Publisher Football Supporters Europe (FSE) – Coordinating Office P.O. Box 30 62 18 – 20328 Hamburg Germany Editors Greta Rinast, Ronan Evain, Martin Endemann Layout Puschel Copyright Football Supporters Europe 2020
ROLE OF CLUBS AND PLAYERS
ROLE OF ASSOCIATIONS AND LEAGUES
ROLE OF FANS
OUT! – Project Overview OUT! is a unique 18-month collaborative partnership that brings together national football associations, leagues, clubs, and fans’ groups to work on the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the empowerment of LGBT+ stakeholders in football. The project has one coordinator (Football Supporters Europe) and three primary partners (Pride in Football, Fuβballfans gegen Homophobie, and the Royal Belgian Football Association), as well as four advisory board members. OUT! involved three transnational network meetings: one on the role of fans that took place at the London Stadium in England on 7th September 2019; one on the role of clubs and players that took place at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany, on 23rd January 2020; and one on the role of national football associations and leagues that took place online on 15th October 2020. OUT! is co-funded by UEFA and the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. This handbook presents the project’s key observations and findings. You can find out more about OUT! at www.outinfootball.org
Editor’s Note The term homophobia is used in the longform title of this project (OUT! – Fighting Homophobia and Empowering LGBT+ Stakeholders in Football). It is intended to encompass all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The acronym LGBT+ is used by the project coordinator, Football Supporters Europe (FSE), in all its communications on the advice of several expert institutions. Alternative inclusive acronyms such as LGBTI+ and LGBQIA+ have been used by other contributors throughout this handbook.
Foreword by UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin At the 41st UEFA Congress in Helsinki, I told the gathered delegates that our organisation is committed to social fair play—to doing everything in our power to bring about a game that is fairer and more ethical. This means that UEFA proudly stands for diversity, equality, and inclusion, and is opposed to discrimination in all its forms, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. To be clear: discrimination of any kind has no place in society, and no place in football. UEFA recognises it is our common responsibility to ensure that everyone feels safe, welcome, and respected on the terraces, in changing rooms, and across the continent. At its heart, football is about self-expression, and its simple joys are for everybody. Its purpose must be to unite, not divide. That is why UEFA is pleased to support OUT! The project’s strength lies in its practical, multilateral approach, bringing together national associations, leagues, clubs, players, and fans. This handbook is testament to the positive steps it has already made, as well as OUT!’s potential to have a lasting and sustainable impact on the environment in which we play, support, and work.
Aleksander Čeferin President of UEFA
Photo credit: UEFA
Foreword by Football Supporters Europe Football Supporters Europe (FSE) opposes discrimination in all its forms and is committed to making football more inclusive. We recognise that the game has been late in addressing the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And although significant progress has been made in recent years, there is still a lot of catching up to be done. We hope OUT! will equip all stakeholders with the means to do so. As an ally, we are determined to provide meaningful, ongoing support to the growing number of LGBT+ fansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; groups and activists in our membership. This includes offering them a platform within our organisation: first, so that we can work more effectively towards our common goals; and second, to make certain that FSE itself is as inclusive and diverse as possible. The starting point for any such endeavour is always to listen and learn. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and humility to truly practice inclusion. We are therefore incredibly grateful to our LGBT+ members for their input and expertise, and more than pleased that some of them have agreed to share their stories in this handbook.
Identifying Problems and Perspectives These stories, along with those of players, referees, and others, indicate that the LGBT+ community is underrepresented in the world of football and that LGBT+ people are regularly subjected to abuse and discriminationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in crowds, on the pitch, and in the boardroom. This stark reality provided the impetus for OUT! The project partners wanted to put the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the agenda of European football with a view to devising and implementing coherent and sustainable solutionsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;solutions that only exist at the multi-stakeholder level. And working on such a level requires economies of scale that were made possible through Erasmus+ funding and the support of UEFA.
Despite the difficulties presented by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the project has achieved its primary objectives and laid the foundations for future ones. The three transnational network meetings in London, Dortmund, and a virtual version of Brussels were particularly enlightening and useful. Pride in Football, FuÎ˛ballfans gegen Homophobie, and the Royal Belgian Football Association deserve much credit for helping to host and organise them.
Collective Dialogue and Action So, what next? OUT! has begun to build bridges between different organisations and collate good practice so they can identify and challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and empower LGBT+ stakeholders. We hope this handbook serves as the projectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legacy. But there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The OUT! handbook is not an A to Z guide on how to make football more equal, more diverse, and more inclusive. It is a set of observations, principles, and practices that should be adapted to local circumstances. Whatever problems might arise, we are sure they will only be overcome through collective dialogue and action.
Ronan Evain Executive Director Football Supporters Europe
Photo credit: FSE
Foreword by European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights There is no space in sports in the European Union (EU) for discrimination against LGBTI people. How groundbreaking it would be were this to be true. And yet, this is not a reality today. For those of us who are LGBTI and love sports, going to football games can be a test to our resilience and capacity to confront our fears. Unfortunately, we can all too often find ourselves in the midst of homophobic and transphobic discrimination, abuse and violence. As a result, we may avoid partaking in events that should help strengthen the fabric of our societies. What are societies other than melting pots of diversity bound together by their differences and similarities? And what is the role of sports in this equation? At the LGBTI Intergroup of the European Parliament, we actively fight to ensure that all LGBTI persons in the EU and beyond can safely enjoy their human rights. As Co-Chairs, we work towards ensuring that key pieces of legislation and policy protect LGBTI persons. This also extends to sports, where LGBTI athletes continue to fear coming out or going public. Thankfully, not everything is so dire. In recent years, the sports world, including football, has made progress. Is it enough, you ask? It is surely positive, but definitely not enough. Key stakeholders must find more inclusive ways of emancipating athletes and creating environments which will allow them to become role-models and pioneers. How can we foster the conditions for the next football champions to grow if we do not create the conditions for them to develop that talent while being openly LGBTI? Everyone in the game should receive fair and equal treatment and young LGBTI athletes must also be able to achieve their full potential. For this to be true, all the steps of the ladder bear responsibility. Whether you are an athlete, a football club, a fan, a player, a league or an association, you can play an active role in effecting this change.
This handbook is crucial as it helps bridge divides and seeks to provide precisely that: guidance and advice to ensure football stakeholders create the most optimal and inclusive environment for talent to grow and develop. When football is inclusive and supports achieving every athleteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s full potential, football is more competitive. And the more football is competitive, the more it becomes a social event that strengthens the fabric of our societies. We hope this handbook will provide you with concrete tools to ensure that football events are free of homophobia and transphobia of any kind, at any level. In exercising your role, we invite you to ask yourselves: are we creating the most optimal environment for athletes to develop their talent? If you do so and act accordingly, you will contribute to a discrimination-free world where everyone is encouraged to achieve their full potential. Is that not a goal we should fight for together?
Terry Reintke Co-Chair of the LGBTI Intergroup, GreensEuropean Free Alliance Group at the European Parliament (Germany)
Marc Angel Co-Chair of the LGBTI Intergroup, Socialists and Democrats Group at the European Parliament (Luxembourg)
Photo credits: Cornelius Gollhardt, Marc Angel
A Personal Foreword by Thomas Hitzlsperger After my career ended, I made the decision to go public about my sexual orientation. At the time, this was accompanied by a great deal of doubt and worry. Would my coming out have negative consequences? How would fans, fellow players, the entire football industry react? From today’s perspective, these worries were unfounded. Thankfully. Despite my exposed position in this business, I was almost never subjected to discrimination and was largely spared from homophobic abuse. For the past few years, I have been the head of the VfB Stuttgart youth training center, a member of the club’s executive board, and a TV expert. Since 2017, I have also been active as a Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) ambassador for diversity. I am currently working as CEO of VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. The fact that I hold this prominent position with my background is a clear sign of positive change in professional football and in society. Ten years ago, especially in football, that would probably have been inconceivable. It is particularly gratifying that in all these years and throughout my career my sexuality has hardly been discussed. So, I can say that my life has developed very well, and I am glad that I spoke out back then. With my coming out in 2014, I clearly wanted to trigger the public discussion about homosexuality among professional athletes. I see that there has been a lot of progress since then. Discrimination, reservations, tolerance—on all of these issues, in my opinion, we are on a different level of conversation today when we talk about sexual diversity. It is probably not as much of a taboo as it was a few years ago when I made my sexual orientation public. This is a very positive development that reinforces my personal decision. Without hesitation, I´d make the same decision today. Women’s football shows that outing doesn’t have to be a big issue. Women can hardly expect hostility from fellow players or opponents. Professional footballers are often very busy with themselves and usually do not wish any harm on others; they are focused on winning. On the other hand, there are now many players who take social responsibility seriously and express themselves in an exemplary manner. A healthy level of self-confidence is undoubtedly required for this, but it is an important basic requirement if you want to play football professionally.
Football Fans are More Enlightened Today I can also see a positive development in the fan scene. I therefore don’t think that players should fear a backlash from fans and fans’ groups any more than they currently do. To
Photo credit: VfB Stuttgart
page 11 be clear, I don’t expect a crisis in the sense that players will be insulted by large numbers on social media. On the contrary, I personally have received many positive responses. But I was able to ignore the few people who insulted me very well and did not pay any further attention to them. Football fans today are much more enlightened and much more open-minded than is commonly assumed. This is expressed, for example, in the fact that there are more and more LGBTIQ fan clubs in European professional football who have organised themselves jointly across borders for years. Good examples of this include the LGBTIQ networks Queer Football Fanclubs, Pride in Football and the allyinitiative Fußballfans gegen Homophobie. In addition, many groups are now positioning themselves very clearly against discrimination, especially in the active fan scenes. I sense a need in society to take a clear stance on certain issues. The fan scene is no exception. In this way, the fans also put pressure on clubs and oblige them to meet their social responsibilities. Clubs can no longer afford to ignore socio-political issues. Some people still like to use the argument that football shouldn’t be mixed up with politics, but that is naive, because football encompasses so many sections of society that it automatically takes on a political dimension. And that’s why it should go without saying that you also show your colors in the stadium, raise your voice, and stand up for your own values. These values are clearly visible in the stadium through the rainbow flag, for instance. This symbol of the LGBTIQ community is increasingly finding its place in football—in the stands and on the pitch.
Wrong Advice and Unfounded Worries So why hasn’t an active professional footballer come out in men’s football? The problem is often not the audience or opponents, but those people who want to protect you as a professional—i.e. personal advisors. In my experience, their fears have not been and are unlikely to be confirmed in reality. However, as close confidants, they have a very strong influence on players. I’ve also had experiences with people who wanted to protect me. When I wanted to go public about my sexuality, most of the people around me were worried that it would not go well and advised me not to come out. Their concern was certainly not informed by bad intentions, but today I know that it was categorically wrong advice. So, I would like to appeal to everyone: do not always confirm the worst fears of players and do not constantly warn them of the possible negative consequences of being themselves. This is precisely the wrong approach! A major problem in the public debate about homosexuality in professional football is that it is still often dominated by fears and worries, while the personal benefits of coming out are largely ignored. I know from personal experience how much it can change a life for the better if you take the step and publicly stand up for your sexuality. A lot of positive things have happened to me since I came out. I would like to share that positivity and say to players: listen to your own voice. Ultimately, it is stronger and more meaningful than anything outsiders can offer in this case.
Raise Awareness of the Positive Aspects of Coming Out I would like to encourage people to be more aware of the positive aspects of coming out, to see more opportunities and fewer risks. That’s how I go about my tasks at VfB Stuttgart. My aim is not just to be a successful CEO of the club, but also to live up to my responsibility as a role model for homosexual athletes. Minorities will always need role models who support them and because I embody this role in a credible way, I try to raise the topic in my work at VfB again and again. Of course, a lot has to change for the better in the future. But I’m focusing clearly on the progress. And that’s what I ask of those responsible in clubs and associations. It is up to the club management to show courage. Publicly advising against coming out is not helpful. Instead, I would like them to find words of encouragement in public, support the players, and also do even more educational work. With this in mind, I make particular use of my position as a DFB ambassador for diversity. With the founding of the working group Football and Homosexuality, which was part of the Diversity Working Group, the DFB sent an important message eleven years ago. In the meantime, more and more people come together to take on the topic of diversity and are passionately committed to it. The DFB also recently named an expert group on sexual and gender diversity. Together with the regional associations and in a dialogue with those affected by homophobia, inter- and trans-hostility in amateur football, measures are being implemented to resolutely counteract discrimination. A pioneering decision was made by the Berliner Fussball-Verband, which enabled the inclusion of trans* and inter* people in the game.¹ That the DFB is serious about the topic gives me hope, especially because important steps are being taken in professional football. Since March 2019, stadium visitors have had at least one unisex toilet at their disposal for international matches of the German men’s national team and for the men’s DFB Cup final. Gender-neutral admission controls also allow fans to decide whether they want to be checked by female or male stewards. Seeing how sustainably the association is working on this topic also drives me to support the DFB in this development process. So, what goals should we keep in mind when talking about acceptance of homosexuality in professional football? Of course, it would be nice if active players would publicly acknowledge their homosexuality. Ultimately, however, coming out is an extremely personal decision that the players have to make for themselves. You should be ¹ According to the Oxford English Dictionary, trans* and inter* are umbrella terms used “to indicate the inclusion of gender identities such as gender-fluid, agender, etc.”
page 13 solid in your character and know how much attention you can withstand. But I am convinced that there can be improvements without one or two players coming out. That, too, is a question of perspective. You can look to the fact that no professional footballer has come out in his active time or you can focus on the fact that sensitivity to homosexuality has noticeably increased. This is also a positive development.
