Fare last week hosted the first Fare v Homophobia conference, featuring guests from across the globe who came together to dissect and prompt action on issues of homophobia in football and how the industry can better represent LGBTIQ+ inclusion and rights. The conference saw 37 speakers from 18 countries:
Over two afternoons, over 1000 individuals were able to join the virtual conference for a series of active sessions that ranged from the position of the EU in regards to LGBTIQ rights to LGBTIQ leadership from the community, to grassroots activism, athletes giving their perspectives, to trans rights I football and the role of LGBTIQ football fans.
Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, was the first guest on Day 1, whose focus was on the new policy frameworks the EU now has in place and the importance of civil society in challenging EU states that deny LGBTIQ+ rights.
Joyce Cook (Chief of Social Responsibility at FIFA) joined a discussion with Kelly Simmons (English FA) and Klara Bjartmarz (Iceland FA) about their experiences working in the game as LGBTIQ+ leaders. Joyce called for federations and sponsors to do more to take responsibility away from individuals, while Klara highlighted the value of dealing with women and men’s football under one umbrella in order to achieve uniform levels of inclusion.
Trans activist Natalie Washington made the point that winning the ‘trans battle’ in sport is key to winning over wider support. She asked the pertinent question that if trans women are not considered women in sport, who are they in the rest of society? In the same session exploring grassroots movements, Suzi Andreis (Poland) discussed the challenges facing LGBTIQ+ football clubs being on the fringes of both football and queer activism.
Jon Holmes, Sky Sports and founder of Sports Media LGBT+ joined former England international Lianne Sanderson and Managing Editor of Outsports, Dawn Ennis. Holmes said that news media need to follow sports media’s example which is beginning to provide much more varied and nuanced coverage of queer athletes and stories. The group, moderated by Alex Kay-Jelski of The Athletic, considered to what extent they are defined by their queer identity, asking: are they gay journalists or are they journalists who are gay?
Pernille Harder, Chelsea FC player and Denmark captain, joined a panel discussion on athlete activism for LGBTIQ+ inclusion and highlighted the positive impact of people who aren’t Black, women, or gay actively talking about racism, sexism, and homophobia.
Ryan Russell, an NFL free agent – and the only openly queer man involved in the USA’s top four men’s leagues – said there is a huge need for representation in the stands, in marketing, in the offices and then on the pitch and stressed how much more needs to be done to support this.
Aston Villa’s Anita Asante called for social media platforms to not only protect athletes but more generally marginalised groups online. She joined the call for platforms to starting taking more responsibility.
Day Two of the conference kicked off with Malin Björk MEP at the LGBTI Intergroup of the European Parliament saying the first ever European LGBTI strategy has weak formulations around sport, but can use this as an opportunity. She called for there to be major activity in place around the Women’s UEFA European Championships in 2022, to promote LGBTIQ+ inclusion.
The Policing women’s bodies in sport discussion drew attention to the fact that science refutes the claims commonly used to support the exclusion of trans, intersex and non-binary individuals. The panel of academics and international and Olympic athletes discussed how the policing of women’s bodies is a symptom of society’s unwillingness to celebrate exceptional women. While dominant athletes in men’s sports are celebrated, in women’s sports they are treated with suspicion. Raphael Martins, founder of Brazil’s first team for trans men, emphasised that trans players often feel excluded from both ‘mainstream’ and LBGTIQ+ clubs.
The Supporters Pride session centred around the need for allies to speak out in support of LGBTIQ+ rights as they have a protection that queer people lack when speaking out on the topic. A key insight from Rishi Madlani of Foxes Pride, emphasised the continued lack of representation of ethnic minority fans in LGBTIQ+ fan groups.
The conference finished with Johanna Wood, President of New Zealand Football and a co-leader of the organising committee for the Women’s World Cup in Aus/ NZ in 2023. She confirmed the tournament will have gender inclusive facilities, which will have a knock-on effect on other sports events and help break down a historically ‘macho rugby culture’. Wood said they are looking for what will be the ‘wow factor’ to make their tournament the most inclusive yet, while Pride House International emphasised the importance of working with local queer populations to ensure tournaments have a long-lasting legacy.