First LGBT football fans group in region vows to change ‘very intimidating’ atmosphere
Fans of a Premier League football club have started the first LGBT supporters group in their area.
Middlesbrough fans have founded Rainbow Reds, the thirteenth group of its kind to be recognised by its Premier League team, and the first in the region.
Newcastle, Sunderland and Hartlepool, the other prominent teams in north-east England, have so far failed to start an LGBT fans group.
In establishing the group, Middlesbrough fans join supporters of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, current champions Leicester City and 22 other teams from across the UK.
Dave Smith, the group’s founder, said he set up the Rainbow Reds because “even in 2017, a football match at all levels can be a very intimidating place, especially if you are LGBT.”
He said that “tackling anti-LGBT abuse in football is everyone’s business,” and thus aims to do his part in creating “a positive environment for LGBT+ fans and any player contemplating coming out.”
Smith was troubled by what he saw as “an acceptance that homophobic related chants are purely harmless banter – despite recent campaigns from Stonewall and Kick It Out.”
There were 68 discrimination reports relating to sexual orientation made to anti-hate football group Kick It Out last season – 17 percent of all reports – a rise of four percent on the previous season.
In response, Kick It Out issued 10,000 booklets to stewards across the country, which are designed to help the officials “effectively challenge” anti-LGBT abuse at matches.
Smith said the Rainbow Reds will allow Boro fans to “embrace who we are and support our team at the same time.
“Since launching the group just over a week ago, I have had feedback from long time season ticket holders who shared their pride.
“We have had enthusiastic young supporters getting in touch asking how they can get involved – one of these guys designed the actual logo.”
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He added it was “a crying shame” there was currently no active gay player in the top tier of British football.
His group’s task was to “help change attitudes on match days,” to create a better environment.
Earlier this year, League One club Charlton Athletic dedicated one of its matches to fighting homophobia for the first time.
Manchester United, one of the richest, most successful clubs in the world, has also teamed up with Stonewall to tackle homophobia.
The club has been applauded almost across the board for its decision, with footballers, fans and LGBT activists celebrating the club’s decision.