Positive Moves for Diversity These changes take time the structures of football are still very conservative, especially in the menÂ´s game. That is why it is so important to pay attention to the small steps in the right direction and to be happy about them. We must not become convinced that nothing will ever change just because it takes a long time. We have to come to the basic understanding in society that diversity is positive. We have to accept that we gain quality and joy of life through diversity. This is in no way different in football than in other areas of life. That said, football receives a particularly high level of public attention. So, when football emphasises the advantages of diversity, the message reaches many people. And in this way, sport can do a lot to break down prejudices. We can clearly see that we are still a long way from the end of the road because homosexuality is still partly a taboo subject despite all the progress mentioned above. Although I perceive more tolerance, it is clear that our commitment to diversity must not stop. I know that it is a lifetimeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work to break down prejudices and to speak out against discrimination. Specifically, the right language and a relaxed approach to dealing with homosexuality in professional sport are often lacking. I welcome Football Supporters EuropeÂ´s OUT! project and the creation of this handbook even more so. It will help to further develop our commitment and thus make it easier to deal with such a sensitive topic. I therefore hope that this handbook will provide a positive and effective framework in which to work towards equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Thomas Hitzlsperger, born in 1982, is a former Premier League, Bundesliga, and German national team player. He became a German champion in 2010 with VfB Stuttgart. In 2014, shortly after ending his playing career, Hitzlsperger came out as a gay man. The German FA named Hitzlsperger as Diversity Ambassador in 2017. In 2019, he became CEO of VfB Stuttgart.
Photo credit: VfB Stuttgart
short description of project partners
Football Supporters Europe (FSE) Football Supporters Europe e.V. (FSE) was founded in July 2008 at the first European Football Fans Congress (EFFC). It is an independent, democratic, and non-profit association of football fans, with members in over 45 nations, and is considered to be a legitimate partner on fan issues by UEFA. FSE aims to represent the interests and address the concerns of European football fans, from individuals and club-level groups to national organisations and fans’ embassies. It is opposed to any form of discrimination, rejects violence, both physical and verbal, and is committed to the empowerment of grassroots football supporters and the promotion of a positive football and supporters’
culture, including values such as fair play and good governance. FSE also works with institutions such as the EU Football Experts Think Tank, and has observer status on the Council of Europe Committee on Spectator Violence and the EU Expert Group on Good Governance. FSE has several LGBT+ fans’ groups within its membership and has successfully organised a number of fan-focused anti-homophobia initiatives. These include the Erasmus+ funded Queering Football project and the 2016 Football Pride Week in Berlin, Germany, which was attended by more than 250 people.
Fußballfans gegen Homophobie (FFGH) Fußballfans gegen Homophobie e.V. (FFGH) has a great deal of experience highlighting and challenging homophobia in football. The organisation was founded in 2010 by a group of active football fans and the Lesbians and Gays Association Berlin-Brandenburg. In 2013, it became an incorporated association.
such as the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and its anti-discrimination initiative, Pool zur Förderung innovater Fan- und Fußballkultur (PFIFF)
FFGH’s aim is to reduce homophobia and sexism in sport and support LGBT+ participation, on both an individual and structural level. It functions as an exchange network and awareness-raising initiative to highlight the issue of homophobia and put it on the agenda of fans, associations, leagues, and clubs. While it started as a specifically German endeavour, FFGH now has independent branches in other European nations, including Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
•• Touring with the FFGH logo banner, accompanied by additional materials or thematically related activities at stadia and football pitches.
In terms of administration, FFGH is a democratic organisation registered in Berlin and supervised by a strategic board of eight equal members. As a not-for-profit organisation, it is principally funded by membership fees and donations. Discrete projects are often financed by funding partners
FFGH focuses on four different approaches, working predominately with football fans, but also other football stakeholders:
•• Organisation of educational events for football fans and other interested parties, such as (panel) discussions, public readings, and workshops. •• Creation and publication of educational materials such as flyers and brochures. •• Raising awareness through public relations work, including press releases, interviews, presence at events, and information stands. In 2016, FFGH was honoured with the second place Julius-Hirsch-Preis by the DFL, an annual award given to initiatives and associations fighting discrimination and intolerance in football.
short description of project partners
Pride in Football (PiF) Pride in Football (PiF) was founded by four different LGBTQ+ fans’ groups in 2013 with the aim of improving the situation of all LGBTQ+ supporters at stadia and in their daily football fan life. PiF’s goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ fans by establishing relationships with the supporters’ own clubs and bringing the topic of anti-LGBTQ+ abuse to the table. Since 2013, the alliance has united more than 50 LGBTQ+ fan groups and counting. The organisation helps LGBTQ+ supporters form their own fans’ groups and supports them through its own knowledge, networks, and sharing of best practice. Furthermore, PiF has worked together with national and pan-European initiatives such as Football v.
Homophobia, Fußballfans gegen Homophobie, Kick it Out, and Queer Football Fanclubs. PiF focus on different approaches to improve the situation of LGBTQ+ supporters: •• Steward training in direct relation to stadium visits. •• Incident reporting possibilities. •• Increasing visibility and networking; for example, through fan banners at stadiums, publicly effective support for LGBTQ+ fans, or club presence at pride parades. •• Equipping bystanders with tools to react instead of ignoring homophobic incidents.
Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) is the governing body of football and futsal in Belgium. It is a founding member of the international federations FIFA (1904) and UEFA (1954). The association is based in Brussels, Belgium. The RBFA oversees the Belgian men’s, women’s, and youth national teams. It is responsible for the promotion, administration, and sporting organisation of Belgian football. In 2016, the RBFA established a Football and Social Responsibility department with the aim of fostering equality, diversity, and inclusion on and off the pitch. The resulting projects are devised and implemented
in cooperation with relevant partner organisations in Belgium and beyond. The association recently created an action plan to challenge homophobia in the game. During the 2014/15 season, it organised campaigns and workshops on the subject for all football stakeholders. For the past four years, it has also been a partner of the LGBT+ football initiative Heroes of Football. And since 2018, RBFA, Pro League, Voetbal Vlaanderen, and Association des Clubs Francophones de Football have organised the annual Football For All campaign to raise awareness of the positive aspects of diversity in football.
ROLE OF CLUBS AND PLAYERS
role of clubs and players
How Can Clubs Become More Inclusive for the LGBT+ Community? Football, like no other sport, is a community endeavour, bringing people from different backgrounds together. Football clubs therefore have a responsibility to their employees, fans, and local communities—this is often referred to as ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR).
Corporate Social Responsibility
An increasing number of professional football clubs have established corporate social responsibility departments. These departments generally oversee the wellbeing of staff and the club’s engagement with non-economic stakeholders, including members, fans, and community organisations. Their work also covers democracy and participation both within and outside to the club, environmental sustainability, social policy, and charity projects. Antihomophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and LGBT+ inclusion initiatives naturally fall under the purview of corporate social responsibility departments.
Diversity managers are responsible for an organisation’s anti-discrimination work. The term equal opportunities officer is also in frequent use. While the latter is generally associated with equality between the sexes, a diversity manager is understood to be concerned more broadly with structural and individual discrimination, both within and outside the club—this encompasses LGBT+ matters. A diversity manager’s tasks can include: running a help line for club-related stakeholders; organising and implementing educational training on discrimination and exclusion mechanisms for employees and other stakeholders; and consultation on organisational and structural development (i.e. events and recruitment processes). In addition,
In this sense, CSR departments help to set agendas, define tasks for employees and stakeholders, and ensure that the club lives up to its responsibilities. They are also often in charge of devising club statutes or charters outlining the club’s values—both of these usually explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender, sex, and sexual identity. At many clubs, supporter liaison officers (SLOs), disability inclusion officers, social workers, and diversity managers sit within CSR departments.
Workshop at the OUT! network meeting on the role of clubs and players
Photo credit: FSE
role of clubs and players
“Together against homophobia“ banner displayed during an action day against discrimination in Dortmund, 2017
they often sit in on job interviews to ensure applicants are treated equally, form a first access point in case of discrimination in the workplace, and function as a public contact point for club stakeholders such as fans and members.
Recruitment Policy Several studies have shown that diverse teams are more effective than homogeneous teams, not only in term of creativity, but economic outcomes, too. Furthermore, they ensure a more inclusive and less discriminatory atmosphere within a club. However, many hiring processes in football and beyond are not yet fully inclusive. In football, there is still see an over-representation of white, heterosexual
males, with clubs aware of the need to hire marginalised groups. When it comes to the employment of new staff, a club can and should pay special attention to equal treatment of applicants. Clubs can advertise their vacant positions more explicitly to a diverse audience (i.e. targeting community centres or LGBT+ centres). A diversity manager being involved in the recruitment process and present in job interviews can also make a significant difference. Asking applicants to submit standardised applications without names, gender identification, and photographs can also help clubs to remove traditional bias from the process. A club’s anti-discrimination policies should also be clearly stated in job interviews, regardless of the position, to make candidates aware of their potential employer’s values.
Photo credit: Borussia Dortmund
role of clubs and players values and identification with the club’s. Sustainable anti-discrimination training for youth players and other employees of the club has been proven to make a significant difference. Such programmes can consist of a repeating series of educational events, such as lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and networking events aimed at the involvement of participants and a public debate.
Group picture from OUT! network meeting at Borussia Dortmund in January 2020
Inclusion Training Anti-LGBT+ sentiments are often the result of a lack of education. To overcome such sentiments, it is important that clubs promote education on LGBT+ issues both internally and externally. Educational programmes can be implemented in cooperation with existing LGBT+ agencies and LGBT+ fans’ groups, as well as with input from a club’s own LGBT+ employees. Sensitisation training is key for those involved in matchday and hospitality operations, such as stewards and other security staff. Such training can help ensure that discriminatory behaviour is identified, but also avoided on the part of staff themselves (i.e. stadium entry procedures). Education is also particularly important when it comes to a club’s own academy players. Not only does education set the path for a young player’s career, but it also prepares them for adult life more generally, including their personal
Values and Visibility It is also good practice for clubs to explicitly define and codify their values through statutes, charters, and/or the adoption of specific regulations on sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination. Every club employee, including players, should be aware of these values and encouraged to speak about them publicly, especially on social media. If club or club-related social media posts are met with abuse, this should be clearly and unequivocly challenged, and if neccesary, reported.
Display against homophobia at Young Boys Bern
Photo credits: FSE, Claudio de Capitani
B I O G R A P H I E S Jermaine Greene (Germany) “I wish to live in a world where everyone can feel free and people care about each other in general.” Jermaine Greene was born in Virginia in the United States in 1986. At the age of six, he moved to Bremen, Germany, and quickly fell in love with SV Werder Bremen, the local Bundesliga club. “At this time Werder was the only green team in Bundesliga.” Jermaine knows what it means to be a fan, an amateur football player, and a club official. In 2010, Jermaine became a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) at SV Werder Bremen, based at the club’s Corporate Social Responsibility department. When Jermaine got to know LGBT+ culture, he realised that he had to find out who he really was. He had a lot of self-doubt and he lost confidence. “For this reason, I initially decided to separate my identity as a member of the LGBT+ community from all other parts of my life, including the world of football.” In his work, Jermaine deals with organised fans’ clubs, takes care of fans at home and away matches, and represents SLOs in northern Germany on a countrywide level. His identity as a member of the LGBT+ community did not play a role in his job. “I thought that being gay and playing football [at an amateur level] is enough of a political statement–but that’s not the case.” In time, he wanted to bring the topic to light and provide educational resources on being LGBT+. Jermaine regained self-confidence, and when he came out to his family, friends, and collegues, he found them to be very supportive and full of acceptance. “Fans, officials of other clubs, and referees congratulated me on my ‘brave step’.” Today, Jermaine is very conscious of the social responsibility that football clubs have. “When you are in charge, you have to be a role model.” He expects the football world to use its power to make political statements. “The world of football has to decide what the world they want to live in should be like.”
