On 27th October 2009, The Justin Campaign in association with Kick It Out and Brighton & Hove Albion held a debate on homophobia in football at Albion’s old ground; Withdean Stadium as part of KIO’s “One Game, One Community Weeks of Action”. A diverse panel of LGBT sports stakeholders, industry representatives and campaigning groups thrashed out the issue in front of an eager and opinionated crowd. Amongst the audience was a general consensus that football in the UK was missing a concerted and focussed initiative aimed specifically at addressing homophobia that the footballing community could unite behind at a certain time in the year. In response to this The JC team took the initiative and created the first ever “Football v Homophobia” day; an international day opposing homophobia in football. February 19th was chosen as the day – the birthday of the late Justin Fashanu who’s legacy inspired the launch and continuing work of The Justin Campaign.
The original intention for the initiative was to provide a platform for grassroots action and activism where for one day, individuals, communities and teams nationally could communicate their condemnation of homophobia in the game and celebrate its diverse following under the banner of “Football v Homophobia”. To our surprise, the opinions of the audience at Withdean Stadium were confirmed not just locally, but internationally! Teams and campaigners all over the world began making enquiries about the initiative and how they might get involved. Who were we to stand in it’s way? ”Football v Homophobia” from its humble beginnings exploded onto the world stage; Mexico City, Croatia and Washington DC in 2010. Ukraine, Barcelona and fans in North America in 2011. Not to mention the massive show of support all over the UK.
“Football v Homophobia” has grown in strength and support year on year and its capacity for exciting LGBT engagement and activism at a grassroots level and engaging the wider footballing community on the issue has been noticed by the industry itself. In 2011 The FA announced it’s support for the initiative.
The initiative has inspired professional clubs throughout the UK to get involved with tackling homophobia too. In our kick off year of 201o, only 5 professional clubs got on board, but in 2012, 24 were involved. In response to the popularity of the campaign and to increase its reach and accessibility, FvH has expanded to become a year round initiative, focusing on drawing particular attention to the issue during February.
At the start of the 2012 season and with continuing appetite for the campaign, we are pleased to announce that Pride Sports is coming on board to support the delivery of FvH.
Overall the development of Football v Homophobia has been an incredible journey. It is a truly unique campaign that has the capacity to inspire action all over the world in working towards a more equitable and safe footballing environment for everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Check out our resources page or the get involved section of the website to find out how you can help make history with us in changing football for the better.