Harry Maguire blasted by LGBTQ+ supporters for ‘proper fans don’t boo’ comment in Jordan Henderson row

Jordan Henderson pictured on the left on the pitch playing for his Saudi club. On the right is Harry Maguire playing for his team.

Manchester United player Harry Maguire has found himself at the centre of a heated row with England’s LGBTQ+ football supporters group after he said those who booed Jordan Henderson weren’t “proper fans”.

Henderson, who was once seen as a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in football, was roundly criticised when he left Liverpool to sign with Saudi club Al-Ettifaq in July.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, and Henderson was faced furious backlash from fans for signing with a club where open support for the LGBTQ+ community wouldn’t be tolerated.

With his popularity tanking, Henderson – who still plays for England’s national team – was booed during recent matches against Italy and Australia.

That appears to have ruffled feathers among some footballers, with Manchester United’s Maguire jumping to Henderson’s defence.

“Proper England fans don’t boo players,” Maguire said. “Don’t boo players who dedicate their life to play and do everything they can to make this country have good memories and have special moments for them and their families.

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“You heard when he came on the cheers and a few jeers, but they aren’t England fans.”

England footballer Jordan Henderson wears a red strip with a rainbow captain's armband
Jordan Henderson has worn a rainbow armband in the past. (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty)

Speaking to The Mirror, England’s LGBTQ+ supporters group Three Lions Pride defended fans’ right to boo players – especially when they fail to stand up for queer people’s rights.

“Fans have a valid voice, and ultimately there are many actions that fans can take to show their distaste with players, teams or owners,” a spokesperson for the group said.

“We’ve seen superb fan action across the game in relation to all of these aspects in the past.”

They added: “Booing is never something that fans wish to do to their own team, but it is indicative of the strength of feeling around this issue and Henderson’s choices. It is clear that it is not just LGBT+ fans who think that he is a Saudi sellout.

“To say that fans who follow this team loyally home and away, and at great personal expense, are not ‘proper’ fans gatekeepe the game – how else would Maguire like fans to register their distaste?”

Three Lions Pride said there is a “lack of interest” in football in what fans have to say, which means their only option is “direct action”.

“Gatekeeping football to what a player believes makes a ‘proper’ fan harks back to a time where LGBT+ fans weren’t welcome and excludes people from the beautiful game.

“Fans are the soul of the game, without us there is no atmosphere.”

Jordan Henderson hit back at ‘disappointing’ booing

Henderson had a significant LGBTQ+ fan following during his time as Liverpool captain thanks to his vocal support for the community – but that goodwill quickly evaporated when he signed with Al-Ettifaq.

Responding to the booing, Henderson said it was “disappointing” but insisted he wouldn’t let the backlash get to him.

“If people want to boo if I’m playing in a different country, that’s fine. Everyone is going to have an opinion over playing over in Saudi.

“I’ve spoken in the past about the reasons for that. Whether people believe us or not is up to them.”

Henderson first addressed the criticism in an interview with The Athletic in September, where he admitted that the furore had left him feeling “hurt”.

“All I can say is that I’m sorry they feel like that,” he said.

“My intention was never to hurt anyone. My intention has always been to help causes and communities where I felt they had asked for my help.

“When I was making the decision, the way I tried to look at it was, by not going, we can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar. But then nothing’s going to happen. Nothing’s going to change.”