LGBT+ History Month ‘24

We have had a very active LGBT+ History month this year, with board members Maz and Mark celebrating the EFL’s launch of their Rainbow Ball with Patrick Bamford at Thorp Arch, member Roisin playing a starring role in the EFL’s launch video, and a stall at Leeds LGBTQ+ Marketplace.

Board member John has also been reflecting on a timeline from Justin Fashanu to Robbie Rogers and Luke Ayling, and how these campaign events can help imporve understanding and bring change. Click the button below to read more.

Maz and Mark discussing the importance of the Rainbow Ball with Patrick Bamford and LUTV’s Emma Jones at Thorp Arch

LUFC re-state zero-tolerance of hate, including ‘Rent Boy’ chant

LUFC have made a very clear and strong statement on homophobic chanting in advance of the upcoming FA match away at Chelsea, including a specific reference to the ‘rent boy’ chant which has been very clearly defined as a homophobic slur and hate crime.

We are sad that this is still necessary, but welcome the club and authorities’ unequivocal position.

Read the statement here.


Homophobic chanting at Elland Rd - Statement

We are aware of the FA’s decision today to sanction Leeds United for homophobic chanting at our match against Brighton in March and note the Club’s response, including the fact that action was taken at the time by security staff and the police.  In this regard we would emphasise that unless unavoidable we do not wish to see any fellow-fans ejected from games or banned from Elland Road: our goal is to improve awareness and educate so that homophobia is no longer a problem in football, or society at large.

We acknowledge the FA’s and police’s attempts to highlight the issue and clarify beyond doubt that homophobic chanting is totally unacceptable, as are hateful chants against any minority. We also believe that the increased attention and reporting of such incidents reflect a growing awareness of the issue and recognition by the vast majority of fair-minded supporters that such behaviour can no longer be dismissed or passed off as ‘just banter’.

We endorse LUFC’s point that the club have worked very positively with us over a number of years, including on stewarding and improving awareness at all levels of the organisation, as well as active support of our group’s activities in sponsoring Leeds Pride, Rainbow Laces and LGBT+ History Month.

We will continue to work with Leeds United to improve understanding and inclusivity throughout the club and our fans, and are always available to offer advice or guidance.



Please just stop the chants!

In advance of the league fixtures away at Chelsea and home to Brighton over the past two weekends we re-stated our position on homophobic and other discriminatory chanting.

Our members at Chelsea reported that (possibly for the first time in recent memory) they did not hear any homophobic chanting, and we hoped this might be a sign of long-overdue change. However, sadly – but not surprisingly – there were a number of reports of blatantly homophobic chanting at Elland Road during the game, and we were also contacted by a Brighton fan who had been abused on leaving the game.

Once again, we have to remind everybody that this is not ‘banter’. It rests entirely on the assumption that there is something wrong or shameful about being gay; and it makes LGBT+ people nearby feel excluded, afraid, or even drives them from football.

This not-banter normalises and trivialises discrimination and abuse of LGBT+ people.

So one person’s ‘harmless joke’ at a match is part of a spectrum which ends up later with a gay couple being abused in a club, or someone being beaten up behind a bus-stop because they look ‘different’.

It has to stop.

We have a sense of humour too, and we are not killjoys trying to take the fun out of matchday: we are simply trying hard to educate and help fellow-fans understand that these chants don’t belong in our game or our grounds.

We just want to be able to support our team along with everyone else, without being abused and intimidated. Is that too much to ask?


FA Statement on discriminatory chanting

We have commented at length about abusive and homophobic chanting: scroll down to “Turning words into action?” where we wondered with some scepticism in January 2022 whether the CPS really would follow up on its definition of these vile chants as hate crimes.

A full year on, we have seen no action, but there is a new and potentially important development. The FA have finally made a formal statement to condemn discriminatory chanting, and written to clubs to make it clear that they view this as a breach of FA rules and subject to sanction. The big point this time though is that they have very explicitly referred to the ‘Rent Boy’ chant which has been heard at recent high-profile matches including a number where it was clearly audible on Sky TV.

We have explained in the past why this is absolutely not ‘harmless banter’ (see “It’s only banter? Except it’s serious.” lower down this page) and click here for an excellent article by Daniel Storey in The I newspaper which sets it out perfectly.

These chants are not harmless. They are based entirely on the presumption that being homosexual is wrong, or a matter for ridicule or shame. They are hurtful. They discriminate. And they cause many genuine and passionate football fans to feel as though they are not welcome in our game, and make them feel afraid to go and watch their team.

