This article was originally published in the OUT! Good Practice Handbook on Fighting Homophobia & Empowering LGBT+ Stakeholders in Football. To learn more about OUT!, visit the website. You can also read and/or download the handbook online.
The history of LGBT+ self-organisation among football fans can be traced back to the late-1980s, when the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) was founded in the United Kingdom.
Since then, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender fans across Europe have formed their own groups to advance an agenda of equality, diversity, and inclusion. These groups exist at club, national, and transnational levels, and have increased significantly in both size and number over the past 15 years.
As well as providing a safe space for LGBT+ fans to share their experiences and socialise, they campaign on a wide range of issues, from visibility and representation to sensitisation training and human rights at international tournaments. In some countries, LGBT+ fans’ groups engage in structured dialogue on a variety of subjects with governing bodies, either directly or through national supporters’ federations.
Queer Football Fanclubs
Queer Football Fanclubs held its first conference in Dortmund in 2007, bringing together LGBT+ fans and fans’ groups from around Germany. Over the next two years, the network expanded into other nations, before adopting a formal constitution in 2009.
QFF’s purpose is to challenge discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, cultivate national and international relationships to coordinate joint actions and the exchange of good practice, encourage the creation of new LGBT+ fans’ groups, and expedite the integration of existing groups into local fan structures. In addition, it also works on other supporter-related topics such as stadium bans, ticket pricing, and match scheduling.
One of QFF’s largest campaigns to date was the display of banners reading “Football Has No Gender” in multiple German stadia in October 2014. It has also been actively involved in discussions to make the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia and FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar more LGBT+ friendly.
This pioneering approach has resulted in sustained expansion, attracting members from England, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.
Pride in Football
Pride in Football was formed in 2014 by four longstanding LGBT+ fans’ groups: Canal Street Blues (Manchester City); Gay Gooners (Arsenal); Proud Canaries (Norwich City); and Proud Lilywhites (Tottenham Hotspur).
Their aim was to create a forum to “share good practice in promoting inclusion and combatting sexuality and [gender-based] discrimination in…stadia” and inspire the creation of similar groups at other clubs.
PiF has made a great deal of progress on its original objectives. It now has over 30 active members in the UK, including Three Lions Pride, a group for LGBT+ supporters of the England national team, and more and more clubs are recognising LGBT+ fans’ groups. This growth is likely to continue in the coming years, helped along by the successful annual #CALLITOUT event.
But there is still considerable room for improvement. As PiF recently acknowledged, the proliferation of LGBT+ fans’ groups “is a reflection not only of the wish of [LGBT+] fans to work with their clubs to promote inclusion, but also of the lack of adequate action from relevant governing bodies to combat homophobic abuse in and around stadia.”