2012 Olympics Committee working closely with LGBT community

March 3, 2011 - Leave a Response

Next year will see the culmination of years of planning and preparation, as London hosts the 2012 Olympic Games. London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games head of diversity and inclusion Stephen Frost explains how the Games will represent the city’s sizeable LGBT community.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has a vision to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change.

Visible at every level of our organisation, from reception to our board, the LGBT community is playing a big part in our work. There are many openly gay women and men leading teams and working to help stage the UK’s biggest peacetime event ever.

Our Strategy Director Sue Hunt is the Games’ LGBT Champion, and her LGBT working group is leading our Games-time LGBT inclusion project, designed to increase LGBT visibility and inclusion. We intend to bring together LGBT sports groups and National Governing Bodies to challenge homophobia in sport. 

The three main ways in which we are contributing to LGBT inclusion are through leadership in sport, leadership in the workplace and leadership in business.

We have developed a London 2012 LGBT Pride Pin Badge and we are the first organisation in the UK to achieve the Advanced Level of the Equality Standard for Sport.  
 
We have reached out to thousands of LGBT people and encourage them to apply to our volunteering programme and thanks to our dedicated recruitment outreach, 5% of our workforce has been identified as being part of the LGBT community.

We are working with our sponsors to support LGBT inclusion through events, policy changes, and visible support, have developed a mandatory online diversity assessment for all suppliers through our Business Charter, and have held several LGBT summits to assess all stakeholder contributions to tackling homophobia and promoting inclusion for LGBT people.

We will make certain the Games are all-encompassing, and with that, ensure that the LGBT community are included and visible in every element of the London 2012 Games.

Stephen Frost is head of diversity and inclusion at LOCOG. You can find out more about the work of LOCOG at www.london2012.com/inclusion

Why Steven Davies’ coming out won’t cure homophobia

March 2, 2011 - One Response

Journalist Adrian Tippetts has written extensively on gay rights issues and homophobia within football. He discusses the possible impact of cricketer Steven Davies’ coming out earlier this week.

Is football ready for an openly gay player? That is Fleet Street’s burning question after Steven Davies’ decision to come out this week.

Of one thing we can be sure: we can’t use Justin Fashanu’s experience as a guide. The timing, manner of and reaction to Davies’ declaration shows society’s attitudes have improved lots in 20 years.

For a high profile star to feel empowered to come out at the peak, rather than the twilight, of his career is a first in itself; but that his story should be told with compassion, sensitivity and maturity in the Sun, the very newspaper that for years ridiculed and demonised gay people, must astonish even the most ardent activist.

Davies will bring hope and inspiration to many young gay people, desperate for a positive role model at a critical time in their lives. I hate to spoil the party, but one out celebrity will do little to make sport a welcoming place for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people, which is what we should be focusing on.

We are far from that goal. For all the talk of diversity and equality, football in particular seems locked in the 1950’s when it comes to social attitudes.  

The only people who can change this are the Football Association administrators and the clubs. To appreciate what needs to be done, we have to understand a few truths about human nature.

First, homosexuality is a natural, innate, harmless trait that has been around longer than the birth of our species, and there will always be a small percentage of the population attracted to the same sex.

Statistics tell us there will be gay players at most major clubs across the country. Secondly, the notion that someone’s sexual orientation is ‘their own business and no-one else’s’ is false, and cruel.

Studies show that people who are not open about their sexuality will underperform and will be more prone to emotional problems such as depression. Our sexuality is an essential part of our lives.

It determines the most important relationships we will ever have. For our own well-being, we need those who matter most to us to give us support and encouragement and approval in our relationships.

Imagine living through a whole career, unable even to talk about who you went to the cinema with at the weekend, never mind having no soulmate to talk a problem over with. We’d go bonkers if we lived like that.

There’s a more pressing reason though. Those who are unable to be open are most likely to seek help when they need it most. Homophobic bullying is not just the preserve of schools.

Only 15 years ago, Graeme le Saux’s life was made a misery by Premier League team-mates, egged on by the manager, on account of his intellectual and artistic interests. And Chelsea went out of their way to hire Luiz Felipe Scolari, on record as declaring he’d root out gays in the game.