We wonder now whether – finally – when these chants are next heard, what real action will we see by the FA or police/CPS in response to this hate crime; and whether the explicit threat of sanctions will cause clubs to act when their fans let them down.

As before, we want to be very clear on a couple of points. We know Leeds United understand the harm these chants cause and that they go against the values of the club. They have worked positively with us to improve awareness among staff and fans and we are grateful for that and will continue to work with the club and our other partners in any way we can.

Secondly, we have no desire to see anyone barred from games. We work to raise awareness and understanding so that this is no longer an issue. All that we ask is that we are allowed to enjoy the game and support Leeds United just like every other fan.

On this matter we wholeheartedly agree with the FA: “These chants can have a lasting and damaging impact on people and communities within our game, and it must stop.”


Qatar World Cup 2022

In the twelve years since FIFA corruptly awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar there has been wide unease about the process and the acceptability of Qatar as host. In the final weeks running up to the tournament this has come fully into the open and any façade of acceptability has dropped to expose both FIFA and the hosts’ illegal practices and moral bankruptcy.

Sepp Blatter has gone on record as acknowledging that the award of the tournament to Qatar was “a mistake”, and admitted that FIFA did not consider Qatar’s record on human rights. In no other high-visibility or public body would such shameful behaviour be tolerated – on good principles let alone the tragic number of lives and obscene amounts of money involved.

Qatari security services were briefed to tolerate behaviour which would not normally be acceptable including same-sex couples being allowed to share a room or show affection in public, and UK Foreign Secretary (at the time of writing) James Cleverly urged visiting fans to “be respectful of the host nation, with a little bit of compromise” To ‘tolerate’ or ask people to hide or deny their fundamental nature is an act of exclusion and aggression, and is based on a denial of fundamental human and legal rights.

A leading Qatari ambassador for the tournament has described LGBT as “damage of the mind”. This is simply factually wrong; but it is also extremely hurtful, and reveals how deeply-embedded homophobic prejudice is.

FIFA wrote to all 32 competing Associations to urge them to “focus on the football” and set aside any discussions about “ideological or political battles” arguing that no one culture is better than another. Coming from a global governing institution this is appalling. Being LGBT+ is a fact of nature and NOT an ideological or political choice. It is shocking that FIFA should suggest that those who deny fundamental human and legal rights should be tolerated as equal to those who defend them or suffer persecution.

For football fans everywhere the World Cup should be a 4-yearly festival of excitement and celebration: we anticipate the fixtures, fill in our wallcharts, gather with friends to watch the games, relish those against opposition both familiar and unfamiliar, thrill at the drama,  discover new heroes and villains, and replay all those stories for years to come…

But this time we can’t.

Qatar is stained and devalued by the denial of LGBT+ equalities, just as it is by the awful abuse of the construction workers and the corruption of the commercial process. No amount of glossy videos or rainbow-rebranding of the pitchside ads can wash out that stain.

This presents a problem for those of us who love the game but also struggle with this particular tournament:

• Some fans who never miss a tournament are sadly breaking their streak, because in their conscience they don’t feel they can go… or, simply, they are afraid to

• Some are boycotting the tournament completely, not watching the TV coverage and avoiding the brands involved

• Some are still fully engaged because they love the game and their country and actively refuse to be bullied and denied their enjoyment of football, and want to use the spotlight of the World Cup to expose injustice and discrimination

These are difficult judgments for our group, our friends and allies; and they are a personal judgment. For that reason we are not adopting any ‘group policy’, or suggesting our members follow a particular line: we fully respect everyone’s individual perspectives and know they will judge the situation and respond according to their own experience and feelings.

For our part we will continue to highlight the issues and use our voice to fight and challenge homophobia – and all forms of prejudice and exclusion – where we see it. We believe FIFA was wrong to award the tournament to Qatar, given their denial of fundamental human rights and in particular the rights of LGBT+ people to exist in peace and take part fully and equally in society. The picture is especially acute in Qatar but the problems exist everywhere, and by using the unique profile of the World Cup to expose this we can invite people to think about their own attitudes and behaviour, and question how fair things are in their country, their workplace and streets - and their football club.

One problem here is that we think “But what can I do about it… how can I make a difference?” Individually our voice may not feel so powerful, but if we all speak together against the prejudice and injustices of this World Cup we can sound like Elland Road in full voice.

And then we will be heard, and change will come more quickly.


Pride is back, and it’s more than just a party!

We are back! After an absence of two years, this weekend we celebrate Pride in Leeds and it will be a very special year. Not only are Leeds United sponsoring us again but for the first time ever we will be joined by current and past players (a first for any ‘Pride’ in the UK) as well as the club’s Chief Executive, other staff and Academy representatives. See the club’s news update here.

