Editor’s Note: Unfortunately disruption has made this edition of The Badger a little different. Unavoidable circumstances meant that this edition was delayed. Consequently, some of these articles are a little older and we haven’t been able to get the newest stories to you this time. However, we think that it is fair that those who wrote great articles have them published, and these important stories are read by you.
Words by Andreas Lange, Staff Writer
The focus on winning was put on the sidelines during a Sunday match between Montpelier Villa WFC and Woodingdean Wanderers WFC at Falmer Sports Complex on February 13th, as both teams took a stance against homophobia in football.
From faces to laces, rainbow colours were everywhere, with rainbow flags draped across the fence and the vibrant match ball easy to spot on an overcast Sunday.
“We’re just raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and making sure that football is a space for everybody”, team captain and manager for Montpelier Villa WFC, Charlotte Smyrk says.
“I don’t think your sexual orientation or your gender identity should govern wether or not you feel in a safe space playing football, so I think it’s really important that regardless of who you are and your identity, you are able to compete and participate in football”.
The annual campaign Football V Homophobia Month of Action, urges those on and off the pitch to focus their efforts to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Smyrk says campaigns like this are “great” and thinks “more needs to be done” to challenge homophobia in football.
“I think being more active with challenging stereotypes and if you hear comments on the sidelines, be that person to challenge them.”
When discussing a report by Professional Footballers Association from 2021, which found that “homophobia is the most common of abuse in football”, Smyrk said that “it doesn’t surprise me, which is the sad thing”.
“I think both in the men and the women’s game, its coming from slightly different angles, but equally the homophobic comments, they are not okay and there is no need for them. Your sexuality doesn’t dictate how good you are as a player”.
She follows with “So the fact that homophobia still exists within the sport, I think, is outrageous. And I think it’s everyone trying to put people in boxes and you know; ‘only this type of person can play football’, and actually those boxes need to be erased and allow everyone to play.”
A 2017 Forza Football survey found that 80% of UK football fans were “comfortable with gay or bisexual players for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” But in 2022 there is no openly gay male football player in the the UK top divisions. A contrast to the Englands’ national womens’ football team, that played the 2019 world cup with five openly gay players.
Regarding differences in openly gay or bisexual players between the womens’ and mens’ football leagues, Charlotte believes “there is an intersection of sexuality and gender, so if you’re playing a ‘man’s sport’, you ‘must be gay’ and ‘you can’t be heterosexual’ whereas with men playing; ‘it’s a masculine sport’ and therefore ‘they must be heterosexual’”.
“In terms of what we are doing at Villa, we try to create an inclusive environment so regardless of gender identity or sexuality, whenever new players come in we introduce our names and our pronouns”.
“We just don’t make assumptions about anyone’s identity and I think that by giving everyone a space to be their authentic true self, it kind of starts to dispel the myths that only certain types of players can play football”.