There was an important move made by Scottish football clubs this week, as for the first time more than two-thirds of SPFL clubs have pledged to make the game more inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans. Sixteen more clubs joined the thirteen who had already signed up to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter, representing major progress by the sport in changing its stance towards LGBT fans.
The charter was set up and developed by the Equality Network charity and has received substantial support from the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign to gain the support of these clubs. Now every SPFL Premiership team has signed the charter with Clydebank FC becoming the first to do so from the West of Scotland Super League.
The charter contains a set of five principles that aim to make it easier for LGBT people to get involved in sport and has already received the support of over thirty governing bodies, including the Scottish Football Association, Scottish Rugby and Scottish Athletics, who are now joined by the SPFL.
Its aim is to make Scotland “a country where everyone can take part, enjoy, and succeed in sport at all levels whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity.” In signing the charter, football clubs make it clear that they are dedicated to fighting discrimination against LGBT groups and increasing the inclusivity of the beautiful game.
The announcement comes at a significant time for the sport. This year, the Equality Network published a Scottish LGBTI Hate Crime Report that reported that 15 per cent of LGBTI people had experienced hate targeted at them while watching football, while 51 per cent claimed to have witnessed it.
This corresponds with the Equality Network’s study from 2012, in which 57 per cent of LGBT people said they would be more likely to participate in sport if it was more LGBT friendly, with football being identified as the sport with the biggest challenges to overcome.
Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager of the Equality Network said, “With two thirds of SPFL clubs signed up to the LGBT Charter we’ve reached a milestone, but we’ve still a long way to go before we eliminate homophobia from the terraces.
“We’re looking forward to working with these clubs who today have made a commitment to LGBT supporters, officials and the next generation of LGBT players. Our door is always open to clubs who haven’t yet signed up and who want to make their club more inclusive.”
Hopefully, more clubs will sign the charter in the future as there is no justification for homophobic abuse at a sporting fixture. With the majority of clubs now on hand, it is hoped that the charter will be able to significantly improve conditions for LGBT fans. Yet, there is a big difference between club bosses pledging a charter and ultras in the stands doing the same thing.
If the sport is to be seen as truly inclusive then homophobic chants and taunts must be stopped and attitudes must be changed. Clubs will be aiming to do this and each attempt can only have a positive effect in increasing people’s inclusivity of LGBT people.
The increasingly welcoming scene can already be seen in football clubs across Britain. In 2013, a collection of Arsenal fans set up the ‘Gay Gooners’ support club, the country’s first group for LGBT supporters. This has led to more than 30 similar groups being set up across England at clubs such as Norwich, Manchester City and Tottenham.
In August, Celtic fans unfurled a banner in support of the LGBT movement during their home win over Kilmarnock, suggesting that the game is also becoming more accepting in Scotland.
Such instances show the development of attitudes in the game and Wednesday’s signing of the Charter only enforces the feeling that football is moving in the right direction. It can only be hoped that one day we will have a game that is truly inclusive and enjoyable for everyone.
Images courtesy of Equality Network