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.