The Premier League's LGBTQ+ football fans deserve a year-long commitment to inclusion - not just short campaigns

16 August 2021

Chris Paouros, is CO-Chair at SpursLBGTQ+, the official LGBTQ+ Supporters’ Association of Tottenham Hotspur FC and Vice-Chair and Trustee of Kick It Out and on the Board of the Football Supporters’ Association. She published an article in English newspaper The Mirror about her hopes for the season: that LGBTQ+ awareness is not just a short campaign but a long commitment to inclusion.

‘English football has the most active network of LGBTQ+ fan groups in the world. When the Proud Lilywhites started in 2014, there were four LGBTQ+ fan groups, now there are more than 50 and we’re clear that rivalry on the pitch doesn’t translate off it – we often work together on the various campaigns that pepper the football season.’

‘Whether it’s via Rainbow Laces or support of the Football v Homophobia campaign, English football (the clubs as well as the FA, Premier League and EFL) regularly demonstrates a commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion. What we need now is year-round commitment to inclusion, not just activities during designated campaigns.’

‘I’m proud of Spurs in the support they give the Proud Lilywhites and in their all-round equalities work and this must be something that continues to be embedded throughout club structures and in everything we do, not just in ‘campaign season’.’

‘Seeing the clubs and the Premier League support players taking a knee, for example, really matters. It matters because that’s about inclusion too and what we are trying to achieve with LGBTQ+ inclusion will only work if we do it together.’

The SpursLGBTQ+ Supporters Association showed some true support in this matter to Bukayo Sako, the English international of rival Arsenal FC, who received a lot of racism abuse after missing his penalty against Italy in the UEFA EURO 2020 final. With their banner to stand with Sako, the Proud Lilywhites gave a clear message against discrimination.

‘It’s crucial that we bring everyone together to combat all discrimination as homophobia rarely travels alone – it’s usually accompanied by its ‘mates’ racism, misogyny, ableism, transphobia and islamophobia which is why it’s important we all stand together.’

‘No one should be frightened of being vilified for who they are. And let’s talk about equity instead of equality and ensuring we work at the intersections of all of this. If we want to change our clubs and institutions, we need to ensure our practice is intersectional; we can’t leave anyone behind, because that’s precisely what we’re trying to fix.’

‘We must address the misogynoir that black women face for example because if we don’t, we’re not properly addressing what divides us.’

‘This has to be addressed from top to bottom; grassroots to the boardroom, culture and legislation. Which is why you can’t decouple discriminatory chanting from the whitewashing of history, a lack of LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools, or gendered violence on the streets and in the home.’

‘It’s crucial to look at this holistically as it operates against a backdrop of our rights being under attack and rolled back in some parts of Europe, and homophobic hate crime almost trebling in the last five years in the UK.’

‘Last year’s Kick It Out statistics saw a 95 percent increase in reports of homophobia in the English game and in Kick It Out’s September 2020 YouGov poll of 1000 football fans, 32 percent of fans surveyed said they had witnessed homophobic abuse at a football match, while 41 percent had seen homophobia aimed at a footballer on social media.’

‘Recent independent research from education charity Just Like Us also found that pupils in schools with positive messaging about being LGBTQ+ are less likely to contemplate suicide, whether they’re LGBTQ+ or not.’

‘So the visibility of LGBTQ+ fan groups and the campaigns around them, e.g. seeing Harry Kane captaining England and visibly demonstrating his allyship by wearing a Rainbow armband, goes a long way to normalising the LGBTQ+ community in day-to-day life and can literally be life-saving.’

Chris Paouros got a lot of support on social media. As one of the reactions said: great work together behind the scenes and no matter who you support the message is clear that we stand united in the work we do to combat homophobia, racism and discrimination in the game and within society.’