Silence on this issue ruins careers and team morale. Change has to start at the top, and percolate down to the local leagues. There needs to be a determination to root out homophobia in every club.

No player should expect to be exposed to derogatory name-calling. Staff must make it clear to players, at all levels, that there’s always someone to offer support, especially for youth team members who are most likely to have insecurities about their sexuality.

Clubs should actively encourage players to be open and have a disciplinary policy against homophobia that is spelt out to everybody, including training staff and referees.

And fans who routinely incite hatred on the pitch or on the website forum should be expelled from the game, if not prosecuted, just as we would do to racists and hooligans.

None of this means players should prepare to out themselves to the nation. To be frank, football belongs on the back pages and nowhere else.

In all the hysteria, we have forgotten that a real man will show courage and leadership in opposing bigotry and bullying. Why is it, therefore, that in the supposedly macho, testosterone-soaked world of football, the number of top footballers to speak out against homophobia can be counted on a single hand? 

Here’s just one idea for a player or club seeking to recalibrate its moral compass: the Albert Kennedy Trust is a small charity in Manchester and London that finds safe homes for gay teenagers who’ve been rejected by their families.

It’s depressing to hear they are inundated with cases, and would welcome a new champion or sponsor. It would certainly make a powerful message.

It’s time for the FA to show it is serious about making sexual orientation a non-issue. Let’s have some direction, determination and actions, rather than just half-hearted words!

A lesbian referee from Canada writes…

February 28, 2011 - One Response

Out gay referees are few and far between in the UK, and that’s also the case across the Atlantic, as Kimberly Hadley explains.

I’ve been a football referee in Canada for 33 years now. I have also been “out” in the sport as a lesbian for at least 25 years.

I have been working hard with my relationships with our national body the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and our provincial body the Alberta Soccer Association (ASA) for many years now as an openly lesbian official. Both associations have supported me whenever the need.

My most positive experience has and continues to be with our local Edmonton & District Soccer Referees Association (EDSRA), where my colleagues have supported me to the fullest. I have been very fortunate.

My experiences as an “out” referee have been very positive. The experience & professionalism I have shown on the field has earned me a great respect from the players & teams as a referee, my sexuality has never played a part in the game. 

I have worked at almost every level including the professional level for many years.

The challenge that I continue to face is that LGBT needs equality in football in Canada, but because Canadian law already recognises “homophobia” to be a form of “racism” in our country – the associations don’t feel that they have to address it in a different manner like the UK has.

I would love to have help setting up a program similar to the FA’s Football For All in Canada which includes an LGBT program.

I have been the North American Referee Director for the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) since 2008.

I have travelled extensively internationally refereeing tournaments all over the world through the IGLFA & have refereed both men’s & women’s Finals at the Gay Games, Outgames & our World Championships.

You can find out more about the IGLFA by visiting iglfa.org

The inspirational story of Stonewall FC

February 25, 2011 - Leave a Response

Dan Mobbs of football blog Three Match Ban has written on fellow blog In Bed With Maradona of the story of Stonewall FC, the first gay men’s football club in the UK.

As Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ misogynistic outbursts have recently proved, prejudice still exists in modern football and whilst great strides have been made in society, the beautiful game is still stuck in a bygone age where anything other than the traditional norm is scoffed at and derided as inferior.

There is though a shining light of defiance in football against such archaic behaviour and that is Stonewall FC; the first gay men’s football club in the UK, named after the famous gay rights protest in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, New York.

Established in 1991 after an advert in Time Out magazine asking “Are you gay? Would you like a kickabout in Regent’s Park?” led to the formation of a team who now play in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Football League, England’s seventh tier of non-league football.

Such is the rise of the club in the face of macho homophobic adversity that a founding member of the club, Aslie Pitter, 50, was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s honours list for helping to tackle homophobia in football.

It hasn’t been an easy ride though, as upon the club’s formation there were initially fears about whether or not to openly admit that the team was gay.

Concern was probably exaggerated considering the abuse that Justin Fashanu suffered when he came out around the same time, but as Pitter told the Evening Standard, that choice was taken away from them.

“There was a debate as to whether we should out ourselves but we were saved the trouble when the Mirror got hold of the story and dubbed us ‘Queens of the South’.”

