Report from the Football Supporters Federation’s Supporters Summit
On Saturday football fans from across the country attended the Football Supporters Federation’s annual Supporters Summit at Wembley. The Football Supporters Federation is an incredible group representing the interests of football fans in everything from the “twenty’s plenty” campaign to cap away ticket prices to safer standing which is now being trialled at Celtic. The FSF are a huge support to use here at Proud & Palace, especially Anwar Uddin who leads their campaigns on diversity and inclusivity, so we were delighted to attend.
It was a great day on Saturday and truly inspiring to see different supporters groups standing up and making their opinion heard. The incoming chairman of the Football League, Ian Lenegan, gave an opening address and Q&A hosted by Owen Gibson of The Guardian and was challenged by impassioned fans in attendance on everything from accessibility for disabled fans to revised plans for the Football League Trophy.
Our group questioned him on support for LGBT fans of Football League clubs. Premier League clubs often have the resources and the fan base to implement their own supporter groups, as we have done with incredible support from Crystal Palace. For Football League clubs that is often not the case and so a stance from the league itself, or a tool kit to help clubs, is even more important. Ian’s short response was that it was not a question he had been asked before and he would discuss it at the next board meeting. An unsatisfactory answer in itself made even more so when members of our group spoke to Ian after the presentation and he required clarification on what we meant by “LGBT”.
While obviously those moments make you despair, that a leader in football is so oblivious to homophobia, one of the key issues in football and one preventing millions of people from engaging with the sport. However, as we went through a day of workshops and then our group AGM what became more apparent was a resolve that if we couldn’t count on those at the top to understand and confront our issues then it is even more important to work together to do it ourselves. In a diversity workshop we talked to fans from Woking and AFC Wimbledon about what they can do increase their fan base through more diverse groups – even more important for smaller clubs where gate receipts and merchandise sales are their lifeblood, not TV deals.
Over the course of the day, Spurs and Arsenal fans took opportunities to make cheeky digs at each other but when we sat down for our AGM the support and cooperation was undeniable. We enjoyed ribbing our counterparts from Charlton (“did you find your way to Wembley alright…?”) but applauded them for an incredible Football v Homophobia tournament they hosted at The Valley. We have a Norwich fan as chair, a Spurs fan as treasurer, Arsenal Palace and Leicester fans working on campaigns and overall 25 different clubs represented in our group. All working together with a shared purpose of inclusivity.
The day ended with an emotional speech from Roy Bentham of Liverpool supporters group Spirit of Shankley on the Hillsborough verdict. Roy spoke about the tenacity of the families of the 96 in pursuing justice for their loved ones. He concluded with a heartfelt message of thanks to Everton fans, whose supporters trust were sat right at the front of the auditorium for his speech, and who have unwaveringly stood by their rivals from across the city. There is a lot being said at the moment about people’s differences, a lot of divisions appearing across the country and across the world. The beauty of football is that while the whole model is based on rivalries and supporting your team above all others, when it comes to the things that matter those rivalries are set aside in a heartbeat. Roy’s closing words to the Everton fans, “there is more that unites us than divides us” is an important lesson for us all both in and out of football.
It's coming out, it's coming out.......
You may have missed it because there has been some other stuff dominating the news.... But on Saturday 25th June the Annual LGBT Pride in London Parade and celebrations took place, if you didn't attend, then I hope this article will at least make you think you might next year.
This was the first year for Proud and Palace to join the Parade as part of the Pride in Football group that is made up of LGBT fan groups from clubs across the country and across the leagues.
And I must say, It's a truly odd day when you find yourself having a decent chat with a Charlton fan (actually we still await that day) sorry Rob! ;-)
Anyhow back to the day itself we gathered at parade start along with fans from Forest, Spurs, Arsenal, Pompey, Notts County, Man City, Charlton, Ipswich, Norwich, and West Ham.
Despite this being Pride there really were three topics of conversation; Brexit, Orlando and Woy's boys. And aside from Orlando this is probably the topic for majority of the country right now.
