Football for Equality Project - Tackling homophobia and racism with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe!

This is the end - Evaluation of the project

The Football for Equality I (FfE I) project ended in May 2011. At lot has been reached, other things could have been better. Setting homophobia on the agenda of football bodies and political representatives as well as making it visible to a broader, public audience is unfortunatley still quite innovative. That is why the external Evaluation made by the social scientist and football expert Nicole Selmer is focussing on the succesful awareness-raising with regard to homophobia. Read some parts of the report by Nicole Selmer below, you also find the whole text as a download on the right side.

Executive Summary

Football offers the promise of an ethos based on equality and performance instead of ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The love of football both as players and spectators, the interest in the game and the comparatively low threshold for playing it – only a ball and a bit of space is needed –turn the sport into an adequate tool to reach out especially to young people and to convey ideas of equality and participation. However, given its history football is also deeply rooted in a culture of masculinity and linked to ideals of honor, glory and comradship which foster exclusion rather than inclusion. Racism and xenophobia are despite many activitites and campaings still present on the stands and beyond and the issue of homophobia in football has only been tackled by single initiatives raising mostly from fan groups. The project “Football for Equality. Challenging racist and homophobic stereotypes in and through football” takes this ambivalent role of football as a starting point. (...)

Successful awareness-raising

The evaluation concludes that the awareness-raising with regard to homophobia and football has been particularly successful. Conferences and the FARE Action Week were used to put the issue on centre stage and to instigate further activities around it. Likewise, the various project activities were successful in fostering contacts and networking between different stakeholder and interested parties like NGOs, LGBT grass-roots groups, fan groups and football bodies. Important aspects coming up in the course of the evaluation are the importance of role models, support from football and political governing bodies and the involvement of LGBT groups in mainstream football/fan organisations and NGO. The success of the project activities in these respects vary; however, an effective mobilisation of football and political bodies for the issue of discrimination in football is an on-going and time-consuming work.

Likewise, the involvement and cooperation of grassroots groups from different sectors calls for continuous and, preferably local, engagement which could not be achieved throughout the whole project. The evaluation has observed organisational and communication problems between the project partners that were partly due to the on-going transition process of the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) network in which the partners were involved. These had a particular impact on the time management of the FARE Action Week, the press work and single work flow elements.

Discrimination in football

With regard to the specific area of discrimination and especially homophobia (as an only recently debated issue) in football the evaluation points both at certain obstacles and opportunities. There is a marked reluctance with stakeholders to tackle this subject and to actively engage with initiatives against homophobia. At the same time the “newness” of this topics offers possibilities with regard to publicity and visibility and allows for the involvement of previously neglected groups. The evaluation also shows that both the debate on and the practice examples for activities against discrimination in and through football tend to separate the different forms of discrimination. The result is a lack of awareness for the actual workings of discrimination on a structural basis and a more additive rather than integral approach to the issue on the practical side (for example workshops separated according to discriminated groups not thematically).

The recommendations

  • stronger involvement of political bodies and football bodies by promoting the new EU roll in
  • sports after the Lisbon treaty
  • further mobilisation of LGBT groups and ethnic minorities through continuous cooperation and
  • involvement of key persons during planning stage of activities
  • develop more specific educational tools for engagement against homophobia in/through
  • football based on the project experiences
  • support and actively encourage role models for young people from Roma and LGBT community
  • (“invisible minorities”)
  • implementation of cooperation between anti-racist NGOs, football community and LGBT
  • organisations as continuous and local activity
  • provide resp. assemble academic background input for a more thorough discussion on the
  • connection of different forms of discrimination