Since then the club has progressed far beyond a kickabout in the park, as Stonewall have risen to the title of World and Gay Olympic Champions in just two decades.

In a game where homosexuality is still very much taboo though, an openly gay team could be the target of narrow minded homophobic abuse, but barring the occasional incident, club chairman Liam Jarnecki told me that games usually pass without incident.

“Like any other any other club, there’s sometimes what’s known in punditry as handbags, a funny word to describe opposing players exchanging forthright views or squaring up to each other.”

“However there are still incidents, mostly minor, involving occasional, sporadic abuse from individuals. Prejudice and abuse always takes place and is taken in context. You can usually tell the difference between a comic heckle and a snarling threat.”

Pitter though is less positive in his view of football as a socially equal sport.

“I’m often asked, ‘Have things improved in football since 1991?’ The answer is: how many openly gay players do you see in the Premiership today? There are none. Zero. Think about that. Apart from Justin Fashanu – who only came out at the end of his career and whose footballing brother John disowned him – there’s been nothing.”

“Rugby, in comparison has made tremendous strides. Gareth Thomas has come out as gay, as have others, but football is stuck in the Dark Ages.”

The changing of attitudes on the pitch and education of future generations is seemingly an upsettingly drawn-out process that will take many years to be fully addressed, and a concerted effort from the men at the top of the game is needed to help correct the many wrongs that still exist.  That said, Jarnecki believes great strides have been made.

“Wider society has changed in that time [since the club was established] and football probably within that context. Hopefully we’ve been part of that, challenging stereotypes held by some straight and some gay people about the limits of sexual orientation.”

Whilst progress has been made in challenging perceptions, changes still need to be made according to Pitter, as it’s all too easy for people to wear a painted on acceptance that masks their prejudice.

“From the top of the game to the amateur leagues homophobia as well as sexism is seething just below the surface, ready to pop out at the merest provocation.

“The fact that Sky’s Richard Keys could say on air ‘We wish her the best of luck’ but then behind the scenes slag her off by saying ‘The game’s gone mad’ is evidence of how most people keep their true views hidden.”

Whilst this is something that needs addressing, the problem of players acceptance is still a serious concern, as just a few weeks ago Pitter was told by an opposing player “Shut up you queer, you batty man!” for merely pointing out that he was taking a throw-in from the wrong place.

In the face of such overwhelming prejudice it seems to be clear why so many remain in the closet, so to speak, and Jarnecki sympathises with players regarding the impending backlash that they would undoubtedly receive from the press.  He also suggests that there could be a further influence on their decision to stay quiet.

“These are footballers, not politicians or community ambassadors. However they are still club ambassadors and they will be considering the media intensity on them which could then bring pressure to the whole club.”

The fact though that there are still no openly gay footballers in football, with homosexuality remaining one of the game’s enduring taboos is a sad state of antiquated affairs in a society dreaming of equality.

Jarnecki clearly believes the battle for equality is a long road, but he’s rightly pleased with what an amateur team has achieved and the awareness they’ve created in the face of such prejudice.

“We were invisible in football until 20 years ago and now there’s at least dozen gay clubs of different standards across the country so we’ve definitely made a difference.”

If you would like to know more about Stonewall FC, please visit their website.

You can read more by Dan at threematchban.com and more from In Bed With Maradona at inbedwithmaradona.com

Natural inferiority vs eternal beauty: Women in the game

February 22, 2011 - Leave a Response

It’s 2011, the year the Women’s World Cup takes place in Germany. So far, ticket sales have been extremely successful.

The Bundesliga is boasting record attendances every season and it’s evident that a huge proportion of those present in the stadiums are females from every age group.

There are gay and lesbian supporters’ groups at most of the top men’s clubs in the country, with ultra groups displaying banners against sexism and holding debates on how best to integrate female members.

Taking all that into account, you might suppose that gender equality in German football is not just around the corner, but on the doorstep. Well, you wouldn’t be totally wrong, yet not totally right either. Open intolerance and exclusion may be on the retreat but casual discrimination is still alive and – forgive the pun – kicking.

Let’s look at a few examples from recent months:
– Sky Germany (who broadcast all Bundesliga matches live) is not very well off, economically speaking. Nevertheless, the company discarded the female viewing population with its ad campaign in the lead up to the current season.

