As part of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transexual) History Month Hertfordshire Constabulary has teamed up with the Hertfordshire Football Association and the county’s football clubs to make a stand against homophobia (including biphobia and transphobia) in football and to encourage the reporting of homophobic incidents - which are hate crimes - to police.
As part of the initiative, representatives from the county’s local football clubs and Hertfordshire Constabulary Veterans football team will wear Stonewall’s* Rainbow Laces in at least one match during February.
Yesterday Stevenage's Chris Whelpdale and Steven Schumacher were joined by representatives from Stevenage Ladies FC and other county clubs to take part in a photo-shoot at The Lamex Stadium to jointly demonstrate their support for the campaign. To continue to spread the message, posters encouraging fans and players to report homophobic abuse will also be displayed around the football clubs.
Chris Whelpdale and Steven Schumacher are joined by Hayley Wood-Thompson (left) and Josie North (right) from Stevenage Ladies for the photo shoot
Results of a fan survey from Stonewall, looking into anti-gay abuse and the game's failure to tackle it indicated that:
• Three in five lesbian, gay or bi-sexual fans think football is anti-gay.
• Sixty-three percent of fans think that fear of homophobic abuse from the stands is part of the reason that there are no openly gay players in English football.
• Seventy per cent of fans have heard anti-gay abuse on the terraces.
• Forty-nine per cent of lesbian, bisexual and gay fans would be more likely to attend matches if their club tackled anti-gay abuse.
Joe Goude, Head of Stevenage FC Foundation, said: “We are pleased to be working with the Hertfordshire FA, Hertfordshire Constabulary and fellow football clubs to make a stand against homophobia in football. As an award-winning family club we recognise we have a role to create and ensure a welcoming and comfortable environment for all fans here at The Lamex Stadium, regardless of background. This message of equality is extremely important to us at Stevenage and this is why we’re supporting this initiative.”
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Deputy Lead for Sexual Orientation Inspector Jason Thorne said: “We are delighted to be working with the Hertfordshire FA and the county’s football clubs to be taking this stance against homophobia in the game and raising awareness that this form of abuse is a hate crime which should be reported to police so offenders can be brought to justice.
“It is fantastic that the county’s clubs have agreed to support this just cause by wearing the Rainbow Laces and I hope that this initiative will help us to work towards homophobia in football being a thing of the past in Hertfordshire.
“Everyone has a right to enjoy football without fear of being targeted for who they are or what they believe in. We hope that the campaign will help to spread this message and make everyone aware that this form of abuse in football, and in any sporting arena, does not have to be put up with and that something can be done about it.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire David Lloyd, said: “It cannot be denied that homophobia, transphobia and biphobia does still exist in our communities, and sadly particularly so in the footballing arena. I am therefore pleased to see the Constabulary working with the Hertfordshire FA and the county’s local football clubs for such an important cause during LGBT History Month.
“It is unacceptable that people are still being treated unjustly for being who they are or what they believe in. It does not have to be put up with and I hope that this campaign succeeds in raising awareness that treatment such as this is a hate crime which can be reported and dealt with by police.”
Hate crime is any criminal offence perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate, based on a person’s sexual orientation, transgender identity, race, religion, or disability. Hate crime victims may experience physical assault, people swearing or making abusive remarks, spitting, insulting gestures or people doing things that frighten, intimidate and cause distress. If any of the behavior described above is directed towards players or fans and is perceived as being based on a person’s sexual orientation, transgender identity, race, religion, or disability it will be dealt with robustly by police. On conviction, the element of prejudice or hate will be taken into account and an enhanced sentence can be given by the court.
Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers (LAGLOs)
Hertfordshire Constabulary has trained a number of officers and staff as Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers (LAGLOs). Though they are not all LGBT themselves (many are) they are there to assist both victims and investigators of crimes. If you are a victim of any kind of crime and feel that you would be more comfortable talking to a LAGLO, just ask in the event of contacting police.
Hate Crime Officers
Hertfordshire Constabulary has a team of specially-trained hate crime officers. These dedicated officers offer victims help, support and advice. They can meet victims in a place they feel comfortable and safe, and will explain options available to them. They can also be there for a victim if a statement needs to taken and if the case goes to court. Victims can be confident that they will be treated with respect and in confidence.
Reporting hate crime
Victims and witnesses of hate crime can report incidents to police without fear and can be reassured that they will be taken seriously and treated with sensitivity. However if people do not feel comfortable speaking directly to police, hate crime can also be reported online through the True Vision website www.report-it.org.uk which all police forces in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are signed up to. The online report will then be forwarded to the relevant local police force.
The football club's involved in yesterday's photo shoot were Stevenage FC, Stevenage FC Ladies, Watford FC, Watford Ladies, Boreham Wood FC, Hitchin Town, Hitchin Town Ladies, Hertford Town, Hemel Hempstead Town and the Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Veterans Team.