In 2012 the UK’s Football Association launched a plan to make football more inclusive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people.
The plan included a range of initiatives to tackle homophobia and encourage people to enjoy and be involved in football regardless of their sexuality.
With no openly gay footballers currently in the top divisions in the UK, it would be easy to brand the FA’s efforts as a failure. However creating an inclusive and supportive culture within a sport as huge as football takes time and persistence.
It’s also important to understand that there is much more to football than just the players on the field – supporters, administrators, and support staff all play a key role in the game and offer a range of opportunities for LGBT people to get involved in the beautiful game.
It’s interesting to look at how other sports are tackling the challenge of ensuring that they are encouraging the participation of LGBT athletes and supporters.
The British Athletes Commission (BAC) – the members’ association for the UK’s elite athletes in the Olympic sports – has taken the interesting step of appointing two lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) ambassadors. The BAC are the first player association of this type to appoint LGB ambassadors to support its members.
The ambassadors appointed are Matt Lister and David Hill. Lister is a World Championship medallist in the sport of canoe slalom; while Hill is a Paralympian in the sport of triathlon.
The responsibilities of Lister and Hill in their role as LGB ambassadors for the BAC will include helping to prepare the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes for the games in Rio in 2016, as well as supporting the welfare of high performance athletes.
There is extensive research that shows the importance of having role models to help motivate and inspire young people to achieve their dreams. The obvious move would be for the FA to appoint ex-Premier League player (and openly gay) Robbie Rogers as an ambassador of some sort.
The appointment by the FA of an official LGB ambassador is more than just having someone who can visit schools or make speeches, it sends a clear message that the FA is serious about inclusion; serious about change; and serious about creating the right kind of future for football.
Written by Gareth Johnson
Follow Gareth on Twitter @GTV_Champion
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