Saturday , 25 May 2019

How to build an inclusive football club

Dan Twist: "We still need to promote LGBTI rights in and outside the club"
Dan Twist: “We still need to promote LGBTI rights in and outside the club”

Dan Twist is the LGBTI Officer for Glasgow-based gay-friendly football club Saltire Thistle. Speaking exclusively to KaleidoScot, Dan tells us his vision for creating an inclusive club, explains why even gay teams need a committed LGBTI Officer and shares his optimism for the longer-term success in the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) league.

KaleidoScot: What’s so special about Saltire Thistle?

Dan: Saltire Thistle is the west of Scotland’s only gay friendly football team. We welcome everyone who wants to play football in a friendly and inclusive team and welcome anyone who has an interest in football regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ability or age (18+). The team has gay, straight and bisexual players and members. We pride ourselves in also having a great team of supporters who get behind the club at every game we play. The club play in the UK wide GFSN League Division One and Cup competitions, as well as, the GDSFC Glasgow and District Sunday League Championship – which means we have a lot of games!

The team has a great social side too – whether it’s an en masse weekend away at one of our GFSN away games or having a fundraiser and wee get together at our sponsor, the Underground Bar in Glasgow.

KaleidoScot: It’s interesting that a gay-friendly football team, which by its nature is facilitating diversity and tolerance, has an LGBTI Officer. Why do you need one?

Dan: It’s really important that we continue to support and develop LGBTI issues within the club and promote LGBTI rights outside of the club too. But we won’t sit back on LGBTI rights now the club has been set up and has been really successful.

We still need to promote LGBTI rights in and outside the club and make sure new members are welcomed with open arms regardless of their gender and sexuality. The club has come on in leaps and bounds to demonstrate how successful a LGBTI friendly club can be. In the past three years we have won the GFSN League Division One last year and won the Division Two and Three titles in successive years too. And for the first time we have won through to the GFSN Cup Final this year. But it’s my job to make sure outside bodies know about us and continue to support the club too. We work very closely with the SFA and the association have been very supportive offering us training events and including the club in diversity football tournaments too. We work hard to make sure LGBTI rights are listened to, supported and understood.

KaleidoScot: What plans does Saltire Thistle currently have to improve diversity in football?

Dan: Saltire Thistle is always looking at ways to improve diversity. We attended the BEMIS Multicultural Homecoming five a side football tournament this year and played against a number of diverse teams based in Scotland. The club also supports members who may have a disability but still want to enjoy playing competitive football in a friendly and supportive environment.

We’re also the only LGBTI friendly team to play in the GDSFC and we believe the more we play against other (non-gay) football teams the more we are breaking down the barriers.

Women are most welcome to join the Saltire Thistle club. What is unique about the GFSN league divisions and cup tournament is that both men and women can play football together. Indeed Saltire Thistle has played against other GFSN teams who have female players. We currently don’t have any female players in the club but we’d like this to change. Any women interested in joining us are free to contact us about how to get involved. The treatment of every player at Saltire Thistle is the same – if you are committed to the club and prove yourself on the football field you will have a position in the team.

KaleidoScot: Your club has done astonishingly well in its first five years. What are Saltire Thistle’s longer-term ambitions?

Dan: The club has done incredibly well since we were established only five years ago. We want to continue being successful in both the GFSN and GDSFC leagues and make sure members of the club and new people wanting to join feel confident and supported in the club. Ideally we’d like to recruit new players and supporters to the club so we can continue to have a strong LGBTI football team in the west of Scotland. Glasgow already has a lesbian friendly football team but if there are ladies who would like to join our club we’d love to hear from you. For us football is the sport we love and if we can help as many people to play and enjoy the game without fear of prejudice then we are happy.

KaleidoScot: What do you personally hope to achieve as LGBTI officer in the near future?

Dan: In football there’s still a long way to go but I hope bit by bit LGBTI people will see how inclusive football is becoming and will feel free to join and support whatever football club they like.

Of course Scotland and the rest of the UK does not have an openly gay footballer within a top flight club and I hope this will change in the near future. I think once one player makes that decision to come out it will help other players and supporters of this great sport to come to terms with their sexuality too. I want to make sure we continue to achieve getting recognition as a great LGBTI club – and to work to ensure that LGBTI rights in football are coming from the grassroots up, as well as from the top down.

KaleidoScot: You don’t have WAGs at Saltire Thistle – you have BAPS! Tell us more about this – presumable inclusivity to you goes beyond merely the players?

Dan: We have a great army of dedicated supporters who brave the wind and rain to cheer on the team every weekend. Forget WAGs – our supporters are affectionately called BAPs which is short for ‘Boyfriends and Partners’. The BAPs are the lifeblood of the team from supporting the team on pitch side to being involved in organising the team’s fundraisers and social gatherings. At every presentation evening we have a special award given for the BAP of the Year. A supporter who has been committed to the club all year and so is given the recognition they deserve. We also have the Pride of Saltire Award which can go to any member of the club who has shown strong commitment and support to the club. Both players and BAPs have won the award in recent years.

 

Glasgow-based Saltire Thistle play in the GFSN Division 1 and will meet fellow Scots Hotscots FC in the GFSN Cup Final later this year.

About Andrew Page

Andrew Page
Andrew is KaleidoScot's sports editor and photographer. An experienced blogger, Andrew was raised in the Hebrides and currently lives in Renfrewshire. Andrew became an active equality campaigner at the time of the Section 28 debate, and has particular interests in faith issues and promoting LGBTI equality in sport. Andrew was shortlisted for the Icon Award's 2015 Journalist of the Year.

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