of championing equality in the game. To be blunt, he knows the right people and has the right attitude and manner to bring about real change. His working in stamping out racism in the game has been fantastic and much admired.

The fact he is turning his eye to homophobia is a positive sign for all. Fifa know that this must be tackled head on and by getting people like Elliott involved is a sign the world's organisation is going to take this seriously.

Let's hope these positive messages as it is only through support at all tiers of the game that  the change and equality we all strive for can be achieved.

Louis Saha asks should a footballer come out?

Homophobia in football is really becoming an issue that players are thinking and talking about.

Following comments from senior and famous players such as Florent Malouda and Phillip Lahm, Tottenham Hotspur striker Louis Saha has now publicly revealed his own thoughts on the last taboo in the game.

In an exclusive interview with the Evening Standard, the eloquent Frenchman (pictured right) discussed the issue of homophobia in football.

He said: “I do think players would accept it, eventually. But it would take time and some management. Footballers are very frank people and we are always taking the mick, so when there is something we’re not used to, it’s going to be hard.

“Do you think a player who comes out will be protected enough? I don’t think he would be protected from the fans. Maybe his own fans would be okay but the opposition fans?

“I don’t think it would be easy for him to cope with that. People are rude and if you perform badly, you are insulted badly. If there was someone who fans perceived to be different from the other players, he might end up suffering some big insults and it would be difficult to live with.

“When there is a problem, there has to be a solution and I have tried not to hide from these subjects. You have to be tolerant and even if someone is making a joke, it might still be painful for someone to hear. This is something that society wants to have a solution for.”

Within the interview Saha said he discusses the issue more in a chapter of his autobiography. This is sure to take a different tone away from the "pally" nature in similar books by contemporaries such as Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.

What is clear from the comments is that Saha is a deep-thinking professional, far removed from the traditional view of modern-day footballers.

His views are refreshing but they also present the challenges which face those people like the members of the Justin Campaign who want to bring about change in the beautiful game.

But the fact professional footballers are thinking about the issue is only positive as it shows that change is possible. With more tolerant and broad-minded senior pros like Saha, perhaps there will be an easier route for people to become truly accepted for who they are when they take part in a football game.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Justin Campaign Responds To John's Fashanu's Comments

The Justin Campaign is shocked and disappointed to hear John Fashanu’s recent comments about his brother’s sexuality.

John has stated that he does not believe that Justin was gay, but that he was simply ‘looking for attention’.

We do not know why John has decided to make these statements now, particularly coming not long after the airing of BBC3’s documentary “Britain’s Gay Footballers”, which was presented by John’s daughter, Amal. The programme, which also featured John, received a huge amount of positive feedback and goodwill.

However, we are not interested in judging John or his statements, as difficult as they are to digest. Instead, we want to use this situation to reiterate our respect for what Justin achieved in his life and to continue to honour his memory by keeping up the fight for equality for all in football.

The Justin Campaign has achieved so much over the past few years and this year, in particular, there have been some massive positive steps made by the football family in dealing with homophobia. Most recently, the third edition of the campaign’s annual Football v Homophobia initiative saw over 20 professional clubs, including eight from the Premier League, get involved.

Things are changing for the better, and we hope that we are slowly but surely moving towards a time when a footballer, if he chose to come out, would receive the kind of support and help which was so sadly lacking for Justin himself.

Founding Director of the Justin Campaign, Jason Hall, said: “Many years ago, Justin courageously decided to leave the closet well and truly behind him. While Justin may no longer be with us, we should continue to respect that and not attempt to put him back in it.”

You can read the article in question here -

For more information, please contact Alan Duffy – / 0781 4347566

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Campaigning for Change - BME LGBT contributors needed.

The Justin Campaign are looking for BME (Black and Minority Ethnic), LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans) people to contribute to a panel discussion at the JC Symposium: "Campaigning for Change" on their experience and perception of prejudice and discrimination in football on May 2nd.

Please email me: if you're interested.

Please be prepared to explain why you're interested in contributing to the panel and what relevant knowledge, skills or experience you can bring to the discussion.

Please share this message to your friends and networks.

Many thanks.

Monday, 5 March 2012

National survey launched in Scotland as part of Football v Homophobia

This article first appeared in Edinburgh's The Journal here.

A new campaign against homophobia in Scottish sport has been launched as part of international Football vs Homophobia Week.

Out for Sport is being run by the Equality Network as part of the biggest research to date on homophobia and transphobia in Scottish sport, which includes a nationwide survey.

The results of the research will form a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government and national sports bodies in attempts to stamp out prejudice, and open the game up by encouraging greater participation among those from LGBT backgrounds.

The Justin Campaign welcomes the launch of this survey which should shed light into football's last taboo.

