A Question of Pride? Media’s role explored in Football v Homophobia Podcast Euro 2024 special

Being LGBTQ+ at the Euros is the topic for this year’s Football v Homophobia Podcast in Pride Month, produced by FWA partners Sports Media LGBT+. Jon Holmes of the FWA National Committee explains why it’s a chat that matters…

Recent major men’s international football tournaments have been tough going for LGBTQ+ people who love the game.

The Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups were both held in countries where it’s a grim outlook for those living there who are gay.

In between, the delayed Euro 2020 was far from perfect. Matches were played in St Petersburg, Baku and Budapest – all cities in which, for example, wearing a rainbow would be risky.

So having Euro 2024 staged in Germany is something to celebrate for many members of a marginalised community who love football just as much as any other demographic.

However, with minimal media focus on LGBTQ+ matters at this tournament, it’s a struggle to send out a positive message. A new episode of the Football v Homophobia Podcast, produced by FWA partners Sports Media LGBT+, explores this situation in more depth.

Andrew Henderson is a football writer and Scotland fan who created the award-winning Pride of the Terraces storytelling platform. He told me how those in our industry can prevent the topic of inclusion from being brushed under the carpet.

“I absolutely think the media have a role to play in this,” he says on the podcast.

“It can’t just be on the pitch, on coaches or anybody associated – it has to be on the journalists and pundits.

“We know there have been players who have directly supported LGBTQ rights in the past. It’d be nice for one of them to be asked – how different does it feel this time?

“Even without a player to hang everything on this summer – and we all know the pressure and attention that could come with that – there’s so much that can be done.”

Also appearing on this episode is Joe White, who co-founded Three Lions Pride – England’s official fans group for England fans who are LGBTQ+ or allies.

They will be in attendance at all England’s Group C fixtures and any knockout-stage games that Gareth Southgate and his players are involved in.

Along the way, they also hope to get some airtime to share how much it means to travel away from home and support your team in a country that doesn’t criminalize you for who you love.

“We’re lucky with the team at The FA, who obviously have access with the players doing media stuff,” says White.

“In the past, we’ve had some really impactful chats and I think they’re going to continue moving forwards.

“I’m optimistic that even during this tournament, we may get to do some work, if not necessarily with players then with Lions Den and all of that associated England fan group conversation that goes on.

“Communication is important for safety on the ground, but also it’s about having conversations in front of and behind cameras as well.”

The presenters and pundits line-ups for the BBC coverage will include several people who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Alex Scott – who memorably wore a ‘One Love’ armband on air in Qatar – is among the on-screen talent, while Jen Beattie and Rachel Corsie will be on hand to cover Scotland games and other fixtures.

Former Germany star Thomas Hitzlsperger – the only footballer to have played in the Premier League and then come out publicly as gay – is contributing as a BBC Sport columnist too. Strong allies on the BBC and ITV benches include Conor Coady, Graeme Souness and Ian Wright. 

However, there is not thought to be much publicly out LGBTQ+ representation among the group of written journalists going to Germany.

“There’s a quote that’s stuck with me for years now,” says Henderson on the podcast.

“People ask, where are all the gay football players? Well, where are all the people for them to tell their stories to?

“You need to have both sides to really drive that message home because otherwise it’s not going to be at the forefront of a lot of journalists’ minds.”

Another guest on the podcast is Alice Drouin, who is the project manager of Pride House Berlin – the dedicated pop-up LGBTQ+ venue in the heart of the German capital for these Euros.

The Pride House will show all 51 games live on big screens and is getting strong support from German media outlets such as Kicker and Tagesspiegel.

Listen to the FvH Podcast Pride special ‘LGBTQ+ and Euro 2024’ here. For more information on Sports Media LGBT+ – a welcoming industry network and publisher – check out the group’s website or contact FWA national committee member Jon Holmes on jon@sportsmedialgbt.com

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