Living in the football heartland of Warwickshire I looked at the choice of Coventry City or AP Leamington. However, I chose on the basis of romance and went with Leyton Orient.
I just loved the name and it helped that we soon went on run, losing heroically to Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1978, after beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Fast forward to 1993 and one of my best friends, Andrew, was looking for someone to share the trips to watch Leeds United from Birmingham. I stepped up, and after seeing Leeds win away for the first time in a season, at the Dell, I got a half season ticket. Since then we have shared the highs of night games against Roma and Barcelona, as well as the lows of…well we don’t need reminding.
I have no tale of woe or angst about being gay; my friends, family and co-workers have all been accepting, but I know that is not always the case for others, particularly those making up the BT+ part of LGBT+. It’s easy to think it must be so much easier for young people to come out these days, with so many high profile and positive role models. The shame is that you don’t see such examples in the world of professional football.
As well as football, I am passionate about equality, inclusion and tolerance. I helped set up a refugee support group in my home town of Ledbury and serve as a town councillor.
Combining these passions, Andrew and I started Marching Out Together. With the guidance and support of other groups, we want to create something which welcomes all fans to Leeds United and connects the club with the LGBT+ communities in Leeds.
As well as the backing of the club we have some truly wonderful people who have joined and supported us through social media and at games. We are determined not to be exclusive and have many straight allies on the Board and in the membership.
It is a privilege to have secured the patronage of Robbie Rogers, who holds a unique position in the game.
We believe the rapid growth in the number of supporters’ groups over the past year are a key part of football facing the reality that LGBT+ fans and players are as much part of the game as anyone.