The passion those north of the border have for the football has never been in any doubt. But the attitudes of some of those involved in the game towards members of the LGBT community means is a genuine barrier to everyone taking part in this wonderful sport. Anything that can be done to bring about change, particularly at the highest levels of the game, must be welcomed.

To read more about the The Equality Network, which works for LGBT equality and human rights in Scotland, go to its website here.

Manchester United striker fined £15,000 for homophobic tweet

Manchester United striker Federico Macheda has been fined £15,000 by the Football Association for making homophobic comments on Twitter.

Newcastle United's Nile Ranger and Walsall's Manny Smith were fined £6,000 and £1,200 respectively by the FA on March 1 for the same charge but Macheda had requested a personal hearing, according to media reports.

The 20-year-old, who is on loan at QPR, is the latest in a series of professional footballers to be punished by the Football Association for remarks on the social media site.

We have already said our thoughts on this issue in previous blogs (see here). Such high-profile cases certainly help spread the message that homophobic behaviour from role models is not, and will not, be tolerated.

However how much this will hurt Macheda personally is questionable. The amount, which equates some people's annual salary, is about a week's wages in the world of a Premiership footballer.

We must hope that the message and the negative publicity around his behaviour will be enough of a deterrent to those that simply do not think twice before they tweet.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Three footballers charged for alleged homophobic Twitter remarks

Football players are continuing to find themselves in trouble for posting homophobia comments on social media website Twitter.

Just weeks after West Ham United player Ravel Morrison was fined £7,000 a trio of professional players have been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association.

These include Manchester United's Federico Macheda and Newcastle United's Nile Ranger.

A statement from the Football Association said: "Newcastle United’s Nile Ranger, Walsall’s Manny Smith and Manchester United’s Federico Macheda, currently on loan at Queens Park Rangers, have all been charged with improper conduct in relation to comments made on Twitter.

"The charge is that the players acted in a way which was improper and/or brought the game into disrepute. It is further alleged that the breach included a reference to a person’s or persons’ sexual orientation."

These cases follow a number of high profile cases. As well as Morrison, Leicester City footballer Michael Ball was fined £6,000 by the FA for a comment about the gay soap actor Anthony Cotton during his appearance on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! Lee Steele also was dismissed from Oxford City football club after comments he made about the openly gay rugby player Gareth Thomas during his stint in Celebrity Big Brother.

The Justin Campaign welcomes the FA taking such a strong stance on comments made on public sites by professional player. Football fans look up to these young men and women. When role models get told their actions are wrong then this can only have a knock-on effect.

However we are aware that while these high-profile cases are important it alone will not be enough. Far more is needed to raise awareness about the inequalities within sport, especially with the LGBT community.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Football v Homophobia – A Positive Initiative For All

A message from the Justin Campaign

Just over half way through the annual Football v Homophobia week of action, the Justin Campaign would like to thank and acknowledge everyone for their interest and involvement in our campaign.

This year is the third year we have run Football v Homophobia, and so far there has been a fantastic display of support. We have seen around 20 professional clubs backing the initiative and a host of grassroots organisations getting involved. The football fans and volunteers who make up the Justin Campaign feel hopeful that through continued support, we really can make a difference to football.

Director of Football v Homophobia, Megan Worthing-Davies said “At a time of heightened debate around the impact of discrimination and abuse on the pitch, Football v Homophobia is creating a partnership across the game to truly make a difference on this issue”.

We are heartened to say that FvH this year has seen a huge surge of interest, right from the grassroots to the professional game. Some of the highlights we know of so far include:

  • Around 20 professional clubs taking action to support the FvH week
  • Arsenal, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Millwall discussing the issue with members of the campaign at their grounds
  • Wycombe Wanderers being the first professional team to warm up in FvH t-shirts
  • Kent, Sussex and Surrey County Football Associations attending a one day training on how to use Football v Homophobia
  • lGB&T friendly football tournaments hosted around the country including by Sussex University, Guinness Northern Counties, Liverpool Pride and Norwich City in partnership with Norwich Pride

A number of other organisations have also been working on this issue. This month has seen the BBC3 documentary about Justin Fashanu fronted by his niece Amal, the Government encouraging football teams to sign up to the charter to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport, and the promotion of a poster campaign by the Professional Footballer’s Association. Finally this week, we had the launch of the FA Action Plan; Opening Doors & Joining In and also the Prime Minister’s summit on discrimination in football.

We have also seen firm action being taken by the Football Authorities to counter abuse both from football fans and also from players.

As dialogue on this issue increases, the Justin Campaign will be working across football to ensure there is a coordinated and meaningful approach to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football. Whilst we would obviously love to have the active support of every club in the country, the Justin Campaign has no interest in pointing the finger at clubs who are not working with us. We recognise that the total acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all areas of football will not happen overnight.

