Football gay liaison officers start training

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A day of training and consultation for volunteer liaison officers who will work with football clubs across England was held last week at The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic.

The new football season started earlier this month and for the first time homophobic abuse is against the rules in every Premier League and Football League club.

As part of the Football Association’s commitment to tackling homophobic abuse at all levels of the game, the decision to amend the ground regulations was approved after consultation with the Premier League and Football League in the early part of last season.

Questions of what constitutes homophobic abuse and how the gay footballing community can work with the Premier League and Football League clubs to tackle homophobia in football formed that basis of the event on 14th August.

Chris Basiurski, Campaigns Officer at the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN), told that they were very encouraged by the support the scheme has received from all the agencies involved in the game, including the police and the Professional Footballer’s Association.

The FA/GFSN initiative will appoint volunteers from the various gay football teams to act as liaison officers with each of the 92 English League Clubs.

The role of each officer will be to work alongside and advise the relevant staff at their assigned club of how best to discourage the homophobic abuse and behaviour that is prevalent at every level in the game.

It is hoped that this scheme will facilitate similar social and attitude change to that of the successful anti-racism campaigns in the last few decades.

The initiative will to bring together the various UK gay football organisations to work together to promote gay football while tackling the on going problems at every level of the game.

Over fifty volunteers from gay teams such as Birmingham Blaze FC, GFC Bournemouth, Leftfooters FC, Leicester Wildecats FC, London Falcons FC, London Titans FC, Merseyside Marauders FC, Nottingham Ball Bois FC, Village Manchester FC, Stonewall FC and Yorkshire Terriers FC came to The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic for a day of workshops and discussions that will form the initial basis of the project.

Justin Morley of Village Manchester FC, who is the Liaison Officer for Liverpool FC, felt that the day was a great success.

“It was encouraging to see so many people attending, not only from one area but from each area of the country represented equally,” he said.

“We felt that we all have a responsibility to deal with homophobia and its effects.

“This campaign is a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be no quick fix to the problem of homophobia on the terraces and on the pitch.

“I am sure that working with such a positive and committed group of volunteers, we will achieve our aim of creating an environment where homophobia is not the norm.

“I was also pleased that this initiative provided an opportunity for football fans and players from across the country to be able to work together and build bridges which can only further strengthen the gay sporting community.”

The Metropolitan Police oversee thirteen Premier League and Football League clubs in London and Superintendent Malcolm Simpson of the Public Order branch has backed the football authorities for working together to change ground regulations in England.

“The Metropolitan Police welcomes this change to ground regulations for football matches,” he said.

“Supporting stewards and volunteers in implementing the new ground rules is a practical way the Met will support action that tackles homophobic abuse in football. It is part of our ongoing commitment to tackle all forms of hate crime.”

Earlier this year the FA helped secure the 2008 International Gay and Lesbian Football Association’s World Championships for London.

They will be hosted next August by gay and lesbian football club London Leftfooters.