WHY WE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA IN FOOTBALL
Benny Punk - Founder of The Brighton Kop
Earlier today, ahead of the forthcoming fixture against Brighton & Hove Albion, Paul Amann of ‘Kop Outs - LGBT+ Fan Group for Liverpool FC’ posted on Facebook about Kop Outs approach to the match at Anfield on Saturday. Paul’s words sparked deep passion in me, and a set of long considered, and possibly over-analysed views about an issue that means a a great deal to me and and a community I am part of. So I want to offer a few thoughts on what he said.
For those that didn’t see Paul’s post here is what he said:
“Kop Outs, will be at the match on Saturday, and stewards will be briefed to stop any homophobic chanting given Brighton's previous experience in many grounds. Personally, if I hear "Does your boyfriend know your here?" I'll tell them my husband does, and stop being an embarrassment!"
The treatment of Brighton & Hove Albion fans at away grounds, particularly in relation to the chants from opposition fans, is appalling and outright homophobic – and it is levelled at a group of people who, we may reliably assume, are predominantly straight anyway. I should also add that they tend to deal with this with great humour and do not throw any fuel on the fire of homophobia. Many of them will have friends and family from the large LGBT+ community in Brighton so will consider themselves allies to that community. As a gay football fan I have great respect for them because of this.
I know fans like to give each other stick at matches and I am all for that when it is genuinely funny or witty or, at least not overly (or personally) offensive. However, the chants aimed at Brighton fans are just unacceptable because of their homophobic nature. There is no place for this in football.
Paul and I have been in communication for a while now and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Pride in Football Conference earlier this summer. The work that Kop Outs do is much needed and greatly appreciated by LGBT+ Liverpool supporters and their allies. Kop Outs and Paul, who is one of the founders, are worthy of much respect. Do give their Facebook page a like and have a look at what they stand for. http://bit.ly/KopOuts
Paul and I recently contributed to a Liverpool Echo podcast ‘Queer Liverpool - Going the Game’. http://bit.ly/GoTheGame
Have a listen if you want to better understand the issue of homophobia and transphobia in football and what we feel needs to be done to address it. We also discuss why there are no ‘out’ gay or bisexual professional footballers, and the fears and challenges players must face before even contemplating coming out.
I spoke about the types of abusive chants Brighton & Hove Albion fans have to endure at many away grounds and the impact these have on the LGBT+ community and LGBT+ football fans, including not feeling safe in football environments to the extent that it affects their participation in football at all levels.
The Brighton Kop (Official Liverpool Supporters Club – Brighton & Sussex) also address these issue in our short film that was co-released by The Guardian and Liverpool Football Club last January ahead of the Brighton& Hove Albion v Liverpool match. You can view the film here: http://bit.ly/BrightonKopFilm
Paul had a conversation with the Equalities & Diversity Officer at Liverpool Football Club this week about ensuring the Match Day Stewards pre-match briefing included a particular emphasis on challenging and dealing with homophobic comments or chanting.
I don’t personally think this is a massive issue at LFC, compared to other clubs, however when I was at Anfield for the Brighton match in May there was an attempt by some on The Kop to start the “does your boyfriend know you’re here” chant. Thankfully it gathered no traction, but it could have and we must have a zero-tolerance attitude to this kind of thing as a club, and in life.
I hope you will join me in saluting Paul and his team at Kop Outs for taking this issue on, and raising awareness of something that, quite frankly, should not be an issue in 2018!
Finally, I know some people say that politics have no place in football. I have heard it said many times. To that my response is simple: this is not an issue of politics, this is an issue human rights. This is about ensuring equality exists in football and in football environments. This is about your fellow football fans feeling safe, whoever they support and how ever they identify themselves.
Football should - must - be for everyone, and until it truly is we will not stop banging this drum and bringing people’s attention to the issue of homophobia in football. We shall not be moved!
Up The Reds! Up The Kop Outs!
Founder & Chair
The Brighton Kop (Official Liverpool Supporters Club – Brighton & Sussex)