I'd like to focus on Orlando, I think we are all tired of the other two topics... Even more after Iceland.
This pride was for many reasons, the most important for years. Following the sickening murders in Orlando, when a group of perfectly decent people were murdered for what they are, a great many LGBT people were reminded that as much as things have improved (and they have improved) we still need to be prepared to raise our voices as one and show the world that we are present in all areas of society, and we make a great contribution to that society too.
This is why Pride in Football is important, it’s giving real visibility to that fact that every club in the land has some LGBT supporters, you would necessarily know who they are, but they are there.
As we processed through the streets, it was truly heartening to hear familiar Palace chants that are often heard at Selhurst being directed to our group………special thanks to the lady singing “you know it’s true, we’re red n blue”. As a group we adopted and adapted, the Frank Skinner and David Baddiel hit, footballs coming home to ‘footballs coming out’, and it was particularly nice that David Baddiel tweeted his support of this.
The importance of pride cannot underestimated and in these turbulent times, it’s real reminder of the many great things about our society in that this event happens and attracts such huge and supportive crowds.
Once the parade had finished, we did what most football fans would do, we went to the Pub and watched N Ireland v Wales, and at the time I thought it was a terrible match………but I later re-adjusted my thoughts on what a terrible match looks like by watching England v Iceland.
Bring on Pre-Season with CPFC!!
Remember if you’d like to keep up to date with Proud and Palace events and news then please sign up at http://proudandpalace.weebly.com/sign-up.html
As a group, Proud & Palace decided a little while ago that we were here to talk football, and Palace, but be open about our identity as LGBT. We did not see ourselves becoming too political. The events in Orlando are, however, too big not to comment on.
When news of the mass shooting in Orlando first broke I was heart broken for the victims, and for their families and friends. There are too many senseless acts of violence in this world robbing innocent people of their lives. But this was one which had deliberately and aggressively attacked the LGBT community. A community of which I am proud to be a member.
The only thing which the gunman knew about the people he killed was that they were LGBT, or friends of the LGBT community. And he hated the idea of that so much he did not think those people deserved to live. By proxy, therefore, that gunman felt the same about myself. And many of my friends. To live knowing there are people in this world who would kill you for who you are is a heavy load to carry in your heart.
However, on Monday there was a new type of sadness that came over me. Why were so many member of the media failing to recognise what had happened to our community? Owen Jones was talked over and dismissed to the point of walking out on Sky News. The Daily Mail neglected to even mention the atrocity on its front page. There were lots of uses of the word "terrorism" but incredibly few mentions of "homophobia".
Even the usually brilliant Jon Snow struggled to find the right tone as he bounced between people in the crowd on Channel 4's live coverage of the Soho vigil. Unsure how to describe the atmosphere, one of our greatest broadcasters stuttered over the words. "It's almost... Well.... Almost positive, I think". For reference Jon, the word to describe it is "pride".
Friends, colleagues, people on social media didn't seem to know how to talk about it. A lot opted not to, which in itself prompted a backlash from some LGBT friends of mine. We yearned for people to understand how deeply we were effected. This was not us trying to take sole ownership of grief over the tragedy. ThIs was us dealing with the chilling realisation that there but for the grace of God were we, just as people were shouting over us and saying "no it's not about that".
Coming out of the darkness of these events, it is more important than ever for the LGBT community to raise our own voices. We cannot expect the mainstream media to speak for us. We cannot expect them to articulate the complexity of the issues we face with homophobia.
I started working with Proud & Palace for this reason, to help in my own small way to give our community a voice in an area where it did not have one. Because the vigils around the world, including the one in Soho, said more on the front page of this morning's Metro than any headline could. When we stand together as a community, our voice is undeniable.
The Proud And Palace supporters group were first introduced to TEB readers back in November 2014 so we thought it was about time we caught up with them. We had a chat with Stephanie Fuller who explains below how the group has grown since it began.
