At the recent Supporters Summit FSF affiliate member the Gay Football Supporters' Network presented a workshop on homophobia in football and a motion was passed to work with GFSN on creating an action plan for fans to tackle the issue. But who are GFSN and what do they do? Find out more...
The FSF: So, tell us a bit about GFSN.
GFSN was formed in 1989 as a social network for football fans who happened to be gay (though our members cover the full LGB&T spectrum - lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). Originally in London, branches were set up around the country and in the late 1990s started to spawn LGB&T-friendly football clubs leading to the set up of the GFSN National League in 2002 (which has grown from four to fifteen clubs).
In the last decade, GFSN has started campaigning on behalf of its supporting and playing members against all forms of homophobia in football. Today we have well over 1,000 members and players involved with us. Our three inter-connected strands are Supporting, Playing and Campaigning, not unlike the FSF’s Supporting, Informing and Campaigning!
Who can join?
Most of our members are LGB&T, but we also have dozens of straight members who agree with our aims...that’s our only requirement. We know at least 77 of the 92 league clubs in England and Wales are supported by at least one GFSN member, plus many non-league, Scottish and other clubs, but we know there are thousands of other LGB&T football fans out there for us to reach.
Do members meet?
We have a national summer get-together where members take over a city or seaside resort as voted for by them, and a Christmas party. During international tournaments, many of our clubs host socials to watch the big games (we had 60+ members watching Euro 2012 at a gay bar in Camden last year!) and we hold regular London socials (since April a trip to a Millwall match, watching the Champions League final and London Pride).
As our league has a strong social side, our members make the most out of fixture weekends with both teams socialising before and/or after the match and often taking in a local professional match.
What sort of campaigning do you do?
One of our missions is to help create an atmosphere in football where people can be open about their sexuality if they want to be and can do so in a safe and tolerant environment. That's all we want really, and we don't think it's too much to ask.
While attitudes to racism have hardened in football over the years, thanks to the tremendous work of the likes of Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card and through the hard work of football supporters, we feel that more work needs to be done before this safe and tolerant atmosphere becomes a reality. We believe everyone has a role to play, especially the LGB&T football community itself, so we have been working with the football authorities to look at what we can do together to address the problem.
And it is still a problem, not only does the UK have no out gay male footballers at the moment (and has only ever had one in Justin Fashanu), but the number of gay players across the world who have ever come out can be counted on one hand. We know that this isn't because gay people don't like or are no good at football, the GFSN itself demonstrates that this is nonsense, but because gay players still do not feel safe to come out.
As our joint report with the Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters' Club last year shows, why should we be surprised when at least 72% of Brighton & Hove Albion's opponents last season subjected them to homophobic abuse?
So we work with the likes of the FA, the leagues, the unions and the campaigning groups to see how we can tackle the problem. We sat next to the FSF at the Downing Street summit on homophobia and racism in football, which was appropriate as we are both fan groups and we are delighted to be working together.
Tell us a bit about the motion passed at the Supporters Summit.
The motion, proposed by the FSF’s Raj Chandarana and which had the overwhelming support of the summit, was for the FSF with the help of the GFSN to come up with an action plan for supporters and supporters' groups to look at the problem of homophobia in football, especially in the context of the Brighton & Hove Albion report. This is something we are really excited about, and anyone wishing to get involved should contact Raj.
What are your aims for the season?
We’re coming up to our 25th anniversary so we’re planning celebration events around supporting, campaigning and playing. We’re also approaching potential sponsors since the world’s only national league and cup aimed at the LGB&T community with 20+ clubs all over the UK should be an attractive proposition. Plus ‘business as usual’ with membership and socials, running a league and cup, and managing our campaigns where we hope to do more joint work with the FSF.
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