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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Guest Blog from our Patron ADAM McCABE







The Atlanta United FC experience; An LGBTQ fans’ perspective

By: Adam McCabe

It felt like Christmas morning for thousands of other soccer fans in Atlanta. Sunday, March 5, 2017, was the dawn of a new sports era in our city. For years, a void existed here for professional soccer, and this multicultural hub of diversity longed for the day when the beautiful game would return. Now, after waiting so patiently, the people of Atlanta have a team they can call their own.

On game day, the city was spewing with excitement - everywhere you looked, there were scenes of fanfare, of red and black flags, and an optimistic spirit was tangible in the city. My partner and I took MARTA to the game. As we walked up the steps of the Five Points MARTA Station, hundreds of people raced by us with flags, scarves, and jerseys, uniting the city for a night.  There was a brief pause as we waited in line to exit, and in a moment my partner looked at me and stunned me with a single question: “When are we going to bring a Pride flag to an Atlanta United game?”

At first, I didn’t have an answer for him. I’m proud to be out, to be open and honest with whom I am. But I had never thought of myself as an individual who would bring a pride flag to a sporting event. “Let’s see how this one goes,” I replied. I had no idea what type of response a Pride flag would get at a soccer match in the South.

The game started out as I thought it would, with two nervous teams – Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls - testing out the waters in their season opener.  Midway through the first half, Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles took a goal kick in front of the Atlanta United supporters’ section. As he went to clear the ball, a single moment changed my experience at the game. A huge wave of fans shouted from the crowd – “¡puto!” - a homophobic, offensive phrase, in an attempt to distract Robles and put him off his kick.



The game continued, with no interruption, as if nothing had happened - yet something major had just occurred. A few minutes later, another goal kick for Luis Robles, and again the huge shout – “¡puto!” - but this time, a bit louder. When the obscene word was heard again, my partner tapped me on the shoulder and asked: “What are they saying?”

I nonchalantly explained to him what the definition of “¡puto!” meant, its origin, and why our fans were saying it to the opposing goalkeeper. The look on my partner’s face turned from inquisitive, to sour and disappointed. “Really?” he replied. ‘That’s common at soccer games?” And in that moment, I had no answer, because there wasn’t a good one.

Every time Luis Robles took a goal kick, I caught my partner looking at me from the corner of his eye. He would hesitantly turn around to gaze at the mix of individuals, drunkenly shouting the obscenity just two rows behind us. This was not the experience I was hoping for. I wanted so badly for him to enjoy the game I grew up with and loved.

After the match, we spoke about our experience and whether Atlanta United games were something we could share together in the future. Looking back, I wished it could have been without the homophobic language, (and that Atlanta United had won) but I chose to appreciate our time together.  As we talked, I stated, “I’m not sure our fans would be ready for a Pride flag”. He looked at me, and chuckled before replying: “Yeah, probably not.”

The day after Atlanta’s inaugural home match, I heard countless analysts applaud the play of Atlanta United. However, what surprised me was the amount of negative press Atlanta United was receiving after just one match. Our supporters’ actions and behavior had caught the attention of international coverage, from the likes of ESPN, Yahoo and Deadspin.  The obscenities and homophobic language by the Atlanta United fans was criticized galore. I hated to think that people worldwide were misunderstanding and judging our fans and our amazing city. 

As expected, Atlanta United was quick to make a statement, condemning the language and behaviors of such fans. As a new MLS franchise, the fans of Atlanta United have a new opportunity to reshape the soccer fan culture of our city. Why not take this with open arms, at the highest level of professional soccer in the United States, to show our country who the people of Atlanta truly are?

After our dominant 6-1 win away to Minnesota United, I was eagerly anticipating the next match at home to Chicago Fire. I hoped Atlanta United could maintain their good early form and start to create a dominant presence on their home turf. On another note, I contemplated how our fans might react to the negative publicity from the first home game and if anything would change.

I read comments on Dirty South Soccer from writers and readers who thought silencing the obscene language from the inaugural match would be almost impossible. With 55,000 fans at a soccer game, being able to control and influence every single individual was unrealistic. Instead, we needed to focus on how to inspire and encourage the majority of fans to exclude this language. The one idea that caught my eye was a ‘Hey Ya!’ chant (a throw back to Outkast). Done successfully, the majority of fans could drown out any offensive language.