Photo credit: Werder Bremen
role of clubs and players
Interview with Max Bergander – Officer for Club Values at AIK Solna Max, you played as a professional player in Sweden, but quit early. Can you explain why? I played at a quite high level and really enjoyed the game itself. However, the culture around it, within the locker room and the clubs, was something that I did not support. I had to put on a mask and be a part of this culture, laugh at things that I did not find funny. It was the only way to fit in. I know by now that many people had the same feeling, but nobody dared to take action out of fear or because they simply did not have the energy. But for me, that struggle became too big of an issue, so I decided to use my knowledge and my contacts to talk about these things openly: the importance of creating an environment, a culture in which people are allowed to be who they are. I wanted to explain how that is not something we do instead of playing football; it is the identity of football. If we create an environment in which people can focus on what they love rather than stress about how to fit in, we will get better at what we are doing. I wanted to emphasise that we are humans first, and if these human emotions are seen, respected, and listened to, people will develop and perform better over time. You are currently the Officer for Club Values (Värdegrundsansvarig) at AIK Solna. What exactly does your job entail? My job is to make sure that we have a culture in place that includes people and allows them to focus on their love for
the game, rather than a need to follow old-fashioned stereotypes and norms. I ensure that those beautiful words—the values written so eloquently on paper— do not only stay on paper, but come to life every day, on and off the pitch. This means that we have to talk about these values—what they mean—because people are different, have different backgrounds, and think differently about what is right. We will not have the same understanding of what the word “respect” means in action if we do not talk about it. So, my job is to make sure that all of us at AIK Football will have the same way of seeing and understanding our values and of what they mean and how we live them. As far we are aware, AIK is the only professional club in Europe to have such a position. Could you tell us how and why your job was created? Like most clubs and companies, AIK has been vocal about their values for a long time. But when a terrible incident occurred in 2002, the club took the decision to really take this seriously. They had to act, teach, and educate all the players, coaches, parents, and members. That is how we started. I have been here for almost five years now, and I love it. How are these values enshrined within the statues or charter of the club? The values are the foundation of our club and something that we look at whenever
role of clubs and players we make a decision. The values are laid down in our statutes: we call it the ‘AIK Style’. They are on the first page of every annual business plan, so everybody is reminded of what we stand for. How are topics such as sexual identity and LGBT+ inclusion discussed within the club and how do you work on these issues? We have an educational programme with different topics, adjusted to the different ages of the players and their coaches. LGBT+ inclusion is one of these topics. We have short movies at hand, which encourage discussion. Our values say that we should respect people no matter who they are, who they are attracted to, what they identify as, etc. We begin every educational programme by going through our values, and what they mean. From the very beginning, we ensure that people—children and adults— understand what we stand for and what that means in action. We explain why
we have to do our part to create a more inclusive and loving society, and how this helps us to be better football players, too. What feedback (positive and negative) have you had regarding your role? Most of the feedback is positive. A lot of people naturally think that these things are important and they feel proud to be part of a club that works with values in order to create a culture and an environment in which people can be who they are. But just as in wider society, there are people who do not agree. The club and I are pushing on oldfashioned boundaries, questioning oldfashioned ways of thinking, outdated stereotypes, and of course, some people will always have a problem with that. But from what I see, most of the time it is because people do not understand yet. There are very few people who wake up in the morning and say to themselves: Today, I’m going to be really mean to someone. I am going to make jokes about their identity. So, when you explain why that word, that joke, or way of behaving is offensive and wrong, most of them answer that they have never thought about it that way. That is our work, to make people understand so we can grow together. But sometimes, some people react in a way which is less positive, either towards me or the club as a whole. There have been some issues when I had to ask for help from the authorities. Some people do not seem to think that everybody should have the same value. That is sad.
Photo credit: Max Bergander
role of clubs and players
What obstacles do you face and how do you deal with them?
to look, talk, and feel about our club? How do we want our players and staff to remember us when they move on to other clubs, or stop playing, and end up in the stands as fans? What memories do we want them to cherish?
When we do our work, we try not to judge, we try to understand how they think. We view things from their perspective, and then we try to stress the fact that this is not something we do instead of playing football, but to improve playing football in the first place. Do you have any advice for other European clubs who might want to implement a similar position at their clubs? I recommend deciding what kind of club they want to be. They should ask themselves: How do we want people
Clubs have to teach players, parents, and coaches about which behaviours are acceptable, what language we use, and why. It is going to be a struggle, but at the same time, it is the best thing you can do. It will create more confident, secure, and happy players and human beings. Confident, secure, and happy people have a way of performing better over time, whether on the pitch, selling cars, or working in a factory. It always starts with the person.
How Can Clubs Support LGBT+ Fans and Fans’ Groups? Football clubs have a responsibility towards their fans and members. This includes the safety and wellbeing of LGBT+ fans. In many countries, LGBT+ fans have come together to form their own groups, to create a safe space for one another, to speak with a louder voice to their peers, and to enjoy the game in the company of people with similar experiences. In other places, they struggle to create such structures and might even be threatened or attacked for doing so. So, how can clubs support these fans and their allies?
Infrastructure As with other fans’ groups, supporting a LGBT+ fans group can be easy: allow the group to use club-owned venues, such as the stadium, that are secure and welcoming for meetings or events. In most cases, fans’ groups need permission to use the football club’s official logo. Allowing the LGBT+ group to use it is a good start in supporting them and establishing their legitimacy. Handing them a defined ticket allocation can also help to ensure that they can establish and maintain a
role of clubs and players sustainable presence in the stadium. For some, it is also useful to be put in contact with other stakeholders such as sponsors, LGBT+ activists from the local area, media contacts, or friendly politicians. Events organised by LGBT+ fans’ groups should be supported and encouraged through the provision of infrastructure and/or sending club officials/players to participate.
increase their visibility. This can take place through interviews with group members or other pieces for the football club’s website, member magazine/newsletter, and stadium magazine. However, for some groups in some cultures, visibility can also be a threat, so activities should only take place after a thorough consultation with the respective LGBT+ fans’ group.
Video shared over Twitter by Valencia CF highlighting the work of fan group Peña Valencianista LGTBI+
Visibility For an LGBT+ fans’ group, it is important to normalise their existence and their belonging to the football club. The club can use its platform to promote an LGBT+ fans’ group and its allies in many ways. Promoting their activities on social media, telling their story to the rest of the fan base, and informing stakeholders and media about their existence can greatly
Whenever a club hosts special events, such as fan tournaments, a season opening festival, educational events, panel discussions, or similar activities, a club should include the LGBT+ fans’ group, not as bystanders or tokens but as active and serious participants. Again, as with other fans’ groups, they should be able to play in the tournament, sell their group’s merchandise, or take part in any other activity that others would. If the football club consults with other fan groups on fan matters, it should consult with the LGBT+ fans’ group as well and integrate them into their respective channels of fan dialogue. They are not only LGBT+ fans, but they are fans of the football club specifically and football more generally, and as such, have opinions on all fanrelated issues. Through inclusion, the club can support their self-worth and engage seriously with their identity as fans.
Photo credit: twitter.com/valenciacf
B I O G R A P H I E S Gjert Moldestad (Norway) “Clubs, players, supporters, sponsors, agents, and everyone else in football has a responsibility.” Born in 1981, Gjert became a football fan at the age of 16 when friends introduced him to the atmosphere, the chanting, and the fun to be had at SK Brann in Bergen. Having a talent for writing, he quickly became an author for the Norwegian-speaking Brann fanzine Den 12 Mann. Over time, he not only became the editor of said fanzine, but also a spokesperson of the Norwegian Supporter Association (NSA) and a board member at the local supporters group Bataljonen at SK Brann. “Football plays a big part in my identity.” Being gay himself, Gjert always felt accepted as a fan. However, he quickly noticed that this was not the case for everybody. He proudly started to put LGBT+ topics onto the wider agenda and noticed a strong support for the cause, after an intermediate setback: “At one point, I wanted to bring rainbow-colored flags to a game between Norway and Russia, but the Norwegian FA said no. It caused a massive response both in football and in society. Everyone was shocked that the FA said no and there was a lot of pressure on them. That one flag produced huge media coverage, even in other countries, and it led to the display of other rainbow flags in stadia.” Gjert started to make use of wider social attitudes when advocating for LGBT+ rights in football, and managed to introduce several innovations, such as rainbow-coloured captain armbands and corner flags, as well as supportive testimonials from players and written statements by clubs. “After the rainbow flag incident, the FA changed the rules of the game, condemning homophobia more clearly. Players received red cards for homophobic incidents on the pitch, for instance.” Today, Gjert focuses on mobilising the average fan to participate and on confronting those who harass and abuse LGBT+ individuals: “We must not let them get the last word. We must not be silent, we must react.”
Photo credit: Roar Christiansen
role of clubs and players
PLAYER QUOTES “Celtic are a big club and we welcome anybody. No matter who you are, what you are or where you come from, we’d welcome you with open arms. Being gay or bisexual shouldn’t matter in football. As soon as you put that strip on, you’re one of us. No matter who you are, you’re a Celtic player. Not coming out to the lads around you must be so hard but I know that at Celtic Park we would be accepting, no matter what.” Scott Brown, Celtic & Scotland Source: Paddy Power, 2019
“I experienced specific songs against me, directed at me by name, saying I was gay. That’s not the problem. I have nothing against being called one thing or another. The problem for me here is that the word ‘gay’ was used as an insult. That is a very, very bad culture for young people and generally for everyone who comes to a football stadium to see football,” “There’s something of a culture in elite sport, in football, which is based on just being tough, keeping quiet, because that makes you a strong sportsman. But it’s not about being a strong sportsman. It’s about the culture at [stadiums] needing to be better. It’s about ‘homosexual’ not being an insult. It never should have been [an insult], and especially in 2019 in Denmark, it should not be anymore.” Viktor Fischer, FC Copenhagen & Denmark Source: TV2 Denmark, 2019
“It annoys me the media make such a big thing of it. ’Who will be the first gay player in the Premier League?’ A bookmaker started laying odds on it a few years ago, which was just ridiculous. That’s just making it harder.” James Milner, Liverpool FC & England Source: The Guardian, 2019
Photo credits: imago images / Action Plus, imago images / Ritzau Scanpix, imago images / Colorsport
role of clubs and players
“I would be proud that he felt he could tell me. I think that it could open the door for others. If he receives criticism, because there will always be criticism… we have to encourage him to be proud and to continue to be happy. Each person has their own tastes, in love life, in everything that we like to do… Try to help the person who says it. Don’t criticise him, don’t insult him.” Antoine Griezmann,
FC Barcelona & France on the potential coming-out of a team mate
Source: France2, 2019
“Go gays! You can’t win a championship without gays on your team – it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there! I’m motivated by people who like me, who are fighting for the same things. I take more energy from that than from trying to prove anyone wrong. That’s draining on yourself. But for me, to be gay and fabulous, during pride month at the World Cup, is nice.” Megan Rapinoe, OL Reign & USA Source: The Guardian, 2019
“To be honest I’ve always been asked if I was gay from the very beginning of my career. People see your style of running or your hair during the game and that’s how they define you as a person. I wouldn’t say that it always ends in hate but the last few years have been extreme when it comes to homophobic comments. There is actually no week that I haven’t been called a “faggot” for the past 3 years. I’m sure that most of these people are so frustrated and don’t think about the meaning but that definitely doesn’t make it less sad.” Roman Neustädter, Dynamo Moscow & Russia Source: FSE, 2016
Photo credits: FFF, imago images / ZUMA Wire, Gerrit Starczewski
role of clubs and players
“I am honored that UEFA has picked me as the recipient of the #EqualGame Award. I believe in equality for everyone, no matter what you believe in, who you love or who you are. I will always keep defending equality and equal rights for everyone, wherever I will play.” Guram Kashia, San Jose Earthquakes & Georgia Source: www.uefa.com , 2018
“Year 2020 on planet Earth. Cases of homophobic discrimination are still present in our society, and football is no exception. Understanding our enormous social diversity and advancing rights and inclusion is everyone’s commitment.“ Nahuel ‘El Patón’ Guzmán, Tigres & Argentina Source: twitter.com/PatonGuzmann, 2020
“It’s such an important initiative because we need to raise awareness and we need to support our LGBT community to be accepted and I think there’s no better advocates to do that than us, the players, the coaches and the staff.” “The whole league in general has to get together to support Rainbow Laces, it’s so important for everyone to get together on this.” “I feel like in football, we’re a few years behind in terms of these kind of issues. For example, we’ve seen in rugby with Gareth Thomas and in other sports such as the NBA and the NFL, and athletics. But it seems like in men’s football it’s taking us so much longer and so much hard work for something that I feel which should just be a human right. To be yourself, however you feel and however you are and be accepted and be just one more person.” Hector Bellerin, Arsenal & Spain Source: www.arsenal.com, 2019
Photo credits: imago images / VI Images, twitter.com/PatonGuzman, Arsenal FC
role of clubs and players
“I’m not a gay man, so I can’t understand what he has been through in his life and it’s really easy for people like me, who are privileged, straight, White males to have an opinion on any of this, but none of us will ever know what it’s like for him and I just give him so much credit.” “I am so impressed by him as a human being, first to have the courage to come out in a very macho sport, second of all to have the level of security he has as a human being and an individual and then just the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis.” “I look these guys in the eye every day, spend six hours a day with them and to see the pain they go through was really, really, hurtful. So we just decided that we have to take a stand, we can’t be okay with this behaviour.” Landon Donovan, Coach San Diego Loyal on the decision of San Diego to leave the pitch after their player Collin Martin was the target of a homophobic slur by an opposing player Source: CNN, 2020
“Walking off the field I was pretty distraught. I was just embarrassed that my sexuality had anything to do with the outcome of a game or us forfeiting it, so to me it was really a bit too much to handle. And I was just pissed that we had to deal with this!” “Personally I was fine, but I just wanted something to be done for what I knew wasn’t right,” he continues. “And I think part of me being a role model and advocate for the community is, I can’t stand up against hate at all levels of the game and sport if I‘m not going to stick up for myself on the field, right?” “Listen, what he said to me didn’t hurt me to the point where I wanted to not play, but I knew I couldn’t just stand around and have that be something that is said on the field to me.” Collin Martin, San Diego Loyal Source: The Guardian, 2020
Photo credit: imago images / ZUMA Wire
role of clubs and players
Good Practice – Working with Players Leicester City
In December 2019, as part of Leicester City’s support for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, first team players Ben Chilwell (now with Chelsea) and James Maddison met with the club’s LGBT+ supporters’ group, Foxes Pride, to learn about the experiences of LGBT+ football fans. The meeting took place at the King Power Stadium, where the duo asked questions about the issues faced by LGBT+ fans and the progress that has been made since Foxes Pride was founded in 2014. Since then, the group has worked closely with the club to tackle homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in football and to promote the welfare of LGBT+ supporters by ensuring that everybody feels welcomed and respected. At the end of the meeting, Chilwell and Maddison also handed over match-worn football boots donated by other members of the squad to help with fundraising efforts.
