The Journey of the Research


































The first challenge faced was gaining access to the world of amateur gay football and, specifically, making contact with clubs.  This proved to be rather more difficult than we had, at first, expected as there were no replies to our emails.  This was due in part to scepticism about the nature of the project, justifiable issues of trust and intrusion, and the large number of other speculative enquiries received.  Face-to-face contact in order to address this initial hurdle seemed like the only way forward.

Getting the Clubs on Board

Louisa searched archives of local and national newspapers for references to gay football.  She found a small advert in the Liverpool Echo to join a kickabout with a fledgling gay team in Liverpool along with a contact number for its founder, Steve Hess.

Steve Hess

Louisa contacted Steve to introduce the research.  He readily agreed to meet to talk about his experiences, both as a former player with Stonewall FC in London and as a potential player-manager in Liverpool.  This meeting, in summer 2005, proved pivotal as Steve was able to provide contacts in gay football who he felt would be keen to get involved with the research and would encourage others too. One name he mentioned was that of Mikey Collins, the then manager of the London-based, Leftfooters. 

Mikey Collins

Mikey was a panel member at The FA’s Homophobia Summit, held at the Ricoh Stadium in Coventry in November 2005 which we attended.  Having learned more about the research, he sent an email out to GFSN teams around the country introducing us and encouraging their support for the research.  It was this endorsement which was significant as emails were then received from the country’s gay teams offering to take part in the study.  At Coventry, we also met players from other gay teams including Leicester Wildecats who agreed to take part.   A meeting with John Bridges around the same time also opened up an avenue into Village Manchester FC.

Mikey Collins agreed to the Leftfooters having an initial meeting with Mac to explain the purpose of the study and the way it would be conducted including the handling of sensitive issues such as confidentiality. It was clear that trust in our motives, honesty in communication and openness concerning how the findings would be used were essential to the team members.  A couple of newspaper articles had reported on gay football in less than positive terms – people wanted to know that this would not be in anyway derogatory or demeaning.  

Talking to Players
Players from most of the UK’s gay and gay friendly football teams have now participated in the study, which has resulted in the collection of extensive qualitative data. These have been collected by means of semi-structured interviews, small focus group discussions, video diaries and email contacts. In order to elicit meaningful and true results, honesty and openness of response were essential. We are sincerely grateful to the players from all the teams who took part for giving us their time and the degree of trust they placed in us whilst sharing their experiences, thoughts and sometimes even their fears. In talking about themselves and the team, some referred to personal journeys, of childhood sporting experiences that had often been negative, of the desire to find more than clubbing on the gay scene.  Many reflected on their participation in “non-gay” football as an unsatisfactory experience due to their perception that their sexuality would not be accepted by their team mates. Others however countered this stating they had played in such teams as an out gay man without issue, yet still maintained a greater sense of affinity playing in a gay team.  Many spoke, too, of finding a sense of belonging, of gaining support for their developing identity as a gay person and the sense of family the team offered. 

What has the research achieved?
There continued to be interest from the GFSN as word got round – along with strong encouragement. The project was recognized as having some potential in contributing to people’s understanding of gay football, both within the gay community and beyond it. It could attest to the growth and development of this important aspect of the community scene and the benefits for individuals. At the same time, we were able to discover some crucial differences between the clubs themselves – they aren’t all alike. Some play exclusively within the GFSN League. Others play in a variety of amateur leagues. Some clubs place fun, inclusivity and community at the very heart of what they do, to the exclusion of a hard-edged sense of competition. Others have a strong desire to play competitive football – and do, whilst maintaining the values that have emerged within gay football concerning inclusion, fairness and dignity.  Learn more about the findings from the research here



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