My partner and I were excited to attend the next game together.  As the first notable goal kick came to Chicago, I remember looking my partner dead in the eyes. We had both been waiting for this moment since the game began; waiting to see how our fans would react and respond to the negative coverage of our behavior. As Jorge Bava lined up for Chicago Fire to take the goal kick, I looked towards the supporters’ section. A low rumbling “Hey…” filled the section, being led by Terminus Legion. The man next to me, who was at the game with his young boy, joined Terminus Legion, adding his “Hey…” to the thousands of others in the stadium. As Bava kicked the ball, the stadium – including the man next to me - erupted with a powerful “Ya!”. I looked back at my partner, as the goal kick flew out of bounds, and gave him a big smile.

The second home game was a much better overall experience. The fact that our fans and community had positively responded to the hateful behavior shown in the first match, made the victory that much sweeter. As a community, we had come together to stand up in the face of homophobia in our sport and home. As my partner and I descended down the 5 Points MARTA escalators, we chatted about the game. I said, “Maybe we actually CAN bring a Pride flag to a game sometime soon.” That brought a big smile to his face.

After the reaction by our fans, community, and organization, I am still optimistic that not only will we have a successful team, but that we will also have a community and organization that is all-inclusive. I am hopeful that, after the dramatic shift from the first home game to the second, our fans can prevail in eliminating homophobic language from our identity and culture.

It has been almost a month since our last home game, and I am hopeful that the Atlanta United fans will revert to the appropriate behavior in our next home game (April 30th). Consistency is key when continuing to fight homophobia and hate. I applaud our growth in such a short period, but we need to remain consistence, to remain progressing and moving forward.



I challenge Atlanta United fans reading this article to evaluate their actions at games, and how they could be negatively impacting and affecting the experience of others at a game. Remember that this is the best sport in the world because it is the people’s game - it belongs to every individual, no matter their sexuality, religion, political beliefs, or gender. I urge Atlanta United fans to think back to the father that sat by us during the Chicago Fire game with his son, and ultimately chose to display the appropriate, matured and disciplined example for his son. He chose not to pass along hate and negativity to a younger generation. This is the way we must begin to rid this language from the beautiful game.

Friday, April 14, 2017

BRADFORD CITY LGBT fan group first patron ADAM McCABE.

                     

               BRADFORD CITY LGBT fan group have first patron in ADAM McCABE.

Bradford City LGBT fan group are extremely proud to announce that former Bradford City reserve player Adam McCabe will become their first patron.
Ex-professional player McCabe  ‘came out’  when his story was told globally earlier this year while playing for Georgia Revolution FC, Adam will also become a patron of JUST A BALL GAME?

“While I was playing soccer at a younger age, I was not out to my teammates. I did not really even think about my sexuality until the end of high school. Soccer was all that I thought about. I lived, breathed, ate and slept soccer. And I was not going to let anything, like a relationship or my sexuality, get in the way of my goals and dreams.”

Adam is now back playing in the USA and has a full time job for ‘Hersheys’ but also coaches along with regular appearances in the NPSL.




“Becoming a patron for Bradford City LGBT fan group and JBG?  means standing up for a minority in football and in sports in general. This is a platform and opportunity to shape the landscape of sports and change the perception of LGBTQ individuals in sports. To be a role model and inspire others was the main reason I decide to come out. I knew that I could help a lot of other people struggling with this same issue if I was brave enough to be a leader by example,” says McCabe.

LGBT fan group member Bradford Councillor Richard Dunbar had this to say, I am delighted to hear that Adam will be joining as patron for both Bradford City LGBT Fan Group and JBG?”
“Having him on board sends a positive message to other professional players struggling with the thought of coming out. I would like to think we are closer than ever to a professional player coming out in the English Football Leagues. It is when clubs like Bradford City fly the rainbow flag, have a zero tolerance on hate speech and openly celebrate events like LGBT History Month that make this more possible."



End.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

HBT bullying within football stadia - Kick It Out resource



Several years ago JUST A BALL GAME founder LINDSAY ENGLAND wrote a 15 page document to help educate Ground Safety Officers and match day staff when dealing with HBT discrimnation in football stadia. This document was recently condensed and made in to an easy read booklet and Z-card for today's launch of the resources by Kick it Out and the Home Office.




