Herts police and FA pledge to stamp out homophobia in football after survey results revealed

Hertfordshire police, the Hertfordshire FA and clubs from across the county gathered at Watford's Vi

Hertfordshire police, the Hertfordshire FA and clubs from across the county gathered at Watford's Vicarage Road as results of a survey into homophobia in football were revealed. Picture: Nicola Lawrence - Credit: Archant

Herts police and the Hertfordshire Football Association revealed the results of a survey into homophobia in football yesterday.

Speakers at the event with representatives and players from Royston Town FC, Kings Langley FC, Hitch

Speakers at the event with representatives and players from Royston Town FC, Kings Langley FC, Hitchin Town FC, Hemel Hempstead Town FC, Stevenage FC and Watford FC. Picture: Nicola Lawrence - Credit: Archant

Representatives from clubs across the county – including Stevenage FC, Hitchin Town FC and Royston Town FC – attended the event at Watford FC’s Vicarage Road, along with police hate crime officers, LGBT liaison officers and representatives from LGBT rights charity Stonewall.

While the survey revealed 86 per cent of respondents would feel comfortable with their team signing a gay player and 81 per cent disagreeing that homophobic chanting at a match is acceptable, some shocking statistics were highlighted.

Homophobic abuse had been heard by 45 per cent of people surveyed while at matches in the last three years, 61 per cent believed that more should be done by clubs to educate fans about homophobia and a massive 94 per cent felt that football clubs and police should take more action to tackle homophobic abuse.

As a result, the police and FA in Herts have pledged to make homophobia a thing of the past by creating third party reporting centres at each football club in the county, after 20 per cent of fans said they would not feel comfortable to report an offence if they became a victim at a match.

Speakers at the event - Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls, PC Pat Davey (hate crime officer), PC Do

Speakers at the event - Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls, PC Pat Davey (hate crime officer), PC Donna Horwood (hate crime officer), Special Constable Aaron West, Callum Ellis (Hitchin Town FC community coach), and Sergeant Steve Alison (LGBT + liaison officer). Picture: Nicola Lawrence - Credit: Archant

Chief Superintendent Matthew Nicholls, the Herts force’s lead for sexual orientation and gender identity said: “While our survey has revealed some positive attitudes to having gay, lesbian and transgender players in the game – and to challenging homophobia in football – the results also demonstrate this prejudice still exists.

“We are keen to reach a stage where homophobia in football is a thing of the past, and that fans and players from the LGBT community can attend and play matches without fear of being their true selves.

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“To achieve this we will continue to work with the Hertfordshire FA to get the message across that homophobia in football is unacceptable and considered a hate crime which should either be reported to police, the FA, your local club or via the ‘Kick it Out’ app.”

Karl Lingham, the joint acting chief executive for Herts FA, is determined to stop homophobia from being a barrier in football.

“We are excited to be working alongside Hertfordshire Constabulary to tackle homophobia so that everyone can feel able to play, coach, officiate, administer or be involved in any role in football,” he said.

“An individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never be a barrier to participating in our national sport.”

Hitchin Town FC community coach Callum Ellis has experienced homophobic abuse and is delighted that more is being done to tackle the problem.

“During the time I have been involved in football in the county I have frequently had vile homophobic abuse directed at me and players I have coached,” he said.

“I therefore welcome Hertfordshire Constabulary and the Hertfordshire FA undertaking this research and shining a spotlight on the real issues of homophobia in the game. It is clear real discrimination still exists, but as a result of this partnership working I feel the future is brighter for LGBT players, coaches and all those involved in football in Hertfordshire.”

Royston Town FC community officer Lewis Endacott spoke of the club’s commitment to inclusivity.

“Royston Town is proud to support this campaign as it is doing a great job at making football safe and welcoming for everyone,” he said.

“Discrimination against LGBT people in football is unacceptable. We are committed to creating inclusive football environments for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Football is a fantastic way of bringing all members of the community together and Royston Town Football Club has recently launched their own community programme that will be use football to offer opportunities to every member of the local community.”

Stevenage FC media and marketing Dan Branowsky said: “Stevenage Football Club is 100 per cent committed to total inclusivity and supports Herts police and the Hertfordshire FA’s efforts to bring an end to homophobia in football.

“The Lamex Stadium is a place where we want all our supporters, no matter their sexual orientation, to feel safe and proud to be associated with. The fight to stamp out homophobia is an ongoing one and Stevenage FC will continue to play its part.”

Hitchin Town FC manager Mark Burke echoed this.

“Football should be inclusive and as a club we want to be open and accessible to the whole community,” he said

“Events like these are important for tackling issues and we will be looking to work in collaboration with the police and Hertfordshire FA to raise awareness of hate crime and how it can be reported. Hitchin Town FC is now looking forward to becoming a third party reporting centre.”

If you experience homophobic abuse at a football match, you can report it anonymously to Kick It Out, via their free app, by calling 0800 169 9414 or fill out an online reporting form at kickitout.org/get-involved/report-it/online-reporting-form/.