For me, as a lifelong bi Liverpool supporter, it means so much to see Liverpool FC joining Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme.
When I started going to matches as a kid I didn’t see anybody like me. It wasn’t until I became older and my identity became more apparent and more important to me that I even saw that as a problem.
It didn’t happen often, but when I did hear homophobic and misogynistic comments I didn’t have the confidence or tools to call them out.
I’m not alone – according to Stonewall research 72 per cent of football fans have heard homophobic abuse at football matches. This is damaging.
I really started to believe that I and other LGBT people weren’t welcome at football grounds or in the pub watching a game.
The effect it had on me was that I really started to believe that I and other LGBT people weren’t welcome at football grounds or in the pub watching a game.
I started watching matches at home, which simply isn’t the best way to experience the atmosphere that is such a huge part of football.
As I’ve grown older I’ve noticed a positive shift in attitudes among football supporters I know and sit alongside.
But it’s important to point out that this isn’t just an issue in top flight football.
We need to work at this across the game: from the Premier League to League 2, from the Northern League to the Southern League, in non-League, school teams and casual kickabouts.
It’s also about those who work in football. Lots of people help make football happen - stewards, club shop employees, programme sellers, ticket sellers, customer service, coaches, ground staff and bartenders. These people can all help support LGBT equality in sport.
To bring together two major facets of my identity, which I never thought would be able to coexist, is a powerful thing.
By joining up as a Diversity Champion, Liverpool FC has made it clear its commitment to helping further LGBT equality and ensuring the club is inclusive of everyone, no matter who they are. Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign means a lot to me. To bring together two major facets of my identity, which I never thought would be able to coexist, is a powerful thing.
The aim of the campaign is to make sport everyone’s game by showing support for LGBT fans and players on and off the pitch.
We’re aware that there are no ‘out’ footballers at the highest level.
It’s not our job to force anyone out of the closet. Instead, it’s up to us to help nurture a climate where footballers feel able to be themselves without negative repercussions. A simple way to support is to see if your club has an LGBT fan group. Liverpool FC does – Kop Outs. If yours does then get involved. If not, be the change you want to see in the world and make it happen!
I’m proud to be bi and I’m proud to be a red, never more so than today, as my club signs up to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Together the club and its fans can help ensure acceptance without exception for all LGBT people.