Kick It Out, Home Office and True Vision challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination in football through new resources

Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, has partnered with the Home Office and True Vision to release a series of informative and engaging resources that raise awareness of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) discrimination within football stadia.
Forming part of Kick It Out’s ‘Call Full Time On Hate’ initiative for the 2016-17 season, which is urging the collective force of football to encourage inclusion and deter hate from the game, the resources have been launched on the same day (22 March) as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) host a roundtable meeting on homophobia in sport.
A short film raising awareness of LGB&T inclusion in the game has been created in partnership with Doodle Films. The film follows five individuals from the LGB&T community as they reflect on the impact of HBT behaviour on their lives and the importance of reporting discrimination in football.
To view the film, click here.
A comprehensive booklet and small pocket guide have also been designed to assist stewards and safety officers in their understanding of HBT discrimination and how to effectively challenge this behaviour.
Following the recent publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on homophobia in sport, which stated that stewards and all staff at all levels must be supported when confronting and reporting homophobia, these new materials will equip matchday stewards and safety officers with the confidence to report HBT discrimination at football matches.
‘Tackling Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Behaviour at Football Stadia’ is a 12-page booklet which has been produced with support from Just A Ball Game? and Inside Inclusion. The booklet includes information on what HBT discrimination is and the role stewards and safety officers can play in reporting and challenging this behaviour.
Ten key steps to tackling HBT discrimination have been included in the small pocket guide accompanying the booklet. 10,000 pocket guides have been produced and distributed to stewards and safety officers across Premier League and English Football League clubs.

Discrimination reports relating to sexual orientation made up 17% of reports to Kick It Out in 2015/16, a rise of 4% on the previous season.
All these resources will be available to download digitally for free on the Kick It Out website – www.kickitout.org

Roisin Wood, Chief Executive Officer at Kick It Out, commented:
“With LGBT History Month recently taking place in the UK, it is important that Kick It Out continues to raise awareness of the issues which still blight our national game, including homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
“These topics have long been taboos in the game, but thanks to the proactive work of campaigners we are beginning to see the football community recognise the positive impact LGB&T inclusion is having on the sport.
“With support from the Home Office and True Vision, Kick It Out has been able to produce three essential resources which will help stewards and others to understand and have confidence in effectively challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination within football stadia.
“Kick It Out also encourages all matchday participants, including players, club staff, stewards and supporters to download the organisation’s free reporting app, available on the App Store and Google Play.”

Tracey Crouch, Sports Minister, said:
"Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse is completely unacceptable and this partnership between Kick It Out and the government can help further tackle the issue in football. I urge stewards and all match-day staff to use these resources, so that all know exactly what is expected of them if an incident were to take place.

“Football stadiums are much more welcoming and family friendly than they were 30 years ago however we must not be complacent and it is important that we continue to educate and challenge any discriminatory behaviour. It is only right that LGB&T people get support across all sports and that they can participate in a safe and positive environment."
Sarah Newton, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism said:
“Fans, players and staff of all sexualities, races and religions deserve to enjoy football without facing discrimination or abuse.  
“Football has come a long way and is now more inclusive and welcoming to all fans but more work still needs to be done. This is why I fully support Kick It Out and the excellent work it is doing targeting discrimination and abuse against LGBT people at football matches.
“This Government is determined to do everything we can to stamp out hate crime, which has no place whatsoever in a Britain that works for everyone. Our hate crime action plan focuses on prevention, giving people the confidence to come forward and report it, and providing better support to victims.”

Bill Bush, Premier League Executive Director, said:  
“The Premier League is all about exciting, passionate and unpredictable football that is for everyone, everywhere.
“Clubs work hard to make their grounds safe and welcoming to fans and we fully support the use of these important new Kick It Out resources. They will complement the training stewards undertake to deal appropriately with unacceptable behaviour or abuse, and further highlight to the LGBT community that we see them as an integral part of our community.”
Shaun Harvey, Chief Executive of the EFL, said:

“We need to ensure that the game is unified in creating a safe and welcoming environment for all and the EFL is committed to providing a positive experience that stretches well beyond the 90 minutes of play.
“I am confident that these new resources will be of great value in helping our clubs to increase understanding and awareness of the need to challenge behaviour that is homophobic, biphobic and transphobic.”





 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A message from Bradford City FC

In support of Bradford City LGBT fan group and JUST A BALL GAME? for LGBT History Month 2017.



A message from Bradford City FC

“Bradford City FC has been committed, for many years, to supporting members of the LGBT Community who follow football in general and Bradford City FC in particular.
The Club is proud to have dealt effectively on issues that may have arisen, and supported the LGBT Community as moves have been made to enhance and intensify the message that inclusion is right for clubs and supporters alike.
The Club displays the Rainbow Flag at all home games, offers a confidential texting service to highlight problems, and undertakes support and training for members of the match day staff.
As we approach February 2017, we are delighted to be, once again, supporting the LGBT History Month.”





Monday, December 12, 2016

Bradford City Women FC become JUST A BALL GAME? partner club.



            



Just A Ball Game? very proud to have The Bantams Women's team as a partner club.

Bradford City Women's Football Club provides opportunities for women and girls of all ages to train and play football at the highest possible level in the English football leagues.
The team are one of the biggest women's football clubs in the area and welcome players of all ages and ability and is run by a willing band of unpaid volunteers.




They play under the name of Bradford City Women's Football Club, although they are financially independent from Bradford City FC. The club have to raise all their own funds to enable the players to train and play at the very top of their chosen sport. Each player pays to play and has to combine working in their normal day to day jobs or studies, and the considerable demands of training twice a week & playing matches on a Sunday across the country.






Lindsay England founder of Just A Ball Game? says:
" TEAMING UP WITH BCWFC GIVES JUST A BALL GAME? A CHANCE TO SPREAD THE WORD ON OUR CAMPAIGN WORK WHICH SEEKS TO RAISE AWARENESS AROUND LGBT+ INCLUSION AND VISIBILITY AND ALSO CHALLENGE WHAT IS SEEN AS HOMOPHOBIA OR ANTI-GAY."

 "WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN THE MEN'S TEAM SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN FOR SEVERAL SEASONS NOW AND WE ARE VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO PARTNERING WITH THE WOMEN'S SQUAD TO SHOWCASE HOW SERIOUSLY FOOTBALL IN BRADFORD IS AROUND EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY.

"JUST A BALL GAME? WOULD LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE AT BCWFC FOR THE PARTNERSHIP  WHICH SHOWS SUPPORT FOR THE IMPORTANT WORK WE ARE DOING AND THE REAL DIFFERENCE WE ARE MAKING IN CHALLENGING DISCRIMINATION WITHIN THE GAME."

"WE HAVE A HUGE INTEREST IN THE WOMEN'S GAME AND ARE VERY GRATEFUL FOR THE RESPECT AND ACCEPTANCE IT BRINGS TO YOUNG PEOPLE."


History


1988: Bradford City Women's Football Club is formed after linking up with local youth centres already involved in training girls.

1989: The Club becomes a founding members of the Yorkshire and Humberside Women's League, winning promotion from Division Two, runners up in the Yorkshire Plate and reaching the semi-finals of the knockout cup.
LINK to CLUB: http: //www.bcwfc.co.uk/

Sunday, October 23, 2016

JBG? patron Emily Ramsey in Morning Star report- Throwing away prized players.




                           Throwing away prized players.




Suzanne Beishon talks to Manchester United junior goalkeeper EMILY RAMSEY about having to move from her home club.




 FOOTBALL clubs are extremely proud when their local homegrown academy products make it to the top. And who can blame them? These increasingly rare players often become the beating heart of their teams. They understand the club ethos and badge they play for in a way that no import from abroad or another academy can. They aren’t just players, they are supporters. Nurtured from childhood to adulthood not just as players but as people too.
And when a player does make that rare breakthrough they are idolised by fans that have seen one of their own grow up in front of their eyes.
Few clubs have as rich a history of successfully transitioning players from the academy to the first team than Manchester United. The “class of ’92” golden generation is the highlight of a rich vein of Mancunian talent that has come through the club. The ability for players to make the grade has undoubtedly got harder as clubs rely on big-money signings in order to maintain their league standing. Any dip that may come from a period of development cannot be afforded in the modern football era.
Yet occasionally a talented player, usually with a heavy helping of luck thrown in, makes the grade. Marcus Rashford is just the latest to make the breakthrough. Rashford began playing football for a local boys’ team aged five, before joining the academy system at Manchester United aged seven. The 18-year-old’s meteoric rise to the Manchester United and England first teams has been a breath of fresh air — and this from an Arsenal fan who had to endure the teen’s league debut.
Except it’s not the same story for all of Manchester United’s talented academy prospects. Not everyone has the chance to live the fairy tale. If you’re a girl carefully guided through the youth set-up at United it’s a very different story. Because Manchester United don’t have a women’s team. In fact United and Southampton are the only Premier League sides not to have women’s teams.
And for one 15-year-old, the lack of a senior side means that she will have to ply her trade in different colours.



Emily Ramsey has trodden a similar path to Rashford. Playing for the local boys’ side aged six — with boys a year older than her — before joining Manchester United aged eight and working her way up through their girls’ system. Except rather than knocking on the door of the senior side at her childhood club, ahead of turning 16 she is faced with the prospect of having to upheave her development and find a team elsewhere to continue playing.
Before flying to Lithuania to join the England under-17 side following her call-up for their European Championship qualifiers, Emily told of the excellent start she has been given at United, explained the position she finds herself in at club level and expressed hope of a change further down the line.
The young goalkeeper was surrounded by football from an early age and benefited from the change in attitudes that has taken place over the years towards girls playing.
“I was always used to playing with boys, I never used to play with girls that much when I was younger so from my point of view I was used to it. And they were a year older but you never really thought of it like that and a lot of teams when they first came to play us would think: ‘Aw, there’s a girl in there, we’re going to win this easily.’ But obviously then we’d start and they soon realised that I could actually play football. Then they weren’t thinking about that!”
Emily didn’t always see playing football professionally as an option available, let alone in England. In fact she thought her future would lie in the US if she was good enough to pursue it. But, like many, she saw the progress made by Team GB at the Olympics and England at the Women’s World Cup in Canada as a turning point for women’s football.
“When I was around 12 we went to watch the women’s football at the London Olympics, we saw GB and the players there played really well, like Steph Houghton.
“I realised then that, actually, there were a lot of people watching that game and I could actually make something out of it. Ever since then football in England has been growing and becoming more popular and it’s definitely become something I want to do.
“I’m hoping, after this season at United, I’ll be moving on to probably a development squad for a Women’s Super League team and then hopefully progress through to the first team in time.”
Except rather than being able to continue her rise, like Rashford, alongside talented players and dedicated coaches who have helped shape her development, she will be playing for England and embark on her last season at United knowing she’ll have to find a new home, and it is not because she’s not good enough.
“It’s definitely not the best thing. I always loved playing for United and watching United and stuff like that but having to move on due to the fact that there’s nowhere else to go within the club, it’s tough, but they have also given me loads of support. They’ve moved my career on massively and they’ve helped me play for England.”
Emily is full of praise for the coaches and players in the MU Foundation that work with the girls day-to-day and invest so much to then see their fledgling players fly the nest with their best years ahead of them.
“If it weren’t for United I wouldn’t be playing for England. The quality of coaching and support I’ve had has been fantastic. If I move onto a new club and make a career out of football, United will have been a crucial part of my past and of who I am as a person and a player.”
The sad thing is that not only do Manchester United lose the best years of their talented young women, they also risk tarnishing the reputation of the club in the eyes of these passionate lifelong supporters.
But there is hope. Local rivals Manchester City have poured resources (relatively) into their women’s side and have built one of the most professional and serious set-ups in the game. This focus had started to reap rewards with their first Super League title coming this year.
And while Emily will have missed out, she’s hopeful that the quick success of City will help heap the pressure on United to catch up.
“City are United’s biggest rivals. They’re doing better than the men in the league at the moment — for now! — and they are fields ahead when it comes to a women’s team. City are winning everything. Hopefully the long-standing rivalry will help encourage United to establish a women’s team to compete with them in every area.
“I remember when City started putting a lot of work into their team in 2012. They had a couple of seasons where they didn’t win much and now they are one of the best teams in the country and challenging in Europe. That shows how quickly it could be done if United did set up a team.”
And the promising goalkeeper is pleased her story is a part of the conversation. “It’s important to get your story out there, your point of view, because the club does care. They care about their image, their players and the community. More and more brilliant players coming out of the Girls’ Regional Talent Club who head over to rival teams highlights how good a senior women’s team could be.
“It can be disappointing for girls that are growing up with United, United fans, living in the area, having to leave and go somewhere else but we are also very lucky to have had the start the MU Foundation has given us.
“I think we just need to continue to get more awareness of women’s football as a whole and help the club to see the benefits that expanding their women’s football would bring to the club.”
Emily’s England call-up and ongoing success as a player is certainly helping to draw attention to the question of a United women’s team. “When the foundation posted that I got the call-up to England and it got retweeted by David De Gea and Jacqui Oatley I was really pleased. I’ve got to the end of a memorable seventh year for United and played the last couple of years for England, and now I’m unfortunately going to move to one of their rivals.
“It must make the club think, and hopefully young women in future will have the opportunity to play for United. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to come back.”


JBG? comment:
 Thanks to the Morning Star's Suzanne Beishon for letting us use this for our blog.