On Wednesday, 8th December 2021, Cheshire FA were proud to host a very special event all around Creating an Inclusive Environment, as part of our #RainbowLaces campaign.
Joining us on the night where many special guests from across both local and national organisations both within Football and the LGBTQ+ community. We were delighted to welcome Arran Williams from the FA, Raj Randhawa from Kick it Out, Rover & Out (Tranmere Rovers LGBTQ+ Supporters Group), Body Positive and Simon Mahomed of DontXtheLine. We also welcome virtual contributions from Jack Murley of the BBC LGBT Sport podcast, Natalie Washington of Football v Transphobia, and Liz Ward, the Director of Programmes at Stonewall.
The evening was hosted by our Business Support Manager, Greg McLean who opened the event by sharing his coming out story with our guests. “I never thought 5 years ago I would be hosting an event like this”… Greg spoke about the importance of allyship and how his former boss, Geoff, had supported him in coming out to his family and friends; but getting to that stage was all started by a conversation due to Geoff noticing little signs that Greg hadn’t been himself.
Greg highlighted “If you notice that someone isn’t themselves, making the time for a conversation could be life-changing for that individual – it was for me”.
Visibility is also a vital part of being able to support the LGBTQ+ community and Greg spoke about how the BBC LGBT Sport Podcast provides a great platform for members of the community from across all sports, who have gone through similar battles with their sexuality or gender, to share their story. Jack Murley then provided a virtual message around the importance of these matters.
It was then the turn of Arran Williams, National Inclusion and Diversity Manager of the FA, who shared best practice examples from clubs and organisations around the country and how they’re adopting an inclusive approach to make football a special and welcoming environment for all.
The changing demographic of society was also highlighted, with the importance of diverse committees and management structures allowing a wider range of perspectives to help make informed decisions.
Liz Ward of Stonewall was next to share her views around the importance of the work Stonewall carry out, and how Rainbow Laces can start the conversation towards improving inclusion.
It was them over to Raj Randhawa of Kick it Out who explained how vital reporting discrimination was. If you hear or see any form of discrimination in grassroots football within Cheshire, please report it through one of the following bodies:
- Cheshire FA;Discipline@CheshireFA.com
- Kick it Out:https://www.kickitout.org/forms/online-reporting-form
Following a break for food, we were delighted to introduce Natalie Washington via video link to share her experiences around Football v Transphobia and the importance of trans-inclusion. Pippa Henry then shared her story and the difficulties she faced when transitioning – explaining her desire to simply play football. Pippa sharing her story opened up some very thought-provoking discussion and a dialogue with the FA that will be taken forward by Arran Williams.
Sharing people’s individual lives experiences is vital in creating positive change for the future, it is only by working together that this changes possible.
A panel discussion was then led by Dan Landstrom and Greg McLean with a number of special guests joining us;
DAVE BYRNE & PAUL DAVIES (ROVER & OUT)
LIZ CLARK (SANDBACH UNITED)
SIMON MAHOMED (REFEREE)
SALLY PROBERT-HILL (BODY POSITIVE)
RAJ RANDHAWA (KICK IT OUT)
DANIELLE SHIELDS (CHESHIRE FA)
ARRAN WILLIAMS (THE FA)
There were some terrific discussions had and we thank all of our panellists for their openness and honesty.
Host, Greg McLean shared his views about the event: “I'm really proud to have hosted this as part of Cheshire FA's #RainbowLaces campaign. The theme throughout the night was the importance of visibility and allyship; we cannot achieve anything without learning about people's lived experiences and working together to put negative experiences right.
It was inspiring to hear our guests share their stories and I am sure everyone who joined us on the night has taken a lot away. This is just the start of what we hope will be a movement towards greater inclusivity in football across Cheshire.”