The advert shows women on the verge of a nervous breakdown as they are faced with Sky’s offers for the new season. Clearly, these offers are not directed at female viewers.

It is portrayed as if women are not fans of the game, as they would rather beat up their boyfriend than allow him to see a deal on televised football.

– Following a disastrous 6-1 defeat, the coach of third division side Wacker Burghausen claimed that during the second half he hadn’t seen his players on the pitch, but ‘a girls’ team’.

The statement was broadcast during Sportschau, Germany’s top free football television programme. The reporter didn’t bother to ask for clarification, while the anchorman didn’t challenge the statement afterwards.

Predictably, ‘like girls’ made the headline for the match report at leading football magazine Kicker.

– A couple of months ago, another coach, second division side Alemannia Aachen’s Peter Hyballa, used the girl simile to point out the merits of football.

Hyballa though, was rather adding confusion to insult by explaining that, in his view, football is not ‘girls’ mikado’, whatever that might be. However, the message was clear: football is a boys’ thing.

The view behind these statements seems to be that whatever women can do in sports must inevitably be inferior to what men can do (see here for a differing opinion). Women’s football tends to be seen as… well, not really football football, but rather a different discipline altogether.

Sadly, the marketing strategy for the World Cup (incidentally named ‘Women’s World Cup’ rather than ‘Football World Cup’) has also adopted that view, turning it into a glorification of the ‘female sport’.

Read this press statement from organisational director Steffi Jones. She says: “Everyone should be involved in 2011, when the best women’s players in the world celebrate the world’s favourite pastime in a typically feminine manner: elegant, dynamic, technically adept, agile and informal… in short, beautiful.”

Now, can anybody ever get it right for you silly feminists? Well yes, but it’s difficult. However, that shouldn’t stop anybody from trying. I would also like to make the point that the road to equality in sport and society doesn’t lead via casual prejudices.

As long as women’s presence in the game and their performance are still regarded as a point of negative reference on the one side, or as an epitome for eternal beauty on the other, we are not moving in the right direction.

Nicole Selmer works as a freelance author and translator in Hamburg, Germany. She is a Borussia Dortmund supporter and an active member of the network ‘F_in Women in Football’.

On the ‘F_in’ website, you can find, among other things, good and bad examples on the topic of gender in football.

You can visit the ‘F_in’ homepage at www.f-in.org and email Nicole on info@f-in.org

The Justin Campaign and Football v Homophobia

February 21, 2011 - Leave a Response

Sport means a lot of things to a lot of people. It can have the power to change people’s moods, feelings and even lives.

The fact that FIFA, world football’s governing body, has more member nations than the United Nations is proof that, in many people’s eyes, penalties are more important than peacekeeping.

It is on this foundation that the Justin Campaign was established, aiming to rid football of its last taboo and to ensure that the LGBT community can take part in the game without prejudice.

After all, how can a sport be known as the beautiful game when tens of thousands of its fans have to experience vile, abusive language and innuendo about who they are?

It has not been an easy battle, as homophobia is entrenched in all levels of the game.

On February 19, 2010, The Justin Campaign launched Football v Homophobia, an international day opposing homophobia in football.

The intention was to provide an opportunity for individuals, communities and teams from all over the world to communicate their disapproval of homophobia in the game.

Within weeks, the word spread and very soon there were events being organised across the world in support of the cause.

This year, the second Football v Homophobia initiative is being held, and it has registered a large amount of interest, with more than 30 separate events taking place across the globe.

Support has come from the FA and UEFA, but the real driver has been the fans.

Looking ahead, we are aware that obstacles do still remain in place. Yet, with community buy-in and grassroots support, we can be successful in the ultimate goal of changing people’s lives.

To find out more about the Justin Campaign, please visit thejustincampaign.com

Former player Earl Barrett gives his perspective

February 18, 2011 - Leave a Response

As a former professional footballer, and now manager of Kick It Out’s Mentoring and Leadership Programme, I am regularly asked about what is considered to be the game’s taboo subject, homophobia.

Did you ever play alongside anyone of a different sexual orientation? How do you think a gay player would be looked upon by team-mates? Why aren’t there any openly homosexual footballers?

I’ve heard all these questions before, and many more. The question I feel needs answering is whether the game is ready for an openly gay footballer? 