Ben Chilwell and James Maddison meet representatives from LGBT+ fans’ group Foxes Pride
Reflecting on the conversations he had with the fans, Maddison said: “We’ve got a very accepting changing room at Leicester, and if one of our teammates was to come out and say they were gay then nothing changes for us. That’s how it is with us and hopefully going forward it can be the same for everyone.” The Chair of Foxes Pride, Graeme Smith, was encouraged by the meeting: “What we’re starting to see now, and Ben and James are examples of that, is players are beginning to get involved. The absolute key is helping people realise that you don’t have to be gay to stand up for LGBT+ people.” So, too, was Paul, another member of the group:
Rainbow Laces at Leicester City FC
“Meeting Ben and James was phenomenal. I genuinely don’t remember feeling like this would have happened five or ten years ago, so it’s fantastic to see a real sense of buzz around.”
Photo credit: Leicester City
role of clubs and players
The Players:Â LGBTQI+Â Rights & Visibility by FIFPRO Global Players Union The fight against discrimination and towards a more inclusive and empowered football industry is a core and central issue for FIFPRO, its member unions, and players. Whilst players are free and encouraged to express themselves on the pitch through their sporting ability, off the pitch they run into numerous barriers and obstacles that prevent them from standing up publicly for causes or issues in which they believeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;or from being who they truly are. Within the world of football, homophobia manifests itself in countless damaging forms. This not only discourages LGBTQI+ visibility in football, but means discriminatory behaviour that disenfranchises players as people pervades. It also inhibits the full human dignity of those playing and those around the sport to be protected and their human rights upheld.
FIFPRO believes that everyone should have equal access and opportunity in football and that nobody should be excluded on the basis of their gender, race, religion, or sexuality. We stand behind initiatives that encourage everyone to be themselves, without fear of discrimination or prejudice, and we call on other football stakeholders, including national associations, leagues, clubs, and fans, to do so as well. Recently we have seen a wave of player activism regarding the most pressing social justice issues of our time, including on race, gender, and LGBTQI+ discrimination. FIFPRO has been supporting these players and their unions in athlete-activism and encouraging players to continue standing up for their rights and the issues that matter to them and their communities. Elite and professional footballers must perform in
As the global labour union of professional football players, FIFPRO represents the collective voice and works on behalf of more than 65,000 players worldwide through our 65 national member player unions. We situate our work within a culture of equality and solidarity, where we and all our player associations are committed to improving the lives of players around the world. We focus on ensuring players are represented and their rights and wellbeing protected not only as workers and athletes, but as people.
Photo credit: FIFPro
role of clubs and players a social and environmental context that is heavily impacted and influenced by world events and the pervading social constructs of our time. For players to not only be impacted but also moved to engage on such topics should not be seen as surprising, but rather as an extension of an individual’s human right to freedom of expression— and thus protected and promoted as such, as more and more players realise the reach and extent of their voice and influence. Throughout its history, player activism has helped to shift the sporting landscape towards a more inclusive and progressive football industry. However, we are still a long way from where we need to be, and there are those within the football and sporting landscape who discourage players exercising their right to freedom of expression, and their right to protest. Players are role models, closely connected to their communities and active members of their society. The industry has a responsibility not only to uphold the rights of players as citizens, but needs to embrace the intersection between football, culture, and society. All too often, players who engage in activism are having to pay a heavy price, including in some instances the sacrifice of their sporting careers. Athlete activism should not necessitate such a sacrifice, and football should embrace the opportunity presented by player activism as a genuine force for good.
Football players have huge followings and influence in the hearts and minds of their fans. We know that positive role models not only grow the sport in terms of participation and interest, but they can also influence behaviours and attitudes through normalising conversations, raising awareness, and encouraging action. From Megan Rapinoe to Marcus Rashford, we know that players raising their voice on single-issue causes can go far and can go wide, bringing about unprecedented change and conversation. This certainly extends into LGBTQI+ rights and visibility, and a player-centric point of view should be encouraged as we seek to find solutions for a more inclusive sport. Football must do more to support players in achieving impact, particularly as it pertains to civil rights and individual liberties. With an unmatched global footprint, football is in a unique position to bring people together to help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. FIFPRO strongly denounces discrimination in all its forms, and fights to address the systemic issues that perpetuate discriminatory behaviour. We acknowledge the powerful and critical role of players in championing LGTQI+ equality and how challenging this can be—they need institutional and structural support behind them. We ask the game and its stakeholders to engage with us, our unions, and our players on these fundamental human rights issues. www.fifpro.org
role of clubs and players
Interview with Hedvig Lindahl – Professional Football Player
It is often suggested that it is easier to be openly LGBT+ in the women’s game than in the men’s game. Do you agree?
Having played in several different European leagues, have you noticed any differences in the ways that LGBT+ issues are addressed? I’ve played in Sweden, England, Germany, and Spain. In each of these countries, I’ve lived together with my family, which now consists of my wife and I and our two sons. We haven’t encountered any problems in our daily lives—either in my career, my wife’s career, or our kids going to school. I have not felt the need to raise any LGBTQAI questions. Do you have any examples of bad and good experiences in football in the context of your sexual identity? I haven’t had any bad experiences that I can remember. In terms of good experiences, I can’t really think of anything directly related to my sexual identity. The only thing I think of is that I’ve always felt like my family has been taken seriously in every place we’ve been.
I agree that there is an idea of how hard life would be if a male player chose to come out. What I wonder, though, is whether it’s is an old idea that needs updating? A new generation of fans have grown up with a more liberal view on sexual identity. I do hope someone dares to try to challenge this old idea. I think once a big profile player in the men’s game decides to come out they will be met with more love than hate. But I understand that it is a challenge and scary. Not many players in the men’s game speak out regularly on LGBT+ issues. Why do you think this is? And what do you think people in the game can do to encourage players to be more vocal? Have you ever spoken to any male players about the subject? I think it relates to the fear of being associated with the LGBTQAI community in some way. Again, I hope it is an old idea. There are examples of big profile players taking a stand in support of a more liberal environment, with acceptance for all, and in those cases I have only seen the positive reactions. I started working with the American organisation Athlete Ally a few years back. Their founder is a heterosexual wrestler who realised that more needed to be done by those who have no reason to feel uncomfortable. The idea was to become allies to those facing this big mountain of fear.
Photo credit: imago images / foto2press
role of clubs and players Unfortunately, I have not been in contact with male footballers wanting to make a difference, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing good work around the world. More and more clubs are doing work on LGBT+ inclusion—cooperating with their respective LGBT+ fans’ groups, etc—but there is still a great deal to be done. What needs to change most urgently? I think we need to have more role models in the men’s game. We have plenty in the women’s game, but there needs to be representation on the men’s side as well—people who pave the way for the next generation. To help make that happen, we need to encourage organisations to change bad culture inside the clubs. People in leading positions must make it clear that certain language is not acceptable any longer, and live by this mantra, day in and day out. The
Swedish organisation Locker Room Talk is a good example of what could be done. What advice would you give to young LGBT+ footballers based on your experiences? Once you have accepted your own sexuality, I think that very few comments about it can hurt. People can say what they want and it shouldn’t matter. I get that the men’s game is gigantic and things can definitely still hurt, but hopefully not comments related to the sexual orientation. People can still be horrible and that in itself is a challenge—I get that. I hope that if a player—a person— is able to do what needs to be done to fully accept themselves and then take their space in the world, and the world of football, they will hopefully feel good about it. Everyone deserves to live free and they have the right to do so. Playing football is the focus, sexual orientation does not matter.
Hedvig Lindahl is a Swedish professional football goalkeeper, who played club football for Malmö FF Linköpings FC, Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, Kristianstads DFF, Chelsea FCW and VfL Wolfsburg. This summer, she joined Atlético de Madrid. With 170 games for the national team, she is the most capped goalkeeper of all Swedish teams, male or female. Lindahl won one World Cup silver, two World Cup bronzes, two bronze medals from the EURO and an Olympic silver. She also won the Swedish Cup twice, the English League title and the FA Cup twice and the double in Germany. She and her German wife have two children.
role of clubs and players
Key Findings: Clubs and Players On 23rd January 2020, Fuβballfans gegen Homophobie hosted the second transnational network meeting of OUT! The event took place at Signal Iduna Park, home to Borussia Dortmund, and focussed on the role of clubs and players. These key findings are based on feedback and suggestions from stakeholders who participated in the two workshops—one on clubs and one on players.
Role of Clubs
It is important to define core values, clearly communicate them, and implement them with consistency.
The impact of every club policy must be measured against these values, with specific reference to marginalised groups such as the LGBT+ community.
Education should be an important part of any club’s approach to anti-LGBT+ discrimination and LGBT+ awareness.
Club’s should involve all stakeholders in education work, from young players and coaches to fans and board members.
Clubs should be vocal about LGBT+ issues on social media to promote visibility.
Inclusivity should not be seen as a burden; it can make a club attractive (i.e. sponsorship, media coverage etc.).
A club’s hierarchy should not assume that because it has certain values others within the club will share them. It is critical to stick to core values when things become difficult.
No matter what the situation, clubs should always be ready to respond to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, whether it comes from fans, players, or other employees.
Clubs can learn from fans and fans can learn from clubs. It is a two-way street.
Patience is key. Anti-discrimination policies will not work overnight.
Photo credit: FSE
role of clubs and players
Role of Players
Clubs must create environments where players feel comfortable expressing their sexuality and gender identity, from the academy to the first team.
It is essential that clubs, players, and fans work together to create this environment.
The obsession with male players coming out is not necessarily helpful; it is more important to create an environment where players can be good allies.
Players can play a key role in promoting visibility and awareness around LGBT+ issues.
There is no one size fits all solution when a player decides to come out. Clubs must tailor their approach around the individual.
We should not focus excessively on the men’s game. Even if the situation for LGBT+ players is better in the women’s game, it is still far from perfect.
LGBT+ fans’ groups have a role to play when it comes to raising awareness amongst players.
Not every player is comfortable discussing certain topics. Clubs and fans should be sensitive to each individual case.
That said, some players are comfortable, and indeed passionate, about LGBT+ issues. Clubs should give them space to communicate this.
Clubs have responsibilities towards all of their employees. They should create a safe, inclusive environment for everybody, from the grounds-person to their star striker. (i.e. administrative staff, coaches, young players, etc.).
ROLE OF ASSOCIATIONS AND LEAGUES
role of associations and leagues
The Role of National Football Associations and Leagues National football associations and leagues have multiple roles and obligations when it comes to equality and inclusion for the LGBT+ community. First, they are responsible for safeguarding players, especially youth players. Second, they are responsible for safeguarding employees across the sport, including their own. And third, they are responsible for safeguarding fans and spectators. They can and do fulfil these responsibilities in a number of ways.
Regulations and Education A good starting point is the adoption of specific regulations on sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination. Such regulations should be comprehensive, devised with the input of affected individuals and groups, and apply to associations and leagues themselves, as well as to their member and partner organisations. Moreover, they should be clearly and directly communicated at all levels of the gameâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;to clubs, players, employees, and fans. Just as importantly, so should the consequences of not adhering to them.
To be effective, regulations must be and often are accompanied by a series of educational workshops and vocational training programmes tailored to the needs of different stakeholders. The former are a means of sensitisation and are of great benefit to coaches, players, line managers, and so on. The latter are particularly important for those whose job it is to identify problems and implement reporting and/or sanction procedures, such as referees and stewards.
Reporting and Supporting Many national associations and leagues have reporting systems in place for those subjected to abuse and discrimination. The Premier League, for instance, has an online reporting system for players, managers, and coaches, and a separate one for fans, both of which are well publicised. It is also essential that LGBT+ players and employees are able to speak to someone in confidence about their sexual or gender-identity and how it intersects
Photo credit: Premier League
role of associations and leagues
Display against homophobia during a game of the Danish national team
with their career and mental health. Some associations and leagues have already made significant steps towards this end. The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) has pioneered LGBT+ ambassadors, while the Österreichischer Fußball-Bund (ÖFB) and Österreichische Bundesliga (ÖB) have instituted an ombudsperson to address anti-LGBT+ discrimination in football.
involves supporting and promoting LGBT+ visibility and inclusion through their own recruitment and workplace policies, action days and other events (i.e. Rainbow Laces, representation at pride parades, etc.), and activity at the national teams level.
