Friendly matches held between supporters and LGBT clubs raising awareness of homophobia in UK football as Euro 2012 fears continue
The victim of an anti-gay tweet sent by UK footballer Manny Smith hopes to tackle homophobia in the British sport by holding matches between supporters and LGBT teams.
The Walsall FC defender was fined £1,200 after sending homophobic abuse to life-long supporter Kevin Paddock on Twitter in February.
In response, Paddock decided to organize national ‘friendly’ matches between supporters’ trusts and LGBT community football teams to raise awareness of homophobia in the soccer world.
The first match between Walsall Supporters Trust FC and LGBT club Birmingham Blaze FC was held at Sutton Coldfield FC in the Midlands on Saturday (9 June).
‘The life of a football club is its supporters,’ said Paddock.
‘By arranging matches between LGBT community sides, this will give us a great foundation enabling both communities to integrate.
‘I’d like to thank Sutton Coldfield FC for the use of their facilities, and also Birmingham Blaze and Walsall Supporters Trust, as we all strive towards one goal, eradicating homophobia from the "beautiful game".’
The Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) applauded Paddock for turning his experience of homophobia into something ‘constructive’.
GFSN chair Chris Basiurski said: ‘With all eyes on the potential for racism and homophobia at the Euros in Ukraine and Poland, it is good to remember that we still need to do a great deal of work here at home and this game highlights that.
‘We are sure it will be a big success and congratulate Kevin on his efforts.’
Gay football fans were warned to keep a low profile or to simply stay away from the Euro 2012 championship in the Ukraine and Poland, following violent attacks on the LGBT community.
Last month, Gay Star News reported the homophobic attack on Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, after fear of violence from far-right thugs forced the cancellation of Kiev’s first gay pride parade.