Personally, I feel as though the current environment of football needs adjusting before it is ready for a player to come out.

Invariably, I think players will accept anybody, as long as they can play football. The issue is the people around them. I just don’t know whether the support mechanisms are in place as of yet.

How would the media handle the situation? Would all managers be comfortable? How about the heads of various departments within football clubs? What about the reaction of the fans?

It’s all about raising awareness. I think if we can educate people about what you can and can’t say, can and can’t do, then we’ll be taking a step in the right direction.

The more we talk about the subject, the more people become alert of the problem that exists. There is no doubt that the time is coming when we will have an openly gay footballer. As and when that will happen, I don’t know.

Would the game benefit if a gay footballer came out? Certainly, as it would show that no matter who you are, or where you are from, you have a part to play. After all, football is the vehicle which transcends any types of prejudice, any differences.

View from a blogger

February 17, 2011 - One Response

Tackle is an independent blog addressing homophobia in football. We asked Dan Tickner, the man behind it, to give us his views on the issue.

Tackle was started one year ago next month. The main idea behind it was to generate discussion – often humorous – on homophobia in football where previously there had been only eerie silence.

The biggest problem at that time was not simply homophobia in the game, but a more entrenched fear of even discussing it.

Encouragingly, in the space of just 12 months, it has become the issue that won’t go away. This is cause for both celebration and frustration; celebration, because the drip-drip pressure suggests change to be the only logical outcome, and frustration because the same arguments continue to go round and round with little sign of a key development.

Of course, just because the talking has started doesn’t mean that the fear has gone. For every positive interviewee Tackle has spoken with this past year (Matt Lucas, Jason Cundy, Frank Clark among them) there have been other key figures who’s own trepidation of the unknown holds the game back.

Gordon Taylor’s misjudged interview with 5Live springs to mind, as does Max Clifford continual insistence that his player clients do not come out.

Clinging to these internal fears is one thing, projecting them on to football fans as a whole seems unfair, especially in the light of recent events. The widespread disapproval of this year’s sexism furore alongside the battles won on racism over the years tell us football fans are open to change.

An increasing willingness to talk by straight players in the game and the media’s growing interest in what was once taboo have been the great gains made over the past year. It is, however time for that next key development.

It seems likely this may be a retired player speaking out, if so it certainly needs to be backed up by a leap of faith from those influential figures in the game that have previously decided football isn’t ready. Now more than ever, it is.

Read more at tacklemedia.co.uk

Introduction by Lord Ouseley

February 16, 2011 - Leave a Response

‘February sees the advent of LGBT History Month, a celebration of the lives, achievements and histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain. I’m delighted that this year and next, the focus is on sport.

It’s perhaps fair to suggest football hasn’t always been welcoming to the gay community. At Kick It Out, we’re working hard to alter this perception. The topic of homophobia has been a core part of our One Game, One Community weeks of action campaign for the past three years and, working with our partners at The FA, the Premier League and the PFA, in tandem with key community led organisations like the Gay Football Supporters Network, Pride Sports, and the Justin Campaign, we’ve been able to bring the debate into the mainstream.

It is a common misconception that Kick It Out’s work focuses solely around racism.  Yes, the campaign was set up, back in 1993, in a bid to root out the worst excesses of rampant racist activity in which black footballers and fans were abused, harassed and attacked. In 2011, however, our work spans all areas of discrimination. Shifting with the footballing landscape, matters concerning gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability are just as much a part of the campaign’s remit as race. It is under the banner of One Game, One Community that we attempt to address the various aspects of inequality, challenge prejudice, bigotry and intolerance to achieve greater engagement, inclusion and diversity with people from all backgrounds.

So, you can see Kick It Out involved in a spread of activity this month. We’ve linked up with The FA to form an alliance with the Justin Campaign to support its Football v Homophobia initiative on February 19th. We’ll be holding our own ‘Question Time’ style evening debate in Manchester on the 24th with a panel of experts and special guests. And this special LGBT blog will see contributions, commentary and opinion from players, campaigners and journalists both domestically and from overseas.

As ever, your input in any or all of this is welcomed and valued. To find out more visit www.kickitout.org, email info@kickitout.org or call 020 7684 4884.