Lincolnshire FA has recently seen their LGBTQ+ Inclusion work shortlisted in the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion category in the County FA Recognition Awards 2023.
The Awards, which will be announced at Wembley Stadium connected by EE on Thursday 23rd November 2023, recognise and endorse the best projects, products and services delivered by County FAs over the past season while sharing best practice and learnings from around the country.
So what exactly did we do when it comes to making the game more inclusive for LGBTQ+ individuals? And what impact did this have?
At least 3.2% of the UK identifies as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual, and there are at least 250,000 Trans people in the UK (2021 Census). This pattern is consistent at a local level.
Despite this, Homophobia and LGBTQ+ Inclusion is a prevalent issue in football. 17 per cent of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people have experienced homophobia or transphobia in sport, and 49 per cent have witnessed it (LGBT in Britain – Hate Crime, 2017). Furthermore, 43 per cent of LGBTQ+ people think public sporting events aren’t a welcoming space for them (YouGov for Stonewall, 2017) and a third (33 per cent) of LGBTQ+ people who participate or follow sport are not out to anyone in their sporting life (Out in Sport, 2019).
These statistics suggest that sport, and especially football, are not welcoming spaces for people who identify as LGBTQ+. This is enforced by research that suggests that one in five (20 per cent) of sport fans think anti-LGBTQ+ language in harmless if it’s just meant as banter (ICM for Stonewall, 2020).
The data shows that sport, and especially football, has huge strides to make to become a safe, inclusive and welcoming space for those that identify as LGBTQ+.
Lincolnshire FA recognises that they are in a position to influence positive change at a local football, and support the development of clubs, volunteers and environments that are LGBTQ+ Inclusive.
The Lincolnshire FA Vision “One Lincolnshire Community, United and Inspired by the Power of Football” is underpinned by the mission “to provide our communities with the platform to engage, unite and thrive through a safe and inclusive football experience,” is built on the foundations of unity, inclusivity, and acceptance and highlights the organisation’s commitment developing safe, inclusive environments.
Lincolnshire FA’s goal is for all football in the county and beyond to be an environment where every player, coach, referee, spectator, or volunteer can enjoy the game and feel comfortable in being themselves, without fear of discrimination.
With the above statistics in mind, Lincolnshire FA set out to:
- Advocate for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football across Lincolnshire
- Provide more LGBTQ+ Inclusive playing opportunities
- Raise awareness of LGBTQ+ identities, issues, and barriers to participation
- Raise awareness of the reporting methods for discrimination to tackle homophobia in football across Lincolnshire
- Guide clubs to be more LGBTQ+ Inclusive and recognise those that are making progress in this space
In pursuit of creating more LGBTQ+ Inclusive environments across football in Lincolnshire, Lincolnshire FA developed a programme of initiatives throughout the football season. This included:
- The appointment of a voluntary LGBTQ+ Ambassador
- The launch of the Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited Club Programme
- A series of LGBTQ+ Inclusion Workshops
- Social Media campaigns in line with national campaigns, such as Rainbow Laces Week, Football v Homophobia Month of Action, Football v Transphobia Week, and Pride Month
- The Lincolnshire FA Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action
Lincolnshire FA’s LGBTQ+ Ambassador, Zack, was appointed just before Rainbow Laces Week in 2022. Zack is an openly gay grassroots player who has received homophobic abuse in the past, however has shown great personal strength to sustain his involvement in the game and become a proud voice advocating for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football.
Originally inspired by Norfolk FA’s initiative shared as best practice, the Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Programme requires clubs to attend an LGBTQ+ Workshop and appoint an LGBTQ+ Ambassador, have a club equality policy, have inclusive posters around club sites, and have all players, coaches and volunteers over the age of 11 within the club sign an LGBTQ+ Inclusion Agreement. The Programme was developed through a vigorous feedback process from Alex Baker (FA Council, Stonewall FC Chair), Lincolnshire FA’s LGBTQ+ Ambassador, the LFA Youth Council Diversity and Inclusion Lead, and was piloted with a local grassroots club thanks to our IAG.
Lincolnshire FA’s LGBTQ+ Workshops raise awareness of LGBTQ+ Identities, terminology, and issues in football, and help attendees to develop LGBTQ+ environments.
Lincolnshire FA’s Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action saw Lincoln City FC dedicate a game to Football v Homophobia. The following day saw a mixed-gender tournament and a Q&A Panel.
Lincolnshire FA’s series of initiatives in the 2022/23 season were hugely successful.
The LGBTQ+ Ambassador supported the Association in advocating LGBTQ+ Inclusion at grassroots level. Zack’s testimony of his experience receiving homophobia on the pitch proved an incredibly powerful message to coaches, players and volunteers.
The Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited Club Programme has been awarded to 6 clubs, with a further 4 engaged with the programme. Feedback has been incredibly positive. One club that is now accredited shared a story of a sibling of one of their players now feeling comfortable attending games thanks to the accreditation – they previously saw football as unwelcome because of their sexuality, but now come to watch every week!
“The Rainbow Laces was a first step for everyone into the programme. That raised so much awareness, because it’s so unusual to some and makes them ask – ‘why?’ And the minute some askes you why, you can open a dialogue with them. That was a big thing for us.” - Lee Black, coach at Spalding United JFC.
The LGBTQ+ Inclusion workshops engaged over 65 attendees across 5 workshops. Feedback from attendees has shown increases in knowledge of LGBTQ+ identities and issues, confidence supporting LGBTQ+ players, and knowledge of the reporting process, with 100% of attendees enjoying the workshop.
Lincolnshire FA’s Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action saw Zack delivering a Q&A to over 9,900 spectators at half-time of Lincoln City’s dedicated game, and a section in the matchday programme. Over 60 players attended the mixed-gender tournament from across the male, female, disability and walking football pathways. Over 80 attendees attended the panel Q&A event, with Lou Englefield (Pride Sports), Billy Bingham (Astra Partners, Jake Daniels’ Agent) and Graeme Smith (Foxes Pride Chair and Co-Founder) discussing homophobia and LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football.
Jordan Mason, Football Development Officer (Disability & Inclusion), said: "I’m delighted to see that our LGBTQ+ Inclusion initiatives across last season are being recognised at a national scale by The FA.
Last year saw over 60 attendees engage with our LGBTQ+ Workshops, over 80 attendees at out Football v Homophobia event, and to date we have 6 clubs recognised as LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited. On top of this, we appointed our first ever LGBTQ+ Ambassador, and transgender inclusion workshops have been delivered to the staff team and to grassroots stakeholders.
Football in Lincolnshire is more inclusive than it’s ever been for those that identify as LGBTQ+, and it’s a testament to the fantastic team here that we are moving in the right direction."
For more information on Inclusion in Lincolnshire, click here
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