@england

Kick It Out’s Chris Paouros explains why LGBTQI visibility on the pitch is so important

BY CHRIS PAOUROS, IMAGE BY @ENGLAND

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams.

And during a European Championship, the captain of the England team is more than a leader on the pitch, they are a symbol of our collective hopes and aspirations, which is why we can’t underestimate the significance of Harry Kane wearing a rainbow armband in the Euro 2020 game against Germany. 

Visibility matters. Millions of people across Europe will be watching the game and it’s hard to underestimate what seeing that rainbow armband, a demonstrable expression of allyship from Team England to the LGBTQI community during Pride month, can do to break stigma and taboos. This is not a political act, but one of humanity. 

English football has the most active network of LGBTQI fan groups in the world, and the English game, whether it’s via Rainbow Laces or support of the Football v Homophobia campaign, regularly demonstrates a commitment to LGBTQI inclusion. One of the FA’s strategic aims is to deliver a game “free from discrimination”, so Team England’s expression of solidarity, not only with LGBTQI people but also with other Federations that have chosen to support us, is immeasurable. 

All this is against a backdrop of our rights being under attack and rolled back in some parts of Europe, and homophobic hate crime almost trebling in the last five years in the UK. Last year’s Kick It Out statistics saw a 95% increase in reports of homophobia in the English game and in Kick It Out’s September 2020 YouGov poll of 1000 football fans, 32 per cent of fans surveyed said they had witnessed homophobic abuse at a football match, while 41 per cent had seen homophobia aimed at a footballer on social media. Recent independent research from education charity Just Like Us also found that pupils in schools with positive messaging about being LGBTQI are less likely to contemplate suicide, whether they’re LGBTQI or not – so seeing the England captain visibly demonstrating his allyship, ensuring the normalisation of the LGBTQI community in day-to-day life, can literally be life-saving. 

So this display is significant. It’s significant to LGBTQI young people who might be struggling with who they are; it’s significant to anyone living in fear or those who haven’t come out, and it’s significant to those of us who are out and love football – it is clearly telling us all that we belong. We belong in our beautiful game and in our communities and what could be better in terms of the positive impact our national game can have than that?

Share your pictures using the #rainbowarmband 

Chris Paouros is vice chair of Kick It Out, football’s inclusion and anti-discrimination charity

@chrispaouros @kickitout 

Photo credit – @England

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