Visibility and Inclusion As mentioned elsewhere in this handbook, tackling discrimination is but one part of the solution. Stakeholders must be proactive, not simply reactive. For national associations and leagues, this
Rainbow flags in front the DFB’s headquarters
Photo credits: DFF, DFB
B I O G R A P H I E S Sophie Cook (England) “Human rights are not a zero-sum equation.” Born in 1967, Sophie Cook has been a football fan for as long as she can remember. She even had a career in the football industry, becoming a photographer for amateur and professional clubs. “I would never have been so active as an activist within the game if it wasn’t for my LGBT+ identity.” In 2015, before her employer at the time, AFC Bournemouth, was promoted to the Premier League, she decided to transition. Having been involved in football for a long time, friends of hers were scared for her safety and her emotional and physical wellbeing. However, Sophie was lucky enough to experience a situation in which the opposite was the case: she received overwhelming support from her football community and found herself welcomed with open arms. From time to time, she does experience online abuse. “But I see that as proof that I am doing the right thing and making a difference.” Sophie is happy to see the solidarity of allies, underlining the conviction that empowerment of one group does not diminish another group’s rights. She would like to unite the football community in the fight to eradicate prejudices and for a world of equal opportunities for all. Today, Sophie’s work is manifold. She is an ambassador at Kick It Out, a patron for Just A Ball Game?, the Equality and Diversity Officer at Whitehawk FC, and the manager of Rainbow Rovers FC.
Photo credit: AFC Bournemouth
role of associations and leagues
The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) and LGBTQ+ Inclusion by An de Kock, RBFA The RBFA’s LGBTQ+ focused antidiscrimination work can be traced back to 2014-2015, when the organisation launched an LGBTQ+ action plan called ‘Holebi of Hetero, maak er geen spel van’, which translates into English as ‘LGB or Straight, do not make a game of it’. This action plan was carried out in cooperation with the Flemish government, Pro League, and the regional football associations. The action plan contains ten action points, which outline initiatives that are endorsed by a wide range of partners from the football sector and which are intended to lead to more openness and tolerance towards LGBTQ+ people. The ten action points are: 1. An awareness-raising campaign about sexual identity and the creation of a tolerant sporting environment. 2. A toolkit as an instrument for football clubs.
7. Coach training tackles discrimination, and in particular discrimination on the grounds of sexual identity. 8. Football stewards/supervisors are trained in dealing with homophobic language and behaviour. 9. Homophobic incidents on and off football pitches are mapped out. 10. Equal Opportunities in Flanders and the Football+ Foundation coordinate the monitoring of the action plan. With this action plan, the RBFA reached 4,300 players, 1,888 stewards, 820 trainers, and 150 parents. As part of the plan, the association launched a Rainbow Laces campaign both in professional and grassroots football and ran 75 workshops on tackling homophobia for security officers, stewards, club administrators, and coaches from sev-
3. Homosexuality to be more openly discussed at every level of football. 4. Football acknowledges sexual diversity as an element in the social responsbility role of football clubs. 5. Homophobic language and behaviour on and off football pitches are openly condemned. 6. During the consultation with supporters, an emphasis is placed on discrimination on the grounds of sexual identity.
Photo credit: RBFA
role of associations and leagues
eral grassroots clubs. They also distributed more than 2,000 toolkits for football clubs. More information on this action plan and the individual actions that have been taken can be found at www.maakergeenspelvan.be. The RBFA also launched a campaign under the name Football 1 – 0 Homophobia.
LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Visibility Since then, the RBFA has continued to work on LGBTQ+ inclusion and visibility. From 2016 to 2018, they organised the Heroes of Football campaign (heroesoffootball.eu), which was intended as “A European mission to ensure that everyone who loves football or takes part in the game enjoys it and can be themselves.” The campaign produced a toolkit in different languages, as well as a mobile application, documentary, and several testimonials. It was led by the Netherlands-based John Blankenstein Foundation and funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.
LGBTQ+ Ambassadors and Football For All In 2019 and 2020, the RBFA focused on communication around LGBTQ+ issues via their website and social media channels. They also worked together with ambassadors who can be contacted by LGBTQ+ people in football hoping to share their experiences and solicit
Matthias De Roover, RBFA ambassador
advice (Matthias De Roover, Mister Gay Belgium 2019 and amateur football player; Didier Digneffe, a referee; and Robin Lefever, also a referee). In March 2020, the RBFA launched the Football For All campaign in association with Pro League and the two regional associations. The campaign aimed to use rainbow colours to highlight LGBTQ+ inclusion. More than 500 teams participated, each wearing rainbow armbands and showcasing rainbow corner flags, etc. A third major event in this period was the organisation of the Hackathon for Diversity, which involved 45 young participants devising ways to increase inclusion and equality in football. Ambassador Matthias De Roover also shared his experiences during this event.
A Data-Led Approach to Anti-Discrimination The RBFA has also recently focused on gaining a greater understanding of the current situation when it comes to discrimination and anti-discrimination. To accomplish this, they launched a
Photo credit: RBFA
role of associations and leagues
An Ongoing Process
number of studies in cooperation with two of the biggest Belgian universities. The results are being used to adapt the organisation’s action plan against racism and discrimination. The plan consists of six pillars: 1. Listening: Dialogue with people who are victims of discrimination in football, the involvement of ambassadors, and the promotion of reporting channels. 2. Representation: Ensuring everyone feels represented within the association. 3. Education: Includes the addition of two external representatives on the RBFA board of administrators. 4. Sanctions: Actions that need to be taken when prevention and sensitisation do not work.
Despite being one of the smaller European football associations, the RBFA makes every effort to highlight and improve the experience of LGBTQ+ fans. In recent years, the organisation has taken several steps to ensure that the topic receives greater attention both internally and externally. Moreover, the RBFA’s robust regulations and sanctions relating to homophobic chants and abuse have given clubs more tools to take action against offenders. And encouragingly, more and more clubs are joining the Football For All campaign. Even though challenges remain, the RBFA is nonetheless heading in the right direction, helping to create a football environment that is inclusive and free of discrimination.
5. Measurement: Assessing the impact of the action plan through data. 6. Communication: Informing stakeholders about the RBFA’s work and priorities.
Photo credit: RBFA
role of associations and leagues
Interview with Oliver Egger –
Ombudsperson at the Österreichischer Fußball-Bund (ÖFB) and Österreichische Bundesliga
What does your daily work entail and how often do people get in touch with you? My daily work is never the same. It always depends on what needs to be done. The basis of my work is the ombudsperson’s office, which interested parties can contact. So, I check my emails and social media accounts every day to see if anyone needs help. On other days, I prepare for interviews or panels, or attend meetings to discuss what we want to do next, such as creating our own workshops. My work also includes consultations, media work, and lectures. In our first year, we were contacted by over a hundred individuals, eight of whom took advantage of our advice. Can you provide an example of what people might contact you about and what kind of advice you might offer in response? Many people ask me about my own experience of coming out. The people asking are often LGBT+ themselves,
grappling with the best way to come out at their club. I tell them my story, how I came out to my teammates and what has transpired since. I try to encourage people by showing that it is possible to play football and be yourself while doing so. I always focus on the positives and tell them what has changed for the better in my life. But I also emphasise that this is my story—everyone has to follow their own path. What works for me will not necesarily work for others. Each individual must decide how and when to come out. How did the Ombudsperson role arise? Who suggested it and why? The ombudsperson’s office came out of a 2018 roundtable of LGBT+ organisations and NGOs initiated by the ÖFB and Bundesliga. The roundtable was a repsonse to several homophobic incidents that had occured at professional football matches in Austria. The resulting discussions produced many ideas and solutions on how to address the issue of anti-LGBT+ discrimination in football. One of these was an ombudsperson devoted to the subject, drawing attention to it and carriyng out important educational work. Did you have to overcome any obstacles before taking on the role? The biggest obstacle was myself. If I had not decided at the age of 22 to accept myself for who I am, then I would not be
Photo credit: Andy Joe
role of associations and leagues an ombudsperson today. I would continue to hide and pretend. For a long time, I did not know how to deal with the situation and was very afraid of rejection. But at some point I mustered all my courage and took the first step, telling my best friends and my brother about my homosexuality. And since then, I no longer hide and feel better than ever. With regard to the ombudsperson role, there were no obstacles for me, but Ingo Mach from the Ă&#x2013;FB had to work hard to convince others that it could be implemented. It is thanks to him that this unique project exists. Does the fact that you are a footballer help you fulfil your role as an ombudsperson? Yes, of courseâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it helps me a lot. I have been playing since I was six, so I know the world of football inside out. Above all, I know how it works in amateur football and what attitudes prevail. And, of course, I know how things go on the pitch and what is said. This gives me an inside view that helps me a lot in my work.
Are you in touch with Austrian fans who are fighting discrimination? I am in loose contact with Fussballfans gegen Homophobie in Austria. I also regularly exchange ideas with the fan representative from Sturm Graz. Otherwise, the pandemic has thwarted our plans: we intended to offer workshops this year that would include fans. At the beginning of my work, I focused on consulting, but I will increasingly be making contact with the fan scene. What are your hopes for the future of the LGBT+ community in football? I hope that everyone in football can be who they are without fear of discrimination and exclusion, both on the field and in the stands. The time has definitely come when you can love whoever you want. Everybody should be treated and supported equally. Football would have to become a bit more human again. This requires people in charge who want to improve the situation of LGBT+ people in the game. And there is simply not enough of them at the moment.
Photo credit: Sturmtifo
B I O G R A P H I E S Madeleine Drescher (Austria) “My feeling is that my female gender is the first fighting ground that I have to enter. My identity as a lesbian comes a little bit further down the road.” Madeleine became a football fan at the age of six. Her first game was at SC Freiburg in Germany with her uncle, where she was one of the few girls. Due to a visual disability, she was not able to play the game herself, but she instantly fell in love with the atmosphere at the stadium. With time, however, she realised that being a woman in football is not easy. “At the age of 15 or 16, I’d had enough of the many sexist comments and the maledominated culture, so I rarely went to games.” In 2006, Madeleine moved to Vienna, Austria, to pursue her studies, and fell in love with football again. At Wiener Sportclub, she felt welcome and at home—both as woman and as a lesbian. Unfortunately, she still experiences underrepresentation and has to fight constantly for her position as a woman, even in her progressive fan group Friedhofstribüne (Cemetery Tribune). “Sometimes, I find it hard to always be the one to bring up gender-related issues at meetings.” Madeleine tries to make a difference in the German-speaking all-female fan network F_In – Frauen im Fußball (Women in Football), which offers female fans, football officials, journalists, and many others a forum for exchange. “Without this network it would be so much harder.” The network also helps her engage with other LGBT+ people and gives them the opportunity to support each other. The fight against homophobia is a structural problem and a constant struggle for Madeleine. She believes the biggest issue to address in the sport is toxic masculinity. Madeleine also thinks there is still a need for clearer positioning against discrimination at all levels, more role models, and a safe environment. “I see it as a collective effort of everyone that is involved in football to fight for equality.”
Photo credit: Madeleine Drescher
role of associations and leagues
Good Practice – Stakeholder Involvement – Deutscher Fußball-Bund
In 2018, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) began to increase its engagement with various stakeholders to address the issue of “gender and sexual diversity” in German football. The aim of this consultation process, which is still ongoing, is to expand and improve upon previous approaches and embed them in a framework of structured and sustainable dialogue.
‘Sexual Diversity’ in Amateur Football The DFB is in continuous discussion with its regional associations about their regulations on the eligibility of trans* and inter* players and how these can enable as many people as possible to feel safe and welcome in football. The question of how players, volunteers, and fans can be further sensitised to gender and sexual diversity in the field of amateur football is also part of these discussions, as are antidiscrimination strategies and future projects. In April 2018, the DFB asked those affected by sexual and gender-based discrimination in amateur football to share their experiences. Later, in November, regional associations of the DFB discussed existing projects and future measures to combat such discrimination. And in April 2020, the DFB and representatives of regional associations discussed the decision of the Berliner Fussball-Verband to include trans* and inter* people in the game and how this will be implemented.
In addition, the DFB hoisted the rainbow flag above its headquarters in 2019 to promote LGBT+ inclusion.
Dialogue on ‘Queer Fans in the Stadium’ In January 2019, the DFB met with representatives of regional associations, its own employees, Koordinationsstelle Fanprojekte (KOS), and fans’ groups, including QFF, Unsere Kurve, Fuβballfans gegen Homophobie, and Frauen im Fuβball. These meetings led the DFB to begin formally examining the impact of sexual orientation and gender identity in elite football stadia. The purpose of this ongoing investigation is to widen access, participation, and inclusion in stadium environments. To date, it has resulted in several positive outcomes such as the introduction of gender-neutral toilets at German men’s national team matches and the DFB-Pokal Final, gender-neutral admission procedures at stadia, and briefings for stewards on the subject of sexual and gender diversity.
As a result of these exchanges, several regional associations have developed their own measures and projects.
Stakeholder meeting on gender and sexual diversity at the DFB, 2019
Photo credit: DFB
role of associations and leagues
Interview with Katherine Allen – Head of Policy and Supporter Relations at the Premier League Each year, the Premier League and its 20 member clubs support the Rainbow Laces campaign, which was founded by the LGBT+ organisation Stonewall. How and why did the Premier League become involved with the campaign? Each year, we try to build on the previous campaign, particularly through the involvement of clubs and, most importantly, supporters.
