Saturday afternoon sees Brentford host Birmingham City in front of what is sure to be a big crowd at Griffin Park. Will the Bees get back to winning ways? Can the Blues continue a run of form which has seen them climb to fifth in the Championship table? Will this one peter out to a draw as two normally tight defences come head to head?
Whatever the result, there is as much significance in matters surrounding the game as there is when Mr Madley (Andy, not Robert of Leyton Orient infamy) puts the whistle to his lips and blows to start proceedings at 3pm. It is Rainbow Laces weekend. A weekend where Brentford have joined forces with Stonewall to demonstrate that homophobia is unacceptable whilst making it clear that lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are welcome at every level of sport. And with apologies to the club for shamelessly lifting from their own article (which, if you’d like to read more, you can do so in full here in full here) thousands of people across Britain, from fans to players, will lace up this weekend as part of a UK-wide campaign to make sport everyone’s game.
It is an event that I gather the club have been planning since September, Captain Harlee Dean has already been pictured in the promotional photographs whilst the matchday programme features a quite wonderful piece of cover art. Hats off to the club for looking to innovate here. We’ve already had a fan designed front page feature on the award winning edition produced for the Barnsley game but this takes things to another level. Classy art and a campaign that, one would hope, all supporters can give their backing to. Great job to all in the media dept and the team behind the programme.
This is a subject we’ve looked at before, during ‘Football v Homophobia’ (FvH) month a couple of years ago. It is one that is close to my heart and primarily because prejudice and bigotry are a neanderthal attiude that would, frankly, be an insult to neanderthals. But, equally, for no other reason than for some years now the ever-evolving group of friends I watch The Bees with has included a couple whom, for months, I had no clue were in a same sex relationship. And why would it even matter? For me, it’s all about supporting my team with my friends.
What difference does it make to you? What difference would it actually make if the likes of Sam Saunders, Harlee Dean or anybody at our club were to tell you they were lesbian, gay, bi or trans? To be quite honest one or all of them might be. I just don’t know. And, frankly, I don’t care. Without wanting to get preachy, an individual’s sexual preference is a relevant to me as what they order off the menu at Nandos (the staple hang out of footballers after training, if social media is to be believed) . I neither know or, more importantly, care.
That isn’t meant to trivialise the issues faced by the LBGT community. Quite the opposite. I just genuinely don’t understand why other people get so hung up about it.
I’ve been coming to Brentford since the late 1970s and, thankfully, unless I am being horrendously naïve, homophobia isn’t an issue that usually rears its head on the terraces. My own son has been joining me at games for three seasons now and I love the fact that we have such an inclusive atmosphere at Griffin Park. If there wasn’t one, we wouldn’t be here.
That said, I’ve personally been witness to the odd incident this season whilst most people with eyes on the game or social media accounts will be aware that this is still a larger issue in football. Just look at the press surrounding the unsavoury build up to this year’s League Cup tie between West Ham and Chelsea.
However, the difference now is that whilst this may have been ‘the norm’ back in the 70s and 80s, people are realising that in the 21st Century it is just unacceptable behaviour. And, quite rightly, they are pushing back on it. Whether in as simple a form as asking fellow fans to hold back on the language or in a more sweeping statement such as the one made by the club in dedicating their programme cover to raising awareness. It is a wonderful gesture and, certainly, one publication I’ll be looking to pick up in or around the ground this weekend.