Reading FC have pledged their support to The Football Association’s campaign to ban homophobia from the terraces.
The start of the 2007/08 season saw a change in football ground regulations with homophobic abuse now deemed punishable.
Richard Howgill of the Gay Football Supporter’s Network recently discovered that the Madejski Stadium outfit are top of the league when it comes to training their staff.
“I met the Stadium Safety Officer and the Chief Steward and outlined what we are trying to achieve and they were very supportive and positive about the campaign.
“I saw many practical aspects of stewarding and how they’re trained to handle homophobic chanting outside the ground on match days,” said Richard.
“All in all, it was an incredibly positive experience. Reading are well on top of what needs to be done and are very open to helping future initiatives in the local area.”
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GFSN Campaign Officer, Chris Basiurski, explained how the change in ground regulations came about and their hopes for the future:
“21 percent of all football supporters polled in a recent survey said they had experienced homophobic abuse and 73 percent of those regularly attend professional football matches.
“Homophobic chanting or abuse prevents many gay people actively participating in football either as a player or a supporter so we see this as an opportunity to make a difference to the situation while working towards a non-discriminatory atmosphere.”
The FA and the GFSN launched the Liaison Officer campaign at Charlton Athletic’s The Valley stadium in August.
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.
More than 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 last month went to The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic, for a day of workshops and discussions that will form the initial basis of the project.
The FA is also advising on the Gay and Lesbian World Cup which takes place in London next year.