Rainbow Laces action day at Brighton and Hove Albion
We continue to be part of the campaign because we want to show that football is everyone’s game. Everyone should feel safe, welcome, and able to be themselves, whether playing football or following their club. We especially want to encourage people who may have felt in the past —or even feel now—that football is not a friendly environment for them. Rainbow Laces is a visual representation of that. How does this cooperation work on a practical level and what activities occur on the dedicated Rainbow Laces matchdays? We discuss with Stonewall and football colleagues what the focus and key messages of the campaign are going to be. In the last couple of years, we’ve highlighted how supporters can be allies to LGBT+ people, particularly in a football context. The Premier League sends every club Rainbow Laces versions of the substitution and handshake boards, ball plinth, and ball itself. We also send the
actual Rainbow Laces and digital assets for use on big screens, pitchside, and on social media. We’re delighted that lots of our partners want to support Rainbow Laces, so they often make great contributions, too. The most important part of Rainbow Laces is supporters, and our clubs do a great job of engaging their LGBT+ groups and wider fanbases. The best activities we’ve seen in the last few years have been led by supporters’ groups. How do you make sure that campaigns such as this have a long-term and sustainable impact? And what else does the Premier League, as well as its member clubs, do to support LGBT+ communities and make football a more inclusive game? The most important thing is that the Rainbow Laces campaign represents work being done all year round. Sometimes there is a misconception that we cover
Photo credit: Premier League
role of associations and leagues everything with rainbows for two weeks a year and that’s it, which isn’t the case. Through our partnership with Stonewall we work to improve LGBT+ inclusion and representation across the whole of football, from academies and first teams to community projects and working with government and the authorities. The campaign is great because it brings visibility and is demonstrably about welcoming people to football, but it’s only one part of our work. It’s also about directly involving the communities you’re trying to reach and celebrate with the campaign. It’s only going to have a long-term and sustainable impact if it’s genuinely representative. Do you have any numbers on the scope of homophobic incidents during Premier League games in recent years?
How does the Premier League liaise with LGBT+ fans’ groups and how can it support them? As the Premier League itself doesn’t have fans’ groups, we support and encourage clubs to engage with their LGBT+ fans’ groups. The Premier League holds regular meetings with national and club level supporters’ groups to discuss all topics, and we’re always open to fans who want to talk to us. Through the Fans’ Fund, we make grants available to clubs to engage underrepresented communities— financing can be an obstacle and of course it shouldn’t be. Visibility is vital, which is why Rainbow Laces is such an important campaign.
The Premier League doesn’t collect data from clubs on homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic abuse but, as part of the Premier League Equality Standard requirements, clubs keep a complete record of how they deal with each incident.
Katherine Allen has a BA in Politics and Economics from SOAS, University of London and a MA in Television and Current Affairs Journalism from City University London. She worked as a political lobbyist on the first Obama presidential election campaign in the USA before splitting her time between BBC Sport and BBC America for three years. She spent almost four years in government communications at the Home Office and 10 Downing Street, where she covered foreign affairs and was head of the No 10 news desk. She has been at the Premier League as since April 2017 and is currently the organisation’s Head of Policy and Supporter Relations.
Photo credit: Premier League
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Sport and Human Rights â&#x20AC;&#x201C;
The Work Of The Sport And Rights Alliance (SRA) by Gigi Alford, World Players Association accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The SRA was formed in 2015 by NGOs and trade unions committed to working together to embed human rights and anti-corruption across world sport. By working collectively, these groups are stronger and better positioned to pressure global sport bodies to ensure their decision-making and operations respect international standards for human rights, labour rights, and anti-corruption, in
Along with FSE, the SRA includes Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, ILGA World (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), the International Trade Union Confederation, Transparency International Germany and the World Players Association. The coalition amplifies the ability of each partner to promote the rights of people most affected byâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;yet too often
Members of 3 Lions Pride at the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia
Photo credit: 3 Lions Pride
role of associations and leagues underrepresented within—sport, including children, women, activists, minorities, fans, athletes and workers. The SRA has played pivotal roles in landmark decisions by sport bodies to embed their responsibilities to respect internationally recognised human rights, by adopting new policies, introducing bidding criteria for mega-events, and including specific clauses for the host city contracts. The coalition also serves as a watchdog group to give early warnings of human rights harms that could arise or are already happening, such as forced evictions, attacks on free speech, human trafficking, abuse of migrant workers, crackdown on peaceful protests, overreach by security and discrimination. In partnership with the victims and witnesses of these abuses, the SRA works with sport governing bodies, local organising committees, governmental actors, corporate sponsors and others to either prevent harms or remedy those that have already occurred.
Working with the LGBTIQ Community Worldwide The SRA initiative was a response to the waves of crises over the past decade that have fundamentally challenged the social and commercial legitimacy and value of sport, including the impact on the LGBTIQ community. The coalition helped drive a global campaign to add protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter, a clear rebuke of Russia enacting its draconian ‘anti-gay’ laws even as it prepared to host the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and then the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup.
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018, FSE and other SRA partners have successfully campaigned for the rights of the traveling LGBTIQ fans, leading to the commitment made by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee that the rainbow flag would be accepted inside the stadia for the very first time. More recently, FSE lobbied ahead of the UEFA Europa League Final 2019 in Baku for the removal of the mandatory HIV declaration from Azerbaijan’s visa application process, which was part of a broader discriminatory policy targeting gay men. Ahead of the UEFA EURO 2020, which will take place in Summer 2021 in countries with a challenging environment and legal framework for the LGBTIQ community, the SRA remains committed to demanding a more systemic change from the host countries, in order to achieve proper legacy for the local LGBTIQ communities.
Working to Keep LGBTIQ Fans Safe at International Tournaments Safety of LGBTIQ fans remains a concern for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup to be hosted in Qatar, which punishes gay people with one to three years in prison. These anti-gay laws clash with FIFA’s statutes confirming that discrimination of any kind within football “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.” During the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar, organisers for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup Supreme Committee gave assurances to gay supporters that fans of any gender, sexual orientation, religion and race will be welcome in Qatar. However, they gave no sign that the country would repeal its laws criminalising homosexuality, allow rainbow
role of associations and leagues
flags outside of stadia or create space for openly affectionate behaviour between romantic partners of any persuasion.
the Olympic Movement that encompasses global football, are obligated to embed due diligence procedures to ensure that Football Championships do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses in the hosting or staging of the event. Furthermore, they should provide for independent monitoring and remedy mechanisms to ensure that promises made in the bidding stage and fixed in the host city agreements are followed and enforced. These standards cannot be based on goodwill, and they must be binding for all stakeholders.
According to the UNGPs, the universal standard for business and human rights adopted by the UN Human Rights Council that provides the foundation for the work of the SRA, host countries and sport bodies that partner to stage major sporting championships share a government duty to protect and corporate responsibility to respect human rights, including labour rights, press freedom, and anti-corruption measures. These obligations span the full lifecycle of the event—from bidding, to planning, to implementing, to legacy. To this end, FIFA, its regional confederations, and the IOC as the ‘supreme authority’ of
Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar
A Coalition to Tackle Discrimination Five years after launching the SRA, the fans continue to be a committed partner alongside the world’s most widely-recognised NGOs and legitimate representatives of other groups at the heart of sport, not least the players and the workers building the stadia. Without this broad coalition working in concert towards a clear strategy based on international standards, we would be much farther away from our goal of ensuring the interests and wellbeing of fans of all backgrounds are safeguarded without prejudice or discrimination.
Gigi Alford is Director of Sport and Human Rights for the World Players Association, the global voice of more than 85,000 organised players across professional sport. She also coordinates the Sport & Rights Alliance, a coalition of NGOs and trade unions representing and advocating for the rights of those most affected by the human rights risks associated with the delivery of sport.
Photo credit: FSE
B I O G R A P H I E S Martha Thomas (Scotland) “Nothing makes me happier than stepping out onto the pitch wearing rainbow laces and seeing LGBT+ flags being held up by fans in the stands.” In 1996, Martha Thomas was born into a traditional footballing family in Malmsbury, England. At the age of six, she moved with her family to the United States. In both places, she and her siblings played for local football clubs, and the game has always been an important part of her life: on the television, in her back garden, or in the local park. Today, Martha is a professional striker for West Ham United and the Scottish national team. While she has experienced anti-LGBT+ attitudes and discrimination off the pitch, football has provided her with a positive and safe space. The openness and support associated with women’s football, including players, staff, and fans, has meant Martha has never felt uncomfortable on the grass. However, Martha realises that the fight for equality—whether in regard to gender, sexuality, or race—is never-ending. “We need to continue to raise our voices and use our platform to have a positive influence on all walks of life and stand up to any form of bigotry or discrimination.” Martha sees more and more progress in sports due to higher visibility when it comes to the inclusion of LGBT+ individuals: “We are beginning to see more male athletes who are speaking up regarding their own sexual orientation across the world. I hope that men’s football continues making strides as well.” She thinks that education is the most important factor in fighting anti-LGBT+ attitudes. “We need to set the norm that it is okay to love who you love and to be who you are.”
Photo credit: imago images / PA Images
role of associations and leagues
Key Findings: National Football Associations and Leagues On 15th October 2020, the Royal Belgian Football Association hosted the third and final transnational network meeting of OUT! The event took place online and focussed on the role of national football associations and leagues. These key findings are based on feedback and suggestions from stakeholders who participated in the two workshops—one entitled ‘How Can Leagues and National Associations Involve Supporters’ Groups Create a More Inclusive Environment?’ and one entitled ‘How Can Leagues and National Associations Become More Inclusive for LGBT+ Stakeholders?’
Online OUT! network meeting on the role of national associations and leagues
Photo credit: FSE
role of associations and leagues
How Can Leagues and National Associations Involve Supporters’ Groups to Create a More Inclusive Environment?
Many countries have made a great deal of progress on LGBT+ rights in recent years. Football must follow, even if it is slightly behind. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
Leagues and national associations should recognise that many, if not most, fans and fans’ groups are determined to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football. They need to work with fans to find a solution. This is the starting point.
Leagues and national associations should avoid talking down to fans or suggesting that fans are the problem when it comes to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football.
LGBT+ fans’ groups are not all the same. Although united by common goals, they have different ways of working towards them. Leagues and national associations should recognise this when involving them in anti-discrimination initiatives.
National associations and leagues can also communicate their message via other campaign and community groups (i.e. Stonewall in the UK).
A bottom-up approach to tackling discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football is likely to be the most effective in the long-term.
A lack of coordination between national associations and leagues on the one hand and fans’ groups on the other creates problems. This could be addressed through more structured and regular dialogue between both sides.
Clubs are important and effective vehicles for achieving antidiscrimination objectives. They also present an ideal platform for fans and national associations and leagues to work together.
National associations and leagues should examine different ways to engage players—particularly prominent ones—in antidiscrimination campaigns. This could potentially amplify their message to a wider audience.
Fan activists and those working for national associations and leagues in more LGBT+ friendly societies should show solidarity with LGBT+ people in less open societies.
role of associations and leagues
How Can Leagues and National Associations Become More Inclusive for LGBT+ Stakeholders?
Leagues and national associations should engage all stakeholders in anti-discrimination initiatives.
Anti-discrimination initiatives should be aimed at all employees and volunteers in an organisation or company.
Comprehensive and easily accessible educational toolkits are an effective means of reaching as many stakeholders as possible and ensuring that they treat anti-discrimination work as a long-term, practical goal.
Efforts to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football should not be confined to discrete initiatives. They should inform the daily work of national associations and leagues.
Ambassadors are a visible way of ensuring that national associations and leagues engage with LGBT+ players, coaches, employees, etcâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; on a one-to-one basis if necessary.
National associations and leagues should commit to an ongoing research agenda (focus groups, surveys, etc.) to identify problems and where they occur. Without data, it is difficult to devise and implement a clear strategy to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, either internally or externally.
Communication is key, especially when it comes to sanctions. All stakeholders must know what national associations and leagues define as discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and what sanctions are in place to deal with such behaviour.
Online and in-person channels for reporting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be well advertised and easy to use.
European national associations and leagues should share good and bad practice to help one another.
It is important for national associations and leagues to practice what they preach on equality, diversity, and inclusion.
B I O G R A P H I E S Sener Deniz Şahin (Turkey) “We need to create a welcoming environment in football, especially for the LGBT+ youth.” Sener Deniz has always loved football. However, anti-LGBT+ chants and discrimination made him feel unsafe and excluded when he went to the stadium. At the age of 17, Deniz read about the inclusive Fenerbahçe SK football fans’ group Vamos Bien in a newspaper. He was still presenting “as a teenage ‘girl’ who [didn’t] know about his trans identity yet”, but he found a place where he felt he belonged. Going to the stadium at a time when people still read him as a woman has sensitised Deniz to the issues of gender identities in football. “At the age of 20, at the entrance of the stadium I was once told by a police man: ‘Sit and watch football at home, you don’t belong here as a woman!’” Today, he uses these first-hand experiences to create a more inclusive football for all. “We need to make people understand how awful discrimination is.” From his point of view, it is important to shape people’s language, because language shapes people’s minds. Over time, Vamos Bien helped Deniz to discover his own identity and slowly forget the fear of exclusion and humiliation he faced in the cisgender-dominated world of football. Today, Deniz does not go to the stadium anymore for political reasons. Still, together with his fan group, he keeps raising his voice for LGBT+ identities on and off the pitch, hoping for more diversity at grassroots level, but also among the people in charge: “I want to see more LGBT+ people to bring about a more sustainable transformation.”
