February 2014 saw the second Football v Homophobia month of action. The campaign works across football to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and to promote the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the game. There is no doubt that the digital landscape is changing the way the campaign works. Here’s how.
Helping to get the message across
Social media is playing an increasingly important part in how the campaign gets its message out. We are a young campaign with few resources, so formats such as Twitter are increasingly valuable tools for us to reach a large audience with a relatively small investment. In many ways, our role is a facilitative one – enabling professional clubs, for example, to take action to challenge homophobia in their communities, and providing them with the resources to get this message out clearly. In this context, Twitter, Facebook and the web have become important mediums through which clubs can use our brand to showcase their own work via their own channels. A good example is the film created by Millwall Football Club. Throughout February this year, we noticed that tweets from clubs and county football associations which highlighted their work with Football v Homophobia were their most retweeted and favourited over that period.
Part of the problem?
In a recent Kick It Out (KIO) survey of professional footballers, 91 per cent said that social media has led to an increase in racist and homophobic abuse. In our opinion, it’s not the case that more abuse is now taking place, but simply the fact that modern communications have given a platform to abuse that would have, in the past, been confined to a local audience. When someone in the game does say something homophobic, it attracts a lot more coverage: we increasingly get people contacting us through Twitter or email, alerting us to what has been said. In many ways, this is a positive development as knowing where and when homophobia is showing up enables us to do something about it. It also shows us just how far society has come in recent years and that people have a growing understanding that this type of abuse is not ok.
With a campaign like ours there is also a downside. As an organisation, when you are on Twitter, it becomes very hard to switch off, which has ramifications for the personal resource constraints of our team. We also have to deal with the occasional difficult situation where the boundaries of whether or not to reply become a moral maze. While social media is great for getting out your campaign messages, it’s much more limited in its ability to facilitate in-depth, self reflexive conversations about the key issues involved.
Offering new solutions
One of the things that we did in February was to provide a match day insert to all 92 professional clubs, for them to include a message in their programme about their commitment to challenging homophobia in the game. Within the text was a signpost to how people could report incidences of prejudice they witnessed during a game.
This year, the traditional reporting mechanisms of face to face contact, phone or email have been supplemented by an app managed by KIO. Participants across both the professional and grassroots games can download the app to make immediate reports of events, which go to both KIO and to the relevant authority. The use of technology such as KIO is a positive development in the fight against homophobia in the game.
Our campaign will continue throughout 2014, based on our ongoing education and training work – using social media – culminating in February 2015.
About the author
Megan Worthing-Davies is co-director of the Football v Homophobia campaign. She is a qualified teacher, trainer and coach with an academic background in gender theory. Worthing-Davies is committed to working on projects that promote inclusion and justice and is an alumnus of Teach First and Amnesty International.