On 15th October 2020, the Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB/URBSFA) hosted the third and final transnational network meeting of OUT!, a Football Supporters Europe-led (FSE) initiative aimed at tackling homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in football.
Following on from the first and second meetings in London and Dortmund, which focussed on fans and clubs respectively, the purpose of the third meeting was to examine the role of national associations and leagues.
The meeting was planned to take place at the KBVB/URBSFA headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic meant the safest and most practical option was to hold it online.
Despite such logistical challenges, the event was well attended. The other two principal project partners—Fuβballfans gegen Homophobie (FFGH) and Pride in Football—were represented, as were fans, players, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In addition, more than 30 representatives from European national associations and leagues participated.
The opening session included a brief overview of the project from FSE Executive Director Ronan Evain, project coordinator Greta Rinast, and KBVB/URBSFA Corporate Social Responsibility Co-ordinator An de Kock.
This was followed immediately by a lively and enlightening panel session entitled ‘Progress and Challenges in Fighting Homophobia in Football’. The panel consisted of four professionals from different backgrounds: Matthias De Roover, an amateur football player, KBVB/URBSFA ambassador, and Mister Gay Belgium 2019; Di Cunningham, the founder of Proud Canaries, co-founder of Three Lions Pride, and a director on the board of the Norfolk County F.A.; Sarah Gregorius, a former player who won a hundred caps for New Zealand, and is currently a policy & strategy officer at FIFPro; and Claudia Krobitzsch, the Diversity Manager at the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB). You can watch the full session on the FSE YouTube channel.
After a short break, the group split into two workshops. The first asked participants how leagues and national associations can involve supporters’ groups in their decision-making to create a more inclusive football environment. The second considered how national associations and leagues can become more inclusive for LGBT+ stakeholders.
Reflecting on the day’s events, Martin Endemann, Senior Project Manager at FSE, commented:
“We were, once again, pleased to have been able to bring together so many intelligent and interesting people to discuss the fight against homophobia in football and the empowerment of LGBT+ stakeholders. We would have much preferred to meet in person, but safety must always come first. The Belgian FA deserve a great deal of credit for organising such an insightful event.”
The recommendations of the project will be published in a publicly available handbook. The handbook will be launched during an online event in co-operation with the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBTI Rights on 11th December.
OUT! is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and supported by UEFA, QFF, and FIFPro.