Scottish Premiership club Ross County is seeking to help tackle homophobia by reaching out to local LGBT people.
County, currently sitting fourth in the league, take on bottom placed Partick Thistle at Victoria Park tomorrow – and have invited members of a local LGBT youth group at attend.
The club hopes that, by reaching out to Pillar – an Inverness-based group, run by LGBT Youth Scotland, that aims to “to offer a place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people to socialise, gain access to information and be themselves” – it will send out a very positive signal that all are welcome at Victoria Park, and that homophobia has no place in the mdoern game.
In spite of initiatives such as Rainbow Laces and the Equality Network’s finding that 94 per cent of people feel sport would be better without homophobia, it is believed that Ross County is the first club to reach out specifically to the LGBTI community.
Football has for some time been perceived as the sport with the most significant homophobia problem. There are no “out” players in the SPFL and it is widely accepted that there needs to be a cutlural shift to make football more inclusive.
Lewis Maxwell, a member of the Pillar youth group, told the Ross-shire Journal: “I’m deeply touched by the club welcoming Pillar along in this way, and that they are happy for it to be known that they are LGBT friendly.
“For me Victoria Park is a safe place to be myself. The community spirit which runs through the club and its support is one of the reasons I feels so safe and welcome at games.
“The fans don’t care that I’m gay and trans, they look out for their own and all that matters is that everyone enjoys the game regardless of who they are.”
Pillar youth worker Nikki Darling added: “I started supporting County when I moved to Elgin. I was drawn to Ross County for their continuous and dedicated community work and the family atmosphere evident in home games.
“It makes the game far more enjoyable and inclusive when there’s a zero tolerance approach to sexism, homophobia and bigotry.
“Football clubs like Ross County being pro-active in their approach to challenging homophobia in the sport is important in creating a future where players can come out and be accepted for who they are.”
Iain Campbell, a Ross County supporter, told KaleidoScot that he was impressed with the gesture. “It’s a great thing for them to do”, he said. “It really sends out a message that no matter who you are you’ll be welcome at Victoria Park. The club has shown a lead here and I hope other clubs will follow.”
Steven Ferguson, head of youth and community at Ross County said: “We look forward to welcoming LGBT young people along to our match today because we understand that as Scottish clubs become more accepting of LGBT people this will attract a wider, more inclusive audience.”