Gay football fans tackle homophobia

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Gay fans in Europe are joining an international campaign to kick discrimination out of football starting today.

LGBT supporters in Germany and Poland are participating in the Football Against Racism in Europe Action Week, which will see a series of events throughout the continent dedicated to promoting equality including anti-homophobia schemes.

It is coordinated by anti-racism in sport group Kick It Out in the UK, although there are no gay events going on, a spokesman told that he would have been happy to have arranged a programme if he had been approached, “We didn’t receive any applications for events on anti homophobia but we would certainly have considered it.”

He praised British teams such as Manchester City for showing commitment to equality after the club recently signed up to the Stonewall Diversity champions programme, which promotes good practice regarding sexual orientation in the workplace.

Gay teams such as Leftfooters and Stonewall FC having nothing planned and the Gay Football Supporters Network told that they had no knowledge about the event, leaving it up to their European counterparts to represent the gay cause.

In Germany gay fans of Hertha Berlin will be wearing anti homophobia scarves and holding a poster at their side’s game against Borussia Mönchengladbach this week.

Schalke Football Club will also be distributing anti homophobia posters in the city.

In Poland gay groups will be involved in a table football tournament.

The idea behind the FARE Action Week is that a wide range of initiatives and activities address local problems within their club or community, while also joining groups across the continent to present a unified stand against racism and discrimination and promote a message of One Game, One Community.

Last August, James Monkhouse and Michael Church, Norwich City fans, were found guilty by Norwich Magistrates’ Court of disorderly behaviour after reportedly shouting anti-gay chants aimed at Brighton football club fans.

Earlier this year the Football Association outlined its opposition to homophobia in the game, the FA’s director of corporate affairs, Simon Johnson, told “The FA is leading the way on tackling homophobia in football and our work is becoming recognised across Europe. We underline our opposition to homophobia in our football for all strategy along with race and disability discrimination.

“Abuse of any such nature can now be tackled by the FA via sanctions and potential bans.”

Other football clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Coventry City have also previously stated their commitment to the FA’s efforts to tackle homophobia in football.

Piara Powar, the director of FARE’s UK partner Kick It Out, said: “As a unique coming together of the football family – from fan groups, migrants and ethnic minorities, to the biggest clubs in the game – the FARE Action Week is a statement as to the type of sport we all want to be involved with.

“The importance of an inclusive and discrimination-free game that actively reaches out to all communities is our goal. With the support of UEFA and the whole European football family we know these ends are achievable.”

The campaign runs from the 17 – 30 October 2006.