We believe that Football v Homophobia gives professional clubs the tools to effectively tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football. We recognise that for many clubs this agenda is new. The Justin Campaign aims to work patiently and in a positive manner to convince clubs and organisations that this issue is something that must, and can, be tackled. That’s why our initiative FvH is about giving people the tools to take action – for professional clubs, we have provided a range of simple things they can do and we hope that these small steps for few will lead to more concerted efforts over time by all.

We also think it’s very important that the football family, campaigning organisations and also the government, work in a coordinated and collaboratively way. That’s why three years ago the Justin Campaign created Football v Homophobia to be something that could unite people in working together to make football safe for everyone, and we are proud to see the campaign uniting more people than ever to make a difference this year.

Football v Homophobia is the only specifically created campaign designed to tackle this issue in football. On Monday, The FA’s General Secretary, Alex Horne, announced that The FA supports this campaign as the key driver in tackling this issue in the game. The Justin Campaign welcomes the support of the FA, the on-going backing of Kick it Out, and the recent announcement of support from the Professional Footballers’ Association. Together, and by working in partnership with campaigning organisations across the spectrum as well as the whole football family, we believe FvH can change the game for the better.

The Justin Campaign is a community-initiated organisation run by a team of heterosexual and LGB&T volunteers united by their passion that football should be open to everyone. In and of itself, the organisation demonstrates what can be done if everyone comes together. It’s important to recognise as well, that effective work on this issue is being done. In 2012 already, we have visited prisons, run youth projects involving training LGB&T people as football coaches, initiated a partnership with upcoming artists Shorvon and Hunter, delivered training to County Football Associations in partnership with Pride Sports, and also of course run our international week of action, where thousands of people around the world have taken part in making a difference.

The events being run around the country are examples of how the football family can work positively together on an issue which is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

We look forward to building on the partnerships that have already proven effective in tackling prejudice and discrimination. Find out more about FvH and how you can get involve via our website and help us make football safe for everyone.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

How to report homophobic abuse

A number of fans have been in contact with us in recent weeks to ask what to do if they experience homophobic abuse. We hope the following is useful.

If you are at a professional game then we advise that all incidents are reported immediately to the matchday stewards. They can then liaise with police officers on duty at the game who will then take action to identify those responsible and take action. This could be eviction of those responsible from the game or even an arrest, with subsequent charge.

If you do not report instances at the game then please do notify the club after the incident. While this there is very little chance of action being taken against the perpetrators it does mean that those in charge at the club are aware that such behaviour is going on.

If you are playing a game and experience homophobic abuse then we recommend that you challenge the individual on their actions. We appreciate that not everyone will feel comfortable doing this so it also worth contacting the clubs and the relevant league authorities after the game to inform them of the abuse.

The following website, report it, is also extremely valuable. This gives people the opportunity to report incidents, even those on social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook. If you do not want to be named then this website allows you to remain anonymous.

We appreciate that some victims may also want support after the incidents. A comprehensive list of organisations and charities in the UK which offer advice and support is available here.

Homophobic abuse, whether on or off the football pitch, is a hate crime. It is only by reporting incidents that action can be taken and we can rid the beautiful game of its last taboo.

Three arrested for homophobic abuse at Brighton - Millwall game

After years it seems like police and footballing authorities are finally getting the message.

Just hours after officials from Brighton and Hove Albion and Millwall signed the sporting charter, which promotes equality in sport, three Millwall fans were arrested for homophobic chanting.

The Justin Campaign has had contact from a number of fans who were subject to abuse at the game and want to make it clear that this is not welcome in football.

For years Brighton and Hove Albion supporters have been subject to homophobic abuse, largely because of the city's image as the UK's gay capital.

Homophobic chanting is often mistook for banter; let's make this clear, it is not.

The Justin Campaign wants to offer its thanks to Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove Albion for taking such as positive stance on this issue.

It is only with such strong and public signs of action that supporters of all teams will get the message that football is for everyone, regardless of a person's sexuality.

Football bloggers - Football v Homophobia needs you!

Football bloggers - we need you!

February 18 to 26 is Football v Homophobia week which will see individuals, grassroots organisations and professional clubs come together under one banner to show that homophobia is not welcome in the beautiful game.

Across the world football fans will unite to show that football is about diversity and inclusion, whether people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or straight.

The world's most popular sport has a profound relationship with the attitudes, values and behaviour in our society. It can be a force for change.

The messages of homophobia, prejudice and discrimination affect us all. It is truly the last taboo in football.

Football v Homophobia is run by the Justin Campaign, named in memory of Justin Fashanu, the first and only out gay male UK professional footballer who suffered bulling and hostility after his sexual orientation became public.

