SRFC RESPONSE TO FFA’S XI FOOTBALL PRINCIPLES

In July 2020 Football Federation Australia (FFA) released a discussion paper detailing eleven proposed principles to underpin the future development and growth of football in Australia. Feedback was sought from interested stakeholders to help develop the Principles, and we have provided the following response on behalf of Sydney Rangers FC members and the wider LGBT+ community.

“The Identity of Australian football has always reflected Australian culture – a glorious mash-up of backgrounds and diversity.Whilst we applaud FFA’s focus on diversity for gender, culture, community and background we were unable to find any mentions within the principles focusing on the LGBT+ community.

At a national and international level FFA must have a strong pro-LGBT+ stance, particularly when LGBT+ rights are being repealed across the world – many countries of which Australia faces in World Cup qualifiers and with the next WorldCup being hosted in a nation with a poor record on LGBT+ rights. Australia should be a beacon of acceptance, diversity and exciting, multicultural football.At a more local level there are countless national and international studies documenting experiences LGBT+ players and fans face in sports, which alienates a large part of the community from playing and watching.

The LGBT+ community also suffers from larger numbers of mental health issues and higher numbers of suicide than the general community and sport is a great way to get people out into the community and build up strong and stable relationships and mental health.Back in April 2014 Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop signed up along with the four other major sporting codes to a statement of commitment to use an Anti-homophobia and Inclusion Framework to guide the sport on the development and implementation of policies and international best practises to eradicate homophobia from their sports. In the six years since this commitment was made we hope this framework has been put into place at the FFA and member clubs and look forward to engaging on what impact and progress you have seen.

Since the framework was announced in 2014 there continues to be homophobic incidents, such as the high profile homophobic RBB Graham Arnold banner in 2017, trolling on the recent 2020 FFA Facebook post on our team’s FFA Cup entry, to more indirect and direct comments and actions in community football.Whilst we’ve had periodic ad hoc engagement from FFA and some professional clubs (for example Sydney FC celebrated Mardi Gras in 2017 with a giant rainbowbanner on the pitch before the game providing a loud voice for LGBT+ support; in 2019 the FFA Diversity Manager supported the PFA Tournament in Melbourne) there is much more that can be done.

Much more is done in other sports and within soccer in other countries, with annual pride rounds, dedicated outreach staff and celebrations of local and national LGBT+ events and consistent structured frameworks. As an example, the Swans have marched in the parade for last three years but an invitation to FFA to join the Rangers and FlyingBats in the parade in 2020 (which was accepted by FFA) was ultimately met with no staff or playing volunteers.

If you google many of the most successful sporting organisations in the world alongside pride, rainbow or other LGBT+ words you will find countless interactions and engagements with our community, but the results are far more sparse in Australian soccer.For a club such as ours, it was extremely disappointing not to see LGBT+ issues mentioned at all in any of the 11 principles, and on behalf of our 100+ club members we seek a commitment to stamp out homophobia in soccer to be urgently included.

Stamping out homophobia requires a more dedicated, consistent and structured approach than what we’ve seen to date, to ensure progress is made to support often vulnerable members of society and encourage more fans and more participants in the beautiful game.”

TL:DR – what are we calling for?

  1. Ongoing engagement with the LGBT+ community from FFA, Football NSW and leading professional teams
  2. Strategy to promote diversity and inclusion in football, with the longer term aim of increasing participation and representation
  3. A strong pro-LGBT+ stance from governing bodies and strong action in response to homophobic incidents (online and in the community)

If you’d like to discuss our response, please get in touch with our President, Mark (president@sydneyrangersfc.com).

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