Photo credit: Sener Deniz Şahin
ROLE OF FANS
role of fans
The Role of Fans and Fans’ Groups The relationship between fandom and the LGBT+ community is frequently portrayed in a negative light. But for the past decade or so, fans and fans’ groups have been at the forefront of efforts to confront homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic stereotypes and discrimination in football. After all, many fans identify as LGBT+ themselves, know a friend or family member who does so, or feel strongly about issues related to equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Banner at Fortuna Düsseldorf
Photo credit: Fortuna Düsseldorf
role of fans
LGBT+ Fan Groups One of the most obvious ways that fans have sought to make the game more LGBT+ friendly is through the formation of LGBT+ fans’ groups, which have grown in number and influence across the continent in recent years. These groups are generally associated with particular clubs, and their activities often include the prominent display of rainbow colours at home and away games, hosting inclusive social events, and raising awareness about the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender fans. In several countries, club-based LGBT+ fans’ groups have established nationwide networks (i.e. Pride in Football in England, Scotland, and Wales), which in turn have coalesced into transnational networks such as Queer Football Fanclubs (QFF). While these groups are largely, if not entirely self-organised by LGBT+ fans, many have also received backing from established fans’ groups at both club and
Display against homophobia at Portland Timbers
national level (i.e. the Football Supporters’ Association in England and Wales). Such support encompasses everything from joint banner and other visibility initiatives to workshops and the election or appointment of LGBT+ representatives to various committees or working groups.
OUT! network meeting on the role of fans and fans’ groups in London, October 2019
Dialogue and Engagement Another way that fans have put LGBT+ issues on the agenda is by directly lobbying national associations, leagues, and clubs. This lobbying can take many different forms. Some groups have publicly pressured clubs to be more inclusive or to address similar concerns. Others have done the same but behind closed doors. Most groups, meanwhile, have planned and participated in action weeks or months around major campaigns. But perhaps one of the most effective ways that fans’ voices are heard is through structured dialogue forums with other football stakeholders. Structured dialogue is intended to ensure that national associations, leagues, and clubs regularly consult and engage with different supporter interests and groups.
Photo credits: Timbers Army, FSE
role of fans
Banner at Bayern Munich
Self-Organisation: LGBT+ Fans’ Groups The history of LGBT+ self-organisation among football fans can be traced back to the late-1980s, when the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) was founded in the United Kingdom. Since then, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender fans across Europe have formed their own groups to advance an agenda of equality, diversity, and inclusion. These groups exist at club, national, and transnational levels, and have increased significantly in both size and number over the past 15 years. As well as providing a safe space for LGBT+ fans to share their experiences and socialise, they campaign on a wide range of issues, from visibility and representation to sensitisation training and human rights at international tournaments. In some countries, LGBT+ fans’ groups engage in structured dialogue on a variety of subjects
with governing bodies, either directly or through national supporters’ federations. These developments and trends are encapsulated well by the British umbrella organisation Pride in Football (PiF) and Queer Football Fanclubs (QFF), a European network of LGBT+ supporters.
Queer Football Fanclubs Queer Football Fanclubs held its first conference in Dortmund in 2007, bringing together LGBT+ fans and fans’ groups from around Germany. Over the next two years, the network expanded into other nations, before adopting a formal constitution in 2009. QFF’s purpose is to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, cultivate national and
Photo credit: Queerpass Bayern
role of fans international relationships to coordinate joint actions and the exchange of good practice, encourage the creation of new LGBT+ fans’ groups, and expedite the integration of existing groups into local fan structures. In addition, it also works on other supporter-related topics such as stadium bans, ticket pricing, and match scheduling. One of QFF’s largest campaigns to date was the display of banners reading “Football Has No Gender” in multiple German stadia in October 2014. It has also been actively involved in discussions to make the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia and FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar more LGBT+ friendly. This pioneering approach has resulted in sustained expansion, attracting members from England, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.
Their aim was to create a forum to “share good practice in promoting inclusion and combatting sexuality and [gender identitybased discrimination] in football” and inspire the creation of similar groups at other clubs.
Pride in Football Pride in Football was formed in 2014 by four longstanding LGBT+ fans’ groups: Canal Street Blues (Manchester City); Gay Gooners (Arsenal); Proud Canaries (Norwich City); and Proud Lilywhites (Tottenham Hotspur).
QFF meeting in The Hague, Netherlands
OUT! network meeting on the role of fans and fans’ groups in London, October 2019
PiF has made a great deal of progress on its original objectives. It now has over 30 active members in the UK, including Three Lions Pride, a group for LGBT+ supporters of the England national team, and more and more clubs are recognising LGBT+ fans’ groups. This growth is likely to continue in the coming years, helped along by the successful annual #CALLITOUT event. But there is still considerable room for improvement. As PiF recently acknowledged, the proliferation of LGBT+ fans’ groups “is a reflection not only of the wish of [LGBT+] fans to work with their clubs to promote inclusion, but also of the lack of adequate action from relevant governing bodies to combat homophobic abuse in and around stadia.”
Photo credits: QFF, FSE
role of fans
Structured Dialogue between LGBT+ Fans and Other Stakeholders The term structured dialogue refers to a formal mechanism of communication between two or more stakeholders. In the world of football, structured dialogue is generally understood to be a means to encourage and/or mandate national associations, leagues, and clubs to regularly consult and engage with fans’ representatives. It is good practice to integrate LGBT+ fans and fans’ group into structured dialogue strategies: first, for reasons of equality, diversity, and inclusion; second, to ensure the relevant authorities are aware of the issues they face and why; and third, to equip them with the tools to effectively challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But how this is done depends on whether or not a club or national team has an existing LGBT+ fans’ group.
Meeting with LGBT+ fans and activists at the DFB headquarters 2019
Photo credit: DFB
role of fans
Structured Dialogue with LGBT+ Fans’ Groups
Structured Dialogue with LGBT+ fans
The most important point to keep in mind when it comes to LGBT+ fans’ groups is that they represent their members in much same way as other fans’ groups, such as supporters’ trusts or ultras. And, because they are fans first and foremost, they can be consulted on a wide array of issues, from ticketing and stadium animation to away travel and governance reform. As such, they should be included in structured dialogue policies on the same principles and range of subjects as others.
This approach also applies in instances where a national team or club does not have an LGBT+ fans’ groups. There are many reasons why this might be the case, but it is not the responsibility of national associations and clubs to create LGBT+ fans’ groups.
Alongside this, LGBT+ fans’ groups should be specifically consulted on equality, diversity, and inclusion policies, as well as measures designed to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the terraces and within national associations or clubs. For such engagement to be effective, it is crucial that the latter avoid a top-down approach. To be legitimate in the eyes of the local LGBT+ community and general fanbase, LGBT+ fans’ groups must be independent. National associations and clubs should only intervene in the development of LGBT+ fans’ groups when explicitly asked to do so by the groups themselves.
This should not, however, prevent them from devising and fulfilling a comprehensive LGBT+ inclusion policy or providing support to those who do wish to establish such groups. They could, for instance, with the help of SLOs, incorporate individual LGBT+ fans into current structured dialogue forums and awareness raising programmes. Alternatively, they could create new focus groups to solicit the views of LGBT+ fans and inform their anti-discrimination work.
B I O G R A P H I E S Stephanie Fuller (England) “Football gives you those moments of oneness.” Stephanie was born in a small English town in 1970. She became a Crystal Palace fan at the age of ten and she’s “as big a fan now as [she] was then.” Opening up to her environment after she realised that she was trans was very tough. Painfully, she found out who her real friends were and whose support she could rely on. Especially in football, she was reminded of the risks and missing acceptance of trans people in society: “At the moment in time that I came out, I knew that football wasn’t a place I could safely be myself. For a number of years, I was essentially lost from the game.” However, when the LGBT+ fan club Proud and Palace was founded in 2014, Stephanie became more proactive in calling out anti-LGBT+ behavior at Crystal Palace. “Through setting up the LGBT+ fan group we showed that the club, like all clubs, has and always has had LGBT+ fans.” The club’s acceptance and support of the group has only strengthened her connection with Palace. Today, she lives in the south of London and aims to promote visibility for LGBT+ people. Proud and Palace is a member of the nationwide Pride In Football umbrella organisation that includes all LGBT+ fan clubs in England. Today, Stephanie considers allies as the most important groups in the fight against LGBT+phobia: “Without the support of fellow fans it is very difficult to make meaningful change.” Part of the Proud and Palace’s success is down to the support they received from their peers. For the future, Stephanie hopes that everyone gets to feel those moments that only football provides.
Photo credit: Stephanie Fuller
role of fans
The Importance of LGBT+ Allies in Football Fandom In recent years, an increasing number of fans have become actively engaged in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football. While much of this fight has been conducted by LGBT+ fans themselves—through the formation of LGBT+ fans’ groups, for instance—allies have also played an important role.
What is an Ally? An ally is somebody who supports marginalised groups. A straight ally is a non-LGBT+ person who makes a concerted effort to promote LGBT+ rights, representation, and causes. One of the central insights of allyship as a concept is that it is not the responsibility of marginalised groups such as the LGBT+ community to oppose and transcend their own marginalisation— it is the responsibility of everybody.
This is as true in football as it is in wider society. Thankfully, straight allyship is well established in fandom and operates under many different guises. It can be as simple as listening to the experiences and concerns of LGBT+ fans, providing them with a platform to reach a larger audience, and challenging stereotypes and inappropriate language and behaviour. At the more proactive end of the spectrum, it might involve initiatives to improve visibility and raise awareness—rainbow flag actions, participation in pride parades, lobbying clubs on matters of equality, diversity, and inclusion, integrating LGBT+ representatives within established fans’ groups, and so on.
Allyship in Action Examples of such allyship abound.
Members of Fotbollssupportrar mot homofobi take part in the Pride march in Malmö, Sweden
A good case study at club level is LGBT+ fans’ group Proud and Palace’s #99reasons campaign, which sought to discourage the use of homophobic language when Crystal Palace played fierce rivals Brighton and Hove Albion in 2017. The latter have often been subjected to homophobic chants due the city’s prominent LGBT+ population. The message was a simple one:
Photo credit: Fotbollssupportrar mot homofobi
role of fans
“There are 99 reasons to hate Brighton, but homophobia doesn’t need to be one of them.” 31 Palace fans’ groups signed up to and shared the message ahead of the game. This strategy is considered to have been a success, achieving the desired outcome and introducing an important conversation to the broader fanbase in the process. At the national and transnational level, the work of Fussballfans Gegen Homophobie (FFGH) is particularly noteworthy. The initiative was founded in 2011 by the fans department at German club Tennis Borussia Berlin in cooperation with the Lesbian and Gay Association BerlinBrandenburg. It was a response to regular homophobic abuse directed at the club and involved the display of a banner emblazoned with the eponymous slogan and a picture of two male players kissing. The banner proved so popular amongst fans of other clubs that it has been exhibited
Banner by members of the Norwegian Fotballsupportere mot homofobi Campaign in Bergen
in over a hundred grounds since its first outing. And this popularity led to the formation of a network of likeminded fans and fans’ groups across the world. There are now FFGH-style networks in Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, and banners inspired by the project have appeared in stadia as far and wide as Croatia, Greece, Israel, and the United States.
Photo credits: twitter.com/proudandpalace, Fotballsupportere mot homofobi
role of fans
Interview with Jermaine Greene –
Supporter Liaison Officer at Werder Bremen What does a Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) do? The job of an SLO falls into two distinct categories. The first is the office, where I work from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, dealing with the day-to-day issues raised by SV Werder Bremen’s approximately 950 fan clubs. I answer questions such as When will the first team train in public?, How can I get autographs?, and Can we get support from the club for our planned social event? It’s mainly an organisational role, but it also involves social engagement, catching people in their passions, so to speak. The second revolves around matchdays, training camps, and other similar events. SLOs are the main contact point for fans in the ground, and we’re there to resolve any problems—if there are problems to
Display at Werder Bremen
resolve. We therefore prepare for matchdays together and brief one another afterwards. We also maintain contact with colleagues from other Bundesliga clubs, as well as security agencies and the police. In addition, we try to internally advocate for fans and the issues that are important to them. In recent years, the sociological aspect of our role has become more important, which means we try to act as a moral compass to steer the club’s agenda. How would you describe your own experience when it comes to discrimination in football? Well, I haven’t had many bad experiences with homophobia. What role do fans play in social inclusion and exclusion in football? Almost fifteen years ago, there was a physical attack by far-right Werder fans on our anti-discrimination ultras during a party in our stadium. At the time, we understood that you have to involve the fans when it comes to inclusion and antidiscrimination. We have to be the ones who empower those who advocate for social engagement. Among other things, by publishing statements. We often have the feeling that clubs who do not do this are a fertile ground for fans who do not share these views. If clubs do not position themselves clearly and call this attitude “obvious” and do not find it necessary to advocate clearly, we always say: No, this is not how this works. You have to. You have
Photo credit: FP Bremen
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to say it. Because there are more and more people who do not consider it so obvious. Of course, it is not comfortable to call for tolerance and question our own structures. Our club president has publicly opposed one of Germany’s extreme right-wing parties—twice. Before, the tenor was: We are for tolerance, we are for openness. But to actually say We are standing against this on moral principles, you have to get out of your comfort zone. For this, it is good to actively have supported those who fight for tolerance and inclusion before. Because now, they will be by your side and you notice that you are not alone. It is same thing when fan scenes who harbour homophobic or racist attitudes visit your stadium, or those who call themselves “apolitical” but in the end hold the same inhumane convictions. It is important to say that these attitudes do not conform to our values and that football, in a globalised world, only works as a cosmopolitan endeavour. It is even more important to be clear on your principles when confronted with their antithesis. What role do LGBT+ people play in fan scenes? Too small a role, unfortunately. We have been in contact with them since the formation of the Green Hotspots, Werder’s LGBT+ fan group. There are a handful of very active, motivated fans who would like to take on a more prominent role, and of course, they can always contact us when they have ideas. But we also
Members of LGBT+ fan group Green Hot Spots in front of the stadium
know there are members who just want to watch football. And that’s totally fine. At the same time, we see that their existence is a political statement in and of itself. Currently, we have some fans who constitute extraordinary cases because of their gender identity—the stewards are not yet educated enough on the matter. We need to raise more awareness in this regard. For some years now, a trans* woman has been admitted into the stadium via a separate entrance because the responsible stewards there know who she is and has special knowledge of the situation. She gives us very positive feedback on this. Unfortunately, this option is not very visible for other trans* people yet. As soon as we are in contact with the respective person, however, we try to make their entrance into the stadium as comfortable as possible. The next big thing could be gender-neutral toilets. This can have both disadvantages and advantages. That said, we need to make sure this valid discussion is brought to the attention of fans and the public.
