Tag Archives: homophobia

Wonderkid? Wonderful. Brentford, Sky, Mark and Natalie give us all some food for thought.

1 Mar

Are there any scarier words in the English language than, ‘Issues film’? Well, perhaps “Rail replacement bus service” or “Coming up next, Mrs Browns Boys”  but the thought of a film highlighting any issue in society (regardless of the subject matter itself) isn’t one that is, if we’re being honest, most of us would probably make a beeline to ahead of an ‘Escape To Victory’ or ‘Moonraker’. Who would substitute entertainment and escapism for self-reflection and being forced to think? Yet with Brentford FC already showing their support of Football v Homophobia month and promoting the Rainbow laces campaign (amongst other things), the club have now taken another step forward whilst helping to challenge such ideas.

Last night’s screening of the film WONDERKID, in conjunction with Sky Sports at their on site cinema – looking at the issue of homophobia in football – was simply invigorating. And, let’s be clear, thoroughly entertaining. “Thought provoking stuff” said our host for the evening Natalie Sawyer on more than one occasion. And wasn’t she right?

Look, I’m not going to overly preach about homophobia or LGBT rights. In my eyes it ’s very black and white. Anybody who thinks cowardly, hateful comments and actions as a response to something as irrelevant as somebody’s sexual preference are appropriate – whether in person or on social media  – needs to step back into the Dark Ages. Lecture over.

However, it was so refreshing to see our own conceptions challenged in the film, to hear the comments from the audience and, perhaps most importantly, sit in on the post-screening discussion which included, amongst others, Sophie Cook from Bournemouth and our own Mark Devlin.

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Natalie leads a thought provoking discussion

Mark quite rightly noting the good work already being done by Brentford in this field, something which it is still in its infancy. Talking of how, with one supporter already banned, the aim is ‘zero tolerance’. Zero. Tolerance. That’s a big statement to make but a very pleasing one to hear.

Mark spoke of how he is looking to encourage fans to report instances of abuse – for example through the ‘kick it out’ app. Of how great it was to receive emails praising the club for the lack of any of that ‘oh so tedious’ (my words) chanting against Brighton this season.

Fairplay to Mark, too, for noting the club has been accused of simply ’ticking a box’ in the past when approaching such issues. Whether this is true or not, we are where we are and, in my personal opinion, that is well ahead of so many other clubs – both in terms of the attitude and display from the vast majority of our own fans aswell as our own ambitions. The question being how do we push on from here? Mark, I guess that’s why you are the chief executive and I’m just the numpty on the terrace.

I sincerely hope the panel discussion is shared on Brentford’s social media platforms today. It really is well, well worth a look, especially some brave, yet also wonderfully positive input, from Sophie. As is the film (starring Chris Mason as ‘wonderkid’ McGuire) which I came out of as intrigued in how the plot would continue as in the subject matter itself.

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Natalie Sawyer with Wonderkid ‘McGuire’.

Huge thanks to everybody at the football club and Sky Sports for last night’s event. How nice to see all our high profile club figures and groups represented. As well as Natalie and Mark, amongst others also present were film director Rhys Chapman, the LGBeeT group, Chairman Cliff Crown, the B Team, many of the first XI, the media team, Beesotted, BIAS and Brentford guru Tom Moore from Get West London. As were the fans, of course.

And, likewise, a special thanks to Cliff who gave an insight as to what he had been up to this weekend. The previous column noted his appearance at Wembley stadium for the EFL final, sitting at the front of the Royal Box in his Brentford jacket. Well, rather than a hitherto unheard of connection to the monarchy, this was due to his role on the board of the EFL.

How good that the club have a voice in such a place of influence. With the subject matter of homophobia one at the forefront of our discussion, this is more than timely.Keep up the great work, Cliff

And, of course, keep up the great work Brentford.

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Nick Bruzon  

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What to do on FA Cup weekend? The best (and worst) of football film plus an offer for the fans.

18 Feb

With Brentford having gone missing in action at Chelsea last month, it means we’ve got a free weekend. Instead of a league game against Wolves at Griffin Park, our would be visitors host our FA Cup conquerors in a fifth round encounter that has all those classic ingredients to serve up a potential potato skin. As for Bees fans, we’ll need to put the tinfoil back to regular use and find something else to occupy us until we visit Wednesday on Tuesday. Sheffield, that is.

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For Brentford fans, the tin foil has now reverted to normal use until next season

So? What to do ? Of course, there are still the televised games. These include the aforementioned encounter at Molineux aswell as the one at Turf Moor where Andre Gray, James Tarkoswski (is he still even there?) et al provide the Goliath role as Lincoln City pay Burnley a lunchtime visit.

That one’s well worth a watch, purely for the novelty factor of seeing Burnley playing the role of giants. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a sneaky feeling this will be the one where we have a weekend shock. Whilst the ties at Wolves and Sutton United are the obvious TV draws, expect the top class opponents, and also Arsenal, to go through. Yet with motivation, form and the entire country behind them, Lincoln look remarkable value.

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But if watching Chelsea is a painful reminder of what might have been then could I suggest an alternative? A football film. Regular readers, should such a thing exist, will know of my love of these. The pinnacle of the genre being Escape To Victory.

This has it all. Actors playing football, badly. Footballers acting,very badly. Michael Caine alongside Pele. Sylvester Stallone sharing screen time with Bobby Moore. John Wark’s moustache is worth the entrance fee alone. Come for the facial hair; stay for the Ardiles flick.

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Pele scores as the Allies escape to victory.

Yet for every Escape to Victory and, to a lesser extent, The Damned United, Fever Pitch, Mike Bassett: England Manager or even TV’s Dream Team, is a Green Street, a Soccer Dog (and the even weaker sequel, Soccer Dog: European Cup) or The Goal Trilogy. The football film is a veritable minefield of weak acting, poor script and overly laboured cliché.

Aside from Luis Figo doing ‘Just for Men’ (still got it, Figo) the only on screen football to transcend both good and bad is, perhaps, When Saturday Comes. It is a film so loaded with cliché it is fit to burst. Hard drinking park footballer Jimmy  – played by 37 year old Sean Bean  – eventually gets his break for Sheffield United after stuffing up his first trial before taking on Manchester United in an FA Cup semi final.

It is a film so loaded with inaccuracy (an FA Cup semi final at The Blades home ground, in the middle of winter, being just one of many) that you have to wonder just who gave this script the green light. And, of course, it is a film with Emily Lloyd displaying the worst Irish accent this side of Alan Partridge telling TV execs, “There’s more to Oireland, dan dis” .

Yet this underrated classic is so bad it’s brilliant. It goes beyond nonsense and into the realm of unintentional comedy gold. