FA and ECB to take part in Pride in London parade
English football's national governing body follows in footsteps of cricket counterpart as solo entries in annual LGBT rights march through capital's streets
Last Updated: 06/07/19 9:20am
The Football Association are to march in the annual Pride in London parade as a governing body for the first time on Saturday, while the England and Wales Cricket Board will again take part.
FA chief executive Martin Glenn says the governing body's involvement in the event is "a natural next step" as they continue efforts to make people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender welcome and engaged at all levels of the game.
The ECB was the first sports NGB to have its own solo entry in a UK Pride march when they took part in Pride in London in 2018, and they will feature again in the parade through the capital's streets this weekend.
Over a million spectators turned out to watch last year's Pride in London parade which comprised over 30,000 people. This year, the theme is 'Pride Jubilee' to mark 50 years since the Stonewall riots in New York City, which sparked the modern-day LGBT+ civil rights movement; the first such march in London took place in 1972, and there are now over 150 Pride parades and events held annually in cities and towns across the UK.
The FA parade group will consist of employees and associates, and follows on from the gathering of internal survey data which showed that seven per cent of FA staff and six per cent of FA county staff identify as LGBT.
"As English football's governing body, The FA aims to lead by example in helping to shift the culture in our sport to one of inclusion," said Glenn.
"Pride is one of the most iconic social and cultural 'moments', not just in this country, but across the world.
"We believe football has a unique global quality of connecting people irrespective of who they are or where they're from.
"As an organisation, The FA has been doing increasingly more to immerse LGBTQ groups and individuals in the game, so this felt like a natural next step in this journey."
The FA currently works with several LGBT+ organisations, including Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, and Football v Homophobia, on programmes to help foster a welcoming landscape for fans, players and those in other roles connected with the game.
Over 12m people play football in England, and the association will also use Pride as an opportunity to reinforce its 'For All' inclusion message, communicating that everyone is welcome in the sport regardless of gender, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, ability or disability, faith or age.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the FA's inclusion and diversity manager Funke Awoderu says being a visible part of Pride is a vital component in the governing body's inclusion strategy.
"It allows us to bring our values out so that it actually engages those communities out there who feel marginalised in terms of the work that we do. It's very much about engaging a wide spectrum of LGBT people and making sure that the game is for everybody."
The referee Ryan Atkin, who in summer 2017 shared with Sky Sports his personal story of being a gay man in football in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, will be among those marching with the FA on Saturday.
"For people to see the FA logo as part of Pride will have a massive impact," Atkin told Sky Sports. "I'm honoured and proud to represent them this weekend as part of a group of LGBT+ people and allies within football.
"It's a monumental step forward for the game and will reflect the positivity around inclusion that the FA is delivering both internally and externally.
"For me personally, coming out and being authentic has allowed me to develop my skills and I'm now looking forward to taking a step up to Panel Select Referee level and officiate in the National League for 2019/20, and as a fourth official in the EFL."
Football will also be represented in Saturday's Pride parade by groups of supporters, staff and colleagues representing various London professional football clubs, including Arsenal (Gay Gooners), Charlton (Proud Valiants), Crystal Palace (Proud and Palace), Chelsea (Chelsea Pride), Tottenham (Proud Lilywhites), Watford (Proud Hornets) and West Ham (Pride of Irons), while more fans will march as part of the Pride in Football family of LGBT fan groups.
In addition, over 15 of London's LGBT-inclusive sports clubs, including football teams Stonewall FC, London Titans FC and Soho FC, rugby's Kings Cross Steelers and the London Otters rowing club, will feature in the parade.
The Steelers will be joined for the first time by representatives from England Rugby, with their chief financial officer, Sue Day, saying the link-up demonstrates to the world that the RFU is "committed to creating opportunities for all... we are an inclusive and diverse family".
The ECB's Pride debut in 2018 came a few weeks before the activation of the Rainbow Laces campaign in county cricket, and was met with a "really positive" response, says their head of people operations, Peter England.
"When we announced our entry in the parade, we had large numbers of colleagues putting their hands up, wanting to show their support and take part," England told Sky Sports.
"Externally, the reception was more than we could have hoped for in our first year. Parade spectators and participants gave us such a warm welcome, with a number approaching us saying how great it was to see a major sporting organisation pledging its support to the LGBTQ+ community.
"In the days that followed, we also received messages from people across the UK - a memorable one being from an amateur player, who said that seeing our participation in the parade, gave him the strength to come out to his friends at his local cricket club, enabling him to be his true self."
England believes other UK NGBs and sports organisations should give serious thought to taking more active roles in Pride season.
"As a gay man, I always felt that sport wasn't for me and that I wouldn't be accepted," he explained. "Since working for the ECB, I can see this is completely untrue.
"The more NGBs and sporting organisations who visibly support our community, the faster this perception will disappear.
"At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, and many LGBTQ+ people feel isolated, sport has the power to bring people together and improve lives by enhancing both physical and mental wellbeing.
"Participation is so important to the ECB. It demonstrates to anyone who wants to play, watch or work in cricket, that our game is fully inclusive and welcoming, and that cricket is a game for them."
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride and supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign.
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