Photo credit: Werder Bremen
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I personally think it is also necessary for greater sensitisation of players and coaches within the club. Here, it’s less necessary to sensitise the fan scene, because in Bremen, the fans and ultras are already very informed. But LGBT+ issues cannot stay outside the locker rooms. If they are not on the players’ and coaches’ minds how can youth players engage with them? There is still great potential for sensitisation.
usually progress in the end. Unfortunately, you usually see the same faces at such workshops, both fans and club officials. I would like groups and departments to send one or two others who then bring new ideas to the discussion, and who go home with a new set of influences. We often see how fans talk to other fans’ clubs and ultragroups, and the topic is passed on and on.
When the club and fans work together on anti-discrimination activities, what does the process look like? That depends very much on the initiator and the topic. There have been anti-discrimination events organised by fans and the socioeducational fanprojekt, with the club sending ambassadors, including former players or the current chairman of the board, Marco Bodo, who attended, shook some hands, and left. We always thought it was important for him to be there and give a statement. It still is important. But we never knew to what extent the message actually reached the club, its employee, and the designated protagonists. When we start organising something on the club level, we are always happy to see fans engage, participate and maybe even further develop some projects. Certain workshops on social integration have produced a lot of bullet points, some of which have been implemented. Sometimes we need to calm fans’ expectations a little because there may be good reasons not to implement something, and the rest of the club might not be on the same page yet. It might take some time, but there is
What are your hopes for the future of LGBT+ issues and football? I hope for more of the openness that I already experience in Bremen. It’s great. In my 10 years, I have not heard a single homophobic slur or seen a single homophobic banner. There are negative comments from individuals, granted, but these are isolated cases. I also hope for more acceptance of the activities organised by our fan scene and the club. And speaking of fan scenes, I hope that society does not only notice the “bad things”, but the good things, as well. When they do something good, it would be nice if they were recognised. And concerning LGBT+ people more generally, I hope that young amateur players do not feel that being LGBT+ is a reason to stop playing. They should be welcomed into an environment that is understanding. And I hope that any affected people feel secure enough to be themselves and speak openly about their sexual identity.
B I O G R A P H I E S Robin Lefever (Belgium) “We have to get to a point where being queer is normal in football.” Born in 1990, Robin Lefever began playing involved football at the age of six. He became a referee at 15, and two years later, the Belgian refereeing committee scouted him for a youth talent program. At the same time, he was discovering his homosexuality. “I was struggling just as I started to bond with people in football. It was paradoxical.” Over the next few years, Robin hid his sexuality, all the while gaining more confidence as a referee. Slowly, he began opening up to people, including his fellow referees. Today, Robin is the first openly gay referee in elite Belgian football. He works together with the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) to put LGBT+ issues on the agenda of different stakeholders. In 2019, Robin decided to give a public interview on the subject to raise awareness among the football community. The publication of the interview left him feeling anxious ahead of his next match. Some players even told him to stick to his job. But Robin soon realised that he was still welcome in football, with some people expressing gratitude and admiration. “I hope that, one day, everybody can take this step, including referees.” Robin also offers education on LGBT+ matters for younger people, with the aim of normalising being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. He believes sensitisation is key. “I am who I am and I do what I do—refereeing and being gay.”
Photo credit: Peter Maenhout
role of fans
Key Findings: Fans and Fans Groups On 7th September 2019, Pride in Football hosted the first transnational network meeting of OUT! The event took place at the London Stadium, home to West Ham United, and focussed on the role of fans and fans’ groups. These key findings are based on feedback and suggestions from stakeholders who participated in the best practice workshops.
Best Practice for Fans and Fans’ Groups
It is not the responsibility of LGBT+ fans to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football—it is the responsibility of everybody.
Fans are part of the solution when it comes to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Clubs and national associations have an important role to play when it comes to helping fans establish and grow LGBT+ fans’ groups. They should be proactive in their support to ensure legitimacy among the wider fanbase.
Established fans’ groups also have role to play and should work with LGBT+ fans’ groups to challenge stereotypes and discrimination and promote inclusion.
SLOs should be actively engaged in inclusion work. As part of this, they should maintain a strong relationship with LGBT+ fans’ groups.
Football is the common denominator that unites everybody in the game, whether they are heterosexual or LGBT+. It should be the basis around which anti-discrimination and inclusion work is developed.
The use of simple, everyday language in anti-discrimination messaging is likely to be more effective than the use of legal or academic language.
Patrons such as players and former players are an important means of boosting the visibility of LGBT+ issues and fans’ groups.
Easy to use and well-advertised reporting tools are helpful for fans who are subjected to or aware of anti-LGBT+ abuse in stadia. While technology could work for wealthier clubs, one or two stewards trained in equality, diversity, and inclusion may be helpful at smaller clubs.
There should be a renewed focus on building national and transnational networks of LGBT+ fans’ groups, including allies.
SUMMARY GLOSSARY LINKS
OUT! is an Important Step on the Road to an LGBT+ Friendly Game by Peter Millward, Liverpool John Moores University LGBT+ fans and other stakeholders often share the same observation: there has been progress in the fight against LGBT+ discrimination, but prejudice still exists. This ranges from the extreme to ‘everyday’ banter and plagues both interpersonal connections and institutional cultures.
Creating Sustainable Networks and Agendas
In recent years, LGBT+ discrimination has been increasingly evident on football-related social media platforms. And it is unequivocally still the case that there is a paucity of LGBT+ role models in elite men’s football. What is more, the challenges of discrimination are clearly more acute in some countries than others, where, for instance, same sex relations may be criminalised and LGBT+ people may fear for their personal safety on a daily basis. Change is both slow and uneven, but fans and stakeholders have reported that the battle ahead involves grassroots action and groups working with greater
The project has therefore shed light on, and given voice to, LGBT+ stakeholders in football by developing networks between them, creating new channels of communication that will leave a strong legacy, and ensuring the fight against LGBT+ discrimination is a sustainable one. As a scholar who has a key interest in the sociology of social movements (as well as the sociology of sport), I know that the levers of social change for grassroots organisations are easier to access when relationships are built in a mutually respectful way with those in various forms of ‘political power’.
numbers of supporters, clubs, national associations, and leagues. OUT! has picked up the task of connecting these stakeholders.
Across the network events, I have heard and seen grassroots fan activists and those employed by authorities in football present ideas, listen, debate, and learn from each other. This has been heartening and has provided hope for further improvements to LGBT+ rights in football. Additionally, while academic research as well as official campaigns have often focussed on the L or G of LGBT+ discriminations in sport, OUT! has ensured that the B, T, and + have been a part of its core aims.
The potentially positive role played by straight allies has been underscored, too. The network events, in particular, have prompted useful conversations, improving everybody’s understanding of the different forms of and solutions to LGBT+ discrimination in football. This will hopefully motivate different stakeholders to press ahead with the next steps that are needed to make the game as inclusive as possible.
Peter Millward is Professor of Sociology at Liverpool John Moores University. He is currently engaged in a British Academy funded-project entitled ‘Exploring Supporter-Activism in Identity Politics-centred Social Movements: A cultural relational sociology analysis of the European LGBTI+ football fans’ network’. He is the author/editor of six books including Collective Action and Football Fandom: A Relational Sociological Approach (written with Jamie Cleland, Mark Doidge, and Paul Widdop).
Glossary This glossary provides an overview of terms that are used throughout the handbook. For a more comprehensive overview of inclusive terms and language, visit the website of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association: www.ilga.org Ally ���������������������������� (noun) A non-LGBT+ person who makes a concerted effort to promote LGBT+ rights, representation, and causes. Asexual ������������������������ (adjective) A person who is not attracted to anyone or has no sexual orientation. Gender identity ����������������� (noun) One’s personal sense of gender. Gender-neutral ����������������� (adjective) Relating to, intended for, or common to any gender. Intersex ������������������������ (adjective) Relating to a person who has male and female reproductive organs, or in whose chromosomal patterns do not fall under typical definitions of male and female. LGBT+ ������������������������� (adjective) An acronym that encompasses people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, and people with gender expressions outside traditional norms, including nonbinary, intersex, and other queer people (and those questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation). Ombudsperson ����������������� (noun) An official who hears and investigates complaints by private citizens against public bodies.
Questioning �������������������� (adjective) A person who is exploring their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Queer �������������������������� (adjective) A person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary. Transgender �������������������� (adjective) Pertaining to gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex assigned at birth. Can be abbreviated to trans. Sexual orientation/identity ������� (noun) One’s inherent attraction to a sexual partner of a certain gender, or the absence of gender preference in a sexual relationship; one’s identity as asexual, bisexual, heterosexual, gay, pansexual, etc. Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) ��� (noun) A person within a football club who is a bridge between the club itself and supporters of the club. The SLO aims to build relations between the club management and the fans through two-way communication.
Some useful links to organisations mentioned in this handbook and beyond:
CLUBS / PLAYERS Borussia Dortmund Werder Bremen West Ham United Athlete Ally Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (FIFPro) World Players Association
LEAGUES / ASSOCIATIONS Deutscher Fussball Bund (DFB) Fußball Für Alle Österreichischer Fußball-Bund Premier League Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) UEFA – Equal Game
FANS 3 Lions Pride Fußballfans gegen Homophobie Austria Fußballfans gegen Homophobie Germany (FFGH) Fotballsupportere mot homofobi Norway Fotbollssupportrar mot homofobi Sweden Gemeinsam gegen Homphobie Switzerland Peña Valencianista LGTBI+ Pride in Football (PiF) Queer Football Fanclubs (QFF) Stichting Roze Voetbal FanClubs (RVFC)
OTHER NGOS AROUND FOOTBALL / SPORT Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Football v Homophobia International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Just a Ball game Sports Media LGBT+
EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS Council of Europe – Sports Unit Council of Europe – SOGI Unit European Commission – Erasmus + European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights European Parliament Sports Intergroup
Future Perspectives Significant progress has been made in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in football over the past decade or so. FSE hopes the OUT! project will be viewed as an important part of that progress, and that the institutions, groups, and individuals who contributed to them continue to work together, either formally or informally. But there is still much to be done. And the challenges ahead are made all the more pressing by upcoming sporting mega-events which will take place in non-LGBT+ friendly environments. Everybody has a responsibility to ensure that such events are as inclusive, safe, and welcoming as possible. This handbook outlines a number of ways to do so, from defining core values and clearly communicating them to implementing sensitisation training and incorporating the LGBT+ community into existing structured dialogue mechanisms. It is our belief that these examples of good practice will have a positive and lasting impact if they deployed regularly and in tandem with one another. Only then can we all bring about systemic change— empowering LGBT+ stakeholders in football and beyond.
Thanks Football Supporters Europe would like to express its thanks and gratitude to the following people and organisations, without whom OUT! wouldn´t have been possible: An de Kock, Sassi Hedeli (RBFA) / Stephanie Fuller, Rishi Madlani (PiF) / Christian Rudolph, Torsten Siebert (FFGH) / Aleksander Čeferin, Patrick Gasser, Iris Hugo-Bouvier (UEFA) / Di Cunningham, Joe White (3 Lions Pride) / Jake Heath, Martha Thomas (West Ham United) / Alastair Holmes, Jim Dolan (Pride of Irons) / Caitlin Fischer, Sarah Gregorius (FIFPRO) / Daniel Lörcher, Sebastian Schneider (Borussia Dortmund) / Jermaine Greene (Werder Bremen) / Sofia Karlsson (Riksidrottsförbundet) / Max Bergander (AIK Fotboll) / James Edwards, Louise Hollingsworth (Leicester City FC) / Oliver Egger (Fußball für alle) / Claudia Krobitzsch (DFB), Peter Millward (Liverpool John Moores University), Gjert Moldestad (Norsk Supporterallianse) / Sven Kistner (QFF) / Ingo Mach (ÖFB) / Mark Doidge (University of Brighton) / Gigi Alford (World Players Association) / Katherine Allen (Premier League) / Terry Reintke, Marc Angel, Malin Björk, Miguel Chambel (LGBTI Intergroup) / Tiziana Beghin, Emmanuel Foulon (Sports Group) / Yves Le Lostecque (European Commission) / André du Plessis, Zhan Chiam (ILGA World) Robin Cnops, Matthias De Roover, Sophie Cook, Sener Deniz Şahin, Robin Lefever, Madeleine Drescher, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Hedvig Lindahl, Filomena Canino, and all attendees of our events. And thank you to the staff of the Erasmus+ programme who provided support to the project.