Representatives from top League of Ireland football clubs have expressed the need for a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ players. Daniel Lambert, COO of Bohemians FC, and John McGouran, the Community Officer for Shelbourne FC, spoke to Newstalk’s Andrea Gilligan about the ongoing issue.
Both teams are currently in the top tier of Irish football, with just four points between them in the league standings at the time of writing this. Speaking on behalf of Bohemians, Lambert outlined a number of initiatives that the club is taking in order to become more welcoming of queer players and fans alike.
“We have the only LGBT supporters group in Irish football, brilliantly named GayBohs,” he commented. “In 2015, we were the only sports club to support the Marriage Equality referendum which we saw as a human rights issue and not a political issue.”
The club also flies the rainbow flag in their home stadium, Dalymount Park, and is on course to becoming the first-ever League of Ireland Premier Division team to participate in the Pride parade this June. All of these actions are done with the aim of making the game more inclusive, explains Lambert.
🌈 Ahead of Pride, Bohemians – who will be the first League of Ireland club in the Pride parade – and Shelbourne have spoken of the need to make football more inclusive.
📻 Listen back to Daniel Lambert of Bohs and John McGouran of Shels on Newstalk here: https://t.co/OQotjIOKpi pic.twitter.com/Z9ka6npfht
— Bohemian Football Club (@bfcdublin) May 11, 2022
“There’s only one openly gay footballer in top-flight football in the world, so I think we can pretty much draw from that that football is not an inclusive place – men’s football I should add.” He is of course referring to Josh Cavallo, the Australian player who came out late last year.
“I think it says that in men’s football there’s maybe a culture that is in ways unwelcoming to certain groups, but that can be changed and that can be tackled and it should be, but I think it starts with education.”
John McGouran of Shelbourne echoed this sentiment surrounding the importance of education, and as a gay man himself, he opened up about his own personal experience 20 years ago.
“I was a young footballer who came out and that ended my career effectively,” he remembered.
The issue of dressing room banter was highlighted, and John recalled constantly hearing the use of homophobic slurs as insults, saying “Each time you hear that it would just crush me”.
Great to have our Community Officer @jpm019 on @LunchtimeLiveNT this afternoon chatting about the upcoming @gfsnUK Cup Final https://t.co/wKUoKVytrj
— Shelbourne FC (@shelsfc) May 11, 2022
While he hopes that there has been some change since then, it is clearly not sufficient enough as players remain closeted at least in the public eye.
“How many talented footballers have we lost to the game for that reason? How many Irish internationals have we lost to the game for that very reason?” He questioned.
In his role with Shelbourne, John hopes to influence change in the League of Ireland. This comes in many different forms, including the club hosting the Gay Football Supporters Network Cup Final in their home ground, Tolka Park, on May 28. The Dublin Devils will face Village Manchester FC on this historic occasion, and it is the first time that an Irish team has reached the final.
“To use Shelbourne and the profile of the club to promote inclusivity and football for all is first and foremost the most important thing,” Mr. McGouran said on the significance of the game.
“It’s about any young player who sees the game, they’re seeing that members of their community are openly playing football and being welcomed and celebrated for doing so.
“In Shelbourne Football Club, we have a number of people who identify as LGBT both on and off the pitch who do tremendous work and we would not be as successful as we are without them,” he concluded.
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