As part of the Rainbow Laces campaign between 22 November and 8 December 2019, London FA is releasing a series of features looking at the importance of inclusion within football.
London Romans Football Club has been one of the torchbearers for LGBT+ inclusion in football since forming in 2006. Welcoming players from all walks of life and giving them a safe place to take to the field without fear of being judged for their sexuality, the club has become a haven for a variety of footballers.
Paul Loding suggests that fact is simply what sets the club apart from their counterparts in North London.
He said: “Many of our players have played with conventional or ‘straight’ teams and some of them never felt comfortable enough to come out as a gay person in those circumstances, in part due to the homophobia surrounding football.
“Some people have a misconception that an LGBT football team may not be competitive, or that players will reflect negative stereotypes. Our membership disproves those perceptions: we’ve had members from a wide range of faiths, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, ages and abilities.”
Whilst Paul has recognised that there has been significant ground made due to the work of charity Stonewall and clubs like London Romans, there is still a lot of work to be done before football achieves true equality.
“Yes, there has been a significant shift in recent years in line with changes in social attitudes, the coming out of several high profile sportsmen, and campaign activity by the likes of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign and Football V Homophobia,” [HE/SHE] continued. “However, unfortunately it’s still common to witness homophobic language in non-LGBT football from a vocal minority and the fact there are still no openly gay top tier professional male footballers reflects that we still have a long way to go.”
“Collectively, we have a problem. It’s sobering to remind ourselves that there are many LGBT+ people who remain ‘in the closet’ right now because they feel unsafe.”
Part of that work has seen London Romans compete in the London Unity League, giving players the chance to play in a league were judgement is non-existent. Paul says that competitions such as that are crucial to the future development of the beautiful game.
He said: “We are very lucky to play in an inclusive league in London, the London Unity League (LUL). The league has gone from strength to strength in recent years with the standing increasing dramatically. All teams are very social and teams are encouraged to plan social events after matches. We also enter the GFSN Cup, which involves us travelling around the country playing other LGBT teams.”
“Ultimately, representation and inclusion by professional clubs will help more LGBT+ people feel confident and comfortable to be open about who they are, which will add more happiness and meaning to the world.”
If you would like to learn more about inclusion in football and the 2019 Rainbow Laces campaign, please click here
All participants showing their support to the campaign are also encouraged to share content via London FA’s social media platforms, using the hashtag #RainbowLaces and mentioning @LondonFA on Twitter, @ldnfa on Instagram or @LDNFootballAssociation on Facebook.