Firstly, thanks again to TEB for running this somewhat clunky submission.
When I first started the group as an online presence in late 2014 I admit that it was a little scary as I was very unsure how it would be received. Thankfully, I have since been joined by Emma Wright and Deano Tracey-Cline who both help me run the group which has been a massive help as we share the load equally, but we could always use a little more help!
We now have close to a thousand followers on Twitter (including the official Palace account), around 250 connections on Facebook and a large number of people that have joined our mailing list through our website where all are welcome while privacy is respected.
So what is Proud and Palace?
We are a group run entirely by volunteers that exist to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) supporters of Crystal Palace Football Club. In the last few years LGBT fan groups have emerged at Swansea City, Everton, Ipswich Town, Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Charlton Athletic, West Ham United, Bristol Rovers, Coventry City, Portsmouth, Leicester City and probably a few others I have missed!
Each group is a different to the next, but the aims are ultimately the same – to create an inclusive environment for LGBT fans and players within football.
As for our group, most importantly we are all Palace fans, fanatical as any fanatic with the very same split opinions on issues as varied as ‘the sash versus the yellow kit? Eric ‘Ninja’ Young or Scott Dann? and should Punch have started in the FA Cup Final? (to be honest, we all agree on that last one!)
Just like any fan, we have watched an awful lot of mediocre football as a result of our love of Palace and we would not have it any other way. I will be honest, we went a bit quiet in the days immediately after the FA Cup Final. We just did not want to talk about it and like all Palace fans, had to endure returning to work to be told by colleagues how well the team did and how great the Palace fans are. All true, but we still lost and having been there in 1990 too, can we please make it third time lucky?
The three of us recently met with the club at their Soho offices and they offered their full support to Proud and Palace, which is absolutely brilliant. All this means that as well as now being an officially recognised group by Palace, we will also become more visible following an official launch event at the start of the 2016/2017 season. It really is exciting times and more importantly it further cements the feeling that Palace really is a community club, and a club that celebrates the diversity of its supporter base, of which we are just one strand.
People have asked us on more than one occasion whether we are needed. Well, first of all, we focus on the fact that we are Palace fans and LGBT second. Our aim is to show football fans that the LGBT community has a presence and a voice in football, and we are just like any other fans (well probably slightly better dressed, more attractive, and more devastating wit!).
Joking aside, we will mostly talk about Palace but in doing so, we will be open about who we are as the organisers of the group. As a group we will provide a voice to challenge discrimination within football and in particular at Palace matches, but we want to keep the message one of being united by the red and blue, and being part of the Palace family.
The recent incident with Eddie Izzard at the FA Cup Final was as heartening as it was sad. It was great that so many Palace fans came to the defence of Eddie both at the time and then latterly online, but the incident itself does also act as a reminder that there is still some way to go, and you did not need to dig too deep into online forums to see that was the case.
It has been discussed often in the media the reasons why there are no ‘out’ players in our professional game, and whilst the reasons for that will of course be varied, we are about creating a climate where the response from the terraces will not be one of barriers to a player coming out. We are about a place on the pitch, a seat in the stands, and a stake in the game that we all love.
I mentioned the FA Cup earlier, and that day was also the first chance for us to display our Proud and Palace flag. On Wembley way and within the stadium, it drew many positive comments and even mascots Pete and Alice made a point of being pictured with our flag. The flag itself was funded by the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) and we must say a special thanks to them and Anwar Uddin.
Over the summer we will have social events around London LGBT Pride and Euro 2016, and the Palace pre-season tour of the US and Canada. We were pleased when some of the Palace fans Stateside said they would take our flag to matches across the pond this summer. We are also planning to support events by other Palace fan groups, such as a fundraising event for Study Centre.
We see working with the club and other Palace fan groups as being central to breaking down barriers, reducing stigma, and raising the profile of our group, in the end we want create an environment that means being LGBT does not mean you stop supporting your team. Quite simply it just should not matter.