A man who received homophobic abuse on Twitter from a footballer at his club has organised a charity match to draw attention to homophobia in the game.
Walsall FC player Manny Smith had tweeted supporter Kevin Paddock calling him “queer” earlier this year, for which the FA fined him £1,200.
Now, Mr Paddock has used the experience to draw attention to homophobia in the game by putting on a charity match.
Smith had apologised to Mr Paddock earlier this year and said: “The comments were borne out of frustration and were tweeted in the heat of the moment. I deeply regret them. I realise that, as a professional sports person, I am a role model and my conduct, both in person and via social networking sites, should reflect this.”
Now, Mr Paddock has put on a charity match between Walsall supporters and Birmingham Blaze gay football club at 3pm on Saturday 9 June at the Sutton Coldfield FC ground.
Kevin Paddock told PinkNews.co.uk: “Since the ordeal in February of this year with Walsall defender Manny Smith I’ve used my experience to make people more aware of homophobia within the beautiful game. And I’ve managed to arrange a match between Walsall Supporters’ Trust and Birmingham Blaze, the Midlands biggest gay football team.
“I’ve received unanimous support from various campaigns, especially the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, and help and guidance from Walsall football club, especially club secretary Daniel Mole. I’ve also received a lot of help from Midlands-based gay communities like WAASP (Women Against Anti-Social Persecution).”
“I want to inspire people. I was talking to friends in the pub about football and everyone said there wasn’t any homophobia in football; but my experience shows there is. I want people to be aware of the homophobia in football, to give something back, and the best place to start is with supporters.”
A raffle will be held at the club house afterwards with prizes including a microwave from Walsall Gay Pride, a signed football shirt and programme from Walsall FC, a signed photo from Swansea City, a limited edition pendant from West Bromwich Albion and an anonymously-donated Shane Warne biography.
A £1 entry fee will be charged to watch the match, where raffle tickets will be on sale. All proceeds will go to the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Mr Paddock said transport would be on hand to take some supporters to nearby Birmingham’s gay quarter to socialise after the match.