Personal Stories: Andrew Tilly (Marching Out Together Co-Founder)

I grew up in Lancashire (from a Yorkshire family) and started supported Don Revie’s Leeds United as a young boy in the 1970’s - but I never had the opportunity to watch the team as a child.

In the absence of the internet I desperately tried to follow my beloved Whites by listening to commentaries from Radio Leeds on an invariably poor signal across the Pennines; I had my family buy me programme subscriptions for my birthday present; and I even subscribed to the Monday YEP so I could read the match reports. I remember being so thrilled that, for my 14th birthday my father promised to get me tickets, from a friend, to take me to Anfield to watch Leeds play there. Sadly he couldn’t get the tickets from his friend and as compensation took me to see my first ever football match...Southport v Brentford in the then 4th division....I wore my Leeds scarf in an effort to console myself and Leeds compounded my misery by losing 3-1. A traumatically underwhelming birthday. If you are interested... Southport lost 3-0 and were relegated to non-league at the end of the season.

Aged 15, I got to see Elland Road for the first time in my life - but not for a match. The club had launched a Fan Club for younger supporters, which I joined of course, and they held an Open day at the ground during the summer, which the players attended. I already knew I was gay of course, but I fell even more in love with Tony Currie that day after touching his arm ❤️. The first of many crushes with players from my beloved Leeds.

Once I had left university, and could afford to finally attend matches, I started going regularly and then got a season ticket in my early 20’s, over 30 years ago; and now am lucky enough to have a home and away season ticket. As an adult I’ve always lived in the Midlands so every home match requires a long drive (currently 3 hours from Herefordshire) but I am lucky to share the journeys with my very close friend Drew - our Chair and my co-founder. I introduced Drew to Leeds (and football) in 1993. He watched them twice with me and then immediately bought a season ticket! We’ve shared so many wonderful ups and distressing downs over the years....and a lot of long mid-week drives home after bitter defeats. Drew and I are both gay and in the 1990’s we attended a few GFSN meetings together in Birmingham (to watch live Sky games with other LGBT+ fans from various clubs) - but our love of football has always been separate from the rest of our lives, as neither of our partners, friends or families have any interest in football.

A few years ago I wrote to our then Managing Director, David Haigh, and suggested the club contact Stonewall in terms of improving its record towards LGBT+ fans and players - which led to the club developing a brief association with Stonewall and the posting of some anti-discrimination signage - and subsequently the return of Robbie Rogers to Elland Road to promote his charity campaigning against homophobia. But no real change was secured and as I understand it the connection with Stonewall has lapsed.

Drew and I had occasionally mentioned setting up an LGBT+ group at Leeds but it was our attendance at the Pride in Football Conference in Manchester (at Drew’s suggestion) that finally triggered us to contact the club to launch the group.

We both believe we came up with the name Marching Out Together - but I am happily prepared to accept it was his idea! Well done Drew!

We sit in the West Stand where we are surrounded by the most wonderful group of fellow season ticket holders who we have got to know over the years. They all know we are gay and are supportive. Off the pitch things have not felt so positive in many years - we have a responsible owner with great vision. And, in the future, we hope that as the club improve on so many fronts, progress will also be made on making Elland Road and following Leeds away a more welcoming experience for LGBT+ fans. I look forward to playing my role in Marching Out Together and am proud to be one of our LGBT+ representatives on the Supporters Advisory Board.

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