For more details on what's going on please visit

You can also contact us via or follow us on twitter @justincampaign.

In supporting FvH, you are not only helping to make football a more inclusive and welcoming environment, you are also playing your part in making the society we live in a better place for everyone.

We would be grateful if you could share this information with your loyal followers.

We also want to hear from you. Perhaps you want to have been witness to homophobic abuse on the terraces? Perhaps your team has done something special to mark FvH?

Please get in touch and any articles you write we will RT to all of our Twitter followers. If you like we could even post them to our blog.

Look forward to hearing from you!

The Football v Homophobia team

The PFA Backs Football v Homophobia 2012

The Justin Campaign is delighted by the news that the Professional Footballers’ Association is supporting this year’s Football v Homophobia initiative.

Set up by the Justin Campaign in 2010, the annual week of action, which takes place between the 18th and 26th of February, is the FA’s endorsed campaign to tackle homophobia and prejudice against lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in football.

The Justin Campaign uses FvH to work around the year to enable people to take action against homophobia in football and to celebrate and welcome diversity. Through the message of FvH, the Justin Campaign provides support, communication materials, education and training to enable anyone - including fans, LGBT communities, grassroots teams, professional football clubs and football authorities - to communicate and promote inclusivity and unity.

This year, a number of Premier League clubs, along with Football League clubs, will be taking part in the initiative.

During the week of action, the PFA will be distributing anti-homophobia posters to professional clubs, schools and community groups to help raise awareness for the issue.

Simone Pound, the PFA’s Senior Executive of Equality said: We are delighted to support the campaign and consider it a great opportunity for football to demonstrate a visible anti-homophobia message.”
Megan Worthing-Davies, The Justin Campaign’s Director of FvH, said: Having the support of the PFA is extremely important for both Football V Homophobia in particular and the fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football in general. Their positive influence on footballers all around the country is vital to making the game a more welcoming and secure place for LGBT fans and players.”
For more information, contact Alan Duffy at or on 0781 4347566.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Justin Campaign Statement on The FA Charging Of Ravel Morrison

The Justin Campaign is pleased to hear that The FA has decided to charge West Ham United player Ravel Morrison over his widely reported homophobic Tweet.

Whether or not Mr. Morrison’s comments in the Tweet were simply ill judged or a product of a more ingrained attitude towards the LGB and T communities, the fact remains that remarks of this nature are totally unacceptable and need to be acted upon by both the football authorities and the relevant clubs.

Comments like Mr. Morrison’s are not “banter”, they are abuse, plain and simple, and they reinforce the view that football is not a welcoming place for LGBT fans or players.

We therefore applaud The FA for taking this action and are confident that the more homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are challenged by those in football, the sooner we can rid the game, which is often described as ‘beautiful’, of this ugliness.

Here is The FA statement in full:

"West Ham United’s Ravel Morrison has been charged under FA Rule E3 for use of abusive and/or insulting words including a reference to a person’s sexual orientation.

Morrison has until 4pm on 17 February 2012 to respond to the charge.”

For more information please contact Alan Duffy - , 07814347566

Monday, 13 February 2012

Leading rugby ref comes out

A leading rugby league referee has become only the second person involved with the Australian game to come out.

Matt Cecchin, who has taken charge of the National Rugby League's grand final, said he was inspired after reading a book by former Aussie rugby star Ian Roberts, who is also gay.

The general acceptance following the announcement is a sure sign that being gay is no barrier to anyone wanting to take part in one of Australia's most popular sports.

His reasons for the timing, which was delayed until after his teenage son finished exams, also is a sign that he thinks way beyond the game's borders.

The comments in the interview with the Herald Sun are so powerful that it is best repeating.

Mr Cecchin said: “Like a lot of people, I thought to be gay you had to be feminine, you had to go to nightclubs and you had to be in the scene, and I was never into that.

"I played sport, I loved rugby league, I liked going to the pub with my mates. It wasn't until I read Ian's book that I started to tick a few boxes.

"I'd be very surprised if I was the only gay person in rugby league. But me coming out has nothing to do with other people in rugby league.

"It has to do with the youth who are growing up today and may be going through a whole world of hurt and fear.

"My experience is they don't need to be. People are OK with it now."

The Justin Campaign wants to offer its public support to the decision taken by Mr Cecchin. Such open comments from the referee are extremely refreshing.

Cecchin coming out is exactly how it should be: timed for when a person is ready and for the right reasons. Publicly accepting you are a member of the LGBT community is a big step and should never be taken on somebody else's terms.

We hope that this marks an important step in the game which some people see as adverse to LGBT issues. Given the public support that Ian Roberts received with other players saying it was important to be "true to yourself", there is no reason why Cecchin's decision can be further proof that sexuality is no barrier to forging a successful career in the sporting world.