And this year the context will be slightly different after Australian league player Josh Cavallo came out, followed at the end of last season by Blackpool’s Jake Daniels. Both had a very positive and supportive response… but the fact that there is still only a single active professional male player in the UK who is openly LGBT+ is a reminder of why Pride is so important, and of the serious message behind the rainbows, facepaints and whistles.

The global institution of the ‘Pride Rally’ began in New York City in June 1970, when a parade was organised to protest against police harassment of the Stonewall Inn, a celebrated gay bar in Manhattan, and defend and celebrate LGBT+ rights.

Those rights still need to be defended. LGBT+ people are still discriminated against and victimised in the streets, in workplaces, in public services, in housing and leisure settings, and in sport. Many LGBT+ people still feel they aren’t welcome in football and so don’t go to games, or feel they have to hide their true selves. Josh Cavallo and Jake Daniels were frequently described as ‘brave’ for making the step they did; and in 2022 that is tragic.

So ‘Pride Month’ and ‘Pride’ parades matter. The message is in the name: Pride.

‘Pride’ acknowledges and celebrates the wonderful place and contribution of LGBT+ people in our society. It says: “This is me, this is how I am - I am not going to hide or feel nervous or shy, because I am valid and I am here… proud to be me, just as I am.”

And for our straight neighbours ‘Pride’ is a chance to say: “You’re ok, you matter, you’re part of us and you belong; we recognise you, and we welcome you, and we are on your side. Be proud to be yourself. We are proud to stand beside you.”

Football has a unique and powerful place in society, and can have a special power to influence change. We will continue to push for that change both within the game and beyond, and we are very grateful to have the active support of the Board, players and staff at Leeds Utd – including the Academy and LUFC Women – as well as other fans’ groups including the Supporters Trust, LUDO and other friends such as The Square Ball and Roaring Peacocks, and other groups across the city.

And we will march on – and OUT – together. ALL Leeds, aren’t we.


Turning words into action?

The start of 2022 has seen two interesting developments within the same weekend.

Firstly Josh Cavallo (the professional Australian player who ‘came out’ last year to a warm and positive response across the game worldwide) faced homophobic abuse during a match. Josh published a powerful and dignified statement calling out the abuse, affirming that football is for everyone, and thanking those who had spoken out in support of him.

Then during the Millwall v Crystal Palace 3rd Round FA Cup match the homophobic and tiresome ‘Chelsea Rent Boy’ chant was clearly heard on ITV, and media comment on this caused the Crown Prosecution service to state again explicitly that they view homophobic chanting as abuse and within the definition of a Hate Crime. The CPS stated that they “will not hesitate to prosecute anyone accused of these actions where there is sufficient evidence to do so”.

That position is not new, but the increased publicity and awareness and media comment may be. This could potentially be a big step which eventually leads to a case where those words are turned to action: that in turn could bring about a tipping-point where people accept that homophobia is unacceptable in our game, and LGBT+ people finally feel they are welcome and can go to football openly as themselves.

Or maybe it will be just another new-year resolution, well-meaning but changing nothing? We will watch closely for what happens next time there is an incident.

We want to put on record again that the last thing we at Marching Out Together want is to see any fellow-fans barred from matches. We are working hard with the club and partner groups to tackle ignorance and misunderstanding, to help people see how 'banter' can be hurtful and makes many fans feel unwelcome, and to make football feel a safer place for *everyone*.

See further down this page for our work with the club on stewarding, as well as our explanation of why these types of chant are not ‘just banter’. And on our homepage you will find many examples of our work with the club and community, including details of our activities around the ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign and why events such as that - and the upcoming ‘LGBT History Month’ -are still needed and important.


Qatar 2022 & LGBTQ+ Rights

Homophobia and exclusion are just wrong. In any language.

As football fans we are all thrilled to see England qualify comfortably for the World Cup finals in Qatar next summer. We would love to see Liam Cooper there with Scotland as well as Messrs Roberts and James with Wales (and are disappointed that Northern Ireland can’t make it despite Stuart Dallas’s heroics). We also hope not to see some of the fudging and obfuscation over equalities and human rights which UEFA were guilty of last summer in Budapest and elsewhere.

There has been a lot of debate about FIFA’s decision to award the tournament to Qatar, with an unplayable summer climate, dreadful record on human rights (including exploitation of WC construction workers) and complete lack of any football heritage. Because of all this some people are calling for a boycott of the Finals. But the issues are complex and others argue that there are merits in bringing the beautiful game to new territories and their people, and that such engagement can help accelerate positive dialogue and change for the better.

One major issue amidst this debate is that LGBTQ+ people in Qatar are victimised and live in danger, simply for being who they are. Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by fines, imprisonment, torture and even death… and that is the legal sanction even without the hostile and discriminatory attitude of the wider community.

In this context, Kick It Out are organising a working group with a coalition of UK organisations including Stonewall, Football Supporters' Association (FSA), Football vs. Homophobia and Sports Media LGBT+. The group will aim to:-

1. Promote LGBTQ+ inclusion at Qatar 2022

2. Create a safe and inclusive World Cup for LGBTQ+ supporters

3. Secure a positive legacy for LGBTQ+ Qataris

4. Ensure LGBTQ+ considerations inform decisions about future events

Like all reasonable and fair-minded people we are appalled at the situation for LGBTQ+ community in Qatar, and deeply troubled by FIFA’s decision to stage the world Cup Finals there. If the tournament was to be exported to a country with no football heritage then better that it were somewhere with decent values and a commitment to protect human rights. But: that decision is made, we cannot change it, and the finals will go ahead regardless.

Given that, we believe the only pragmatic option is to use the unique visibility and status of football and the World Cup in particular to challenge prejudice and exclusion, and actively use it to amplify engagement and positive steps towards change and equality.

We fully support the Kick It Out initiative and although a small group will lend our voice wherever we can.

We also believe that this represents a valuable opportunity to leverage England’s unique position and status in the game, and Gareth Southgate’s outspoken support for inclusion and equalities. There are reports that the players are arranging to meet to agree their stance on these issues in advance of the Finals. We hope to see the FA, manager and team use their voices collectively to challenge homophobia and all other forms of discrimination and exclusion, to support the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities in Qatar in particular, and press for improvements in planning of events with a focus on equalities and inclusion in host countries. Clearly, explicitly and unequivocally.

Because discrimination and exclusion are just wrong. And football is everybody’s game, and everybody should feel safe to take part and spectate, and to be themselves.

Tackling abuse together: real action by LUFC in stewards’ briefings and dialogue with fans.

At the beginning of the 2021-22 season three of our team arrived at Elland Road early ahead of the game against Everton to deliver LGBTQ+ training for the match day stewards for the first time, in a session organised with Sue Watson, Head of match day security.

After meeting the senior steward pitch side, our team headed off to different locations in the ground to cover more stewards in the training - Maz to the West Stand, Wiggy to the Bremner Suite, and Mick to the concourse under the Kop. “I normally sit there so it was fantastic to engage with familiar stewards, and lovely when a couple of them came and said hi during the game” said Mick.

Wiggy’s session was filmed for the ‘Story of the Game’ video on the LUTV Website here.

Important topics covered were

  • Why tackling prejudice against LGBTQ+ people in general is important; and why it is especially crucial in an environment like Elland Road

  • What MOT is and what we do, including the range of work we do with the club

  • What negative behaviour they might come across from fans in the ground; (Chanting, Yelled-out comments, so-called ‘Banter’, and aggressive behaviour

  • How this could be challenged, and what actions they should take (building on their existing training and guidance); and what the club could be doing more broadly.

This was driven home with our own personal stories. Maz recalled how she had reported homophobic abuse aimed at Patrick Bamford from a Leeds fan at a home game. “I was left feeling intimidated after reporting it, and it was poorly handled - for the first ever time I was left wanting to leave Elland Road during a game. I was pleased though that the stewards were really interested at the session in how they could have improved the handling of that situation, and use that to learn for anything similar in future.”

Wiggy talked about the work of Marching Out Together and how “with that and the club’s response I have gone from being a dormant fan to a season ticket holder. There’s also the positive impact our flag has on LGBTQ+ fans: we know from feedback that many feel safer, and some have even been encouraged to come out to family and friends because of our visibility in the ground”.

And as the elder statesman of the group Mick was able to explain how positively things have changed since his experiences of crowd trouble all the way back to the 60’s and 70’s

All three sessions were really positive, with the stewards engaging well, listening and asking questions, showing clear support for the message we were trying to get across, and showing a strong commitment to tackle homophobia and other forms of exclusion.

  • One steward said ‘Homophobia is as bad as racism and we should treat it the same’.

  • Another stressed ‘We need to take action straight away, including removal from the ground if we need to, so it doesn’t escalate, and then the club can follow up, taking further action as needed’

This all became very real when a member reported a fan shouting homophobic taunts at players during the Burnley away game. The club helped identify the person involved, and then invited them to Elland Road to meet with one of our team before the next match. “It was a bit uncomfortable for everyone at first” said Maz, “but when I explained how those terms actually feel, they understood and took responsibility for behaving more inclusively in future. They had actually been abused at matches themselves - but we all agreed that two wrongs don’t make a right”.

The very last thing we want is for anyone to be barred from matches, and the way the club supported us and arranged the meeting was perfect. A lot of these issues come from lack of understanding and insensitivity, rather than real bigotry. By meeting and talking we can share first-hand – as fellow fans – why it matters so much, and usually that’s all it takes.”

“It’s only Banter…?” Except it’s serious.

Last season saw a number of incidents where homophobic chanting hit the national headlines. This included an occasion when ‘Chelsea Rent Boy’ chants were aimed at on-loan Izzy Brown during our away fixture at Luton - from our own travelling support. As the new season got under way in August 2021 Liverpool FC had to condemn the same chanting by their own supporters; and our own members had to deal with homophobic remarks at both the Everton and Burnley matches.

When we post our concern and condemnation on these occasions the response is interesting. The vast majority by a big margin are ‘Likes’ and supportive comments… but there are also always some negative ones.

These range from a small number which are directly hostile and abusive, to those which misunderstand the origins of the chant, to those who feel we are making too much of what is simply “football banter”.

Similarly during LGBT History Month in Feb 2021 we raffled a signed Rainbow Laces shirt on behalf of an LGBT charity in Leeds and one fan contacted us for help having suffered abusive comments on social media.

The hostile messages in both cases are from a small minority of homophobic fans who do not represent the bulk of the fan-base, and certainly are out of step with the values and support we have received from the club and the majority of fans.  The abusive language sadly demonstrates why groups such as ours are still needed, and why we continue to work to help members of the LGBT+ fan-base feel supported and safer in the face of such prejudice.

Some fans believe that these chants simply relate to a jibe that Chelsea loan out (“rent”) a lot of their players and so had no homophobic base. Unfortunately this is not the case: the chant goes back decades and uses “rent boy” (male prostitute) as a term of abuse. It is fundamentally homophobic: that is, it is based on a judgment of homosexuality being somehow wrong, a source of shame or embarrassment, unacceptable, and of a lower worth or merit than the ‘straight’ majority.

This kind of prejudice is no more acceptable in relation to LGBT+ people than it is to people of a different races, of any faith group, of women, of those with physical or mental impairments… or of ANY group in society.

The argument that it is ‘banter’ or a ‘harmless joke’ is also misplaced. To hear chants that use your sexuality as a root of abusive humour is not fun at all to the person on the receiving end of it, even when said with no conscious intent to hurt or judge.

Imagine a young fan in the crowd who is trying to work out their sexuality and maybe talk to friends or family about it: hearing those chants would make them feel there is something wrong with them. And the friend standing next to them would assume that being gay is a weakness and that it is acceptable to ridicule people simply for how they are. Any LGBT+ fan - who loves the game and club just as much as anyone else - would be made to feel excluded, unwelcome, disliked. Or, more simply, they would just not go to games, and are therefore denied the entertainment, thrills, pride and sense of belonging which everyone else enjoys.

We all enjoy the pantomime elements of going to matches and the humour of the terraces. By all means let’s taunt the opposition supporters for their poor numbers or lack of songs, mock their striker’s comedy haircut or centre-half’s waistline.

But not with homophobic jibes.

Because there may be an LGBT+ Leeds fan stood next to you, supporting OUR team together.

And because those jibes are no more ‘harmless’ than racial, or faith-based, or misogynistic ones.

Because they are just plain wrong, and have no place in our club.

For those  @lufc  fans who abused  @izzyjaybrown  yesterday with “Chelsea Rent Boys” chant: it is homophobic & offensive. There were LGBT Leeds fans standing next to you who felt angered & threatened. Support our club with passion always - but no need for this.  @FvHtweets   @kickitout


In February 2021 a Morecambe player was sent off after Tranmere team alerted the referee that he had used a homophobic slur against a teammate.

The FA subsequently issued a 6-match ban and required the offending player to attend awareness training after finding him guilty of an ‘Aggravated Breach’ of the rules.

The Tranmere players’ action, the referee’s response and the FA’s sanction are encouraging and set an important precedent, which may signal a turning point in recognition that homophobia is a problem in football, and must be tackled.

Question: Would it play out the same if the incident had happened in a Premier league game in front of Sky TV cameras, with a multimillion-pound player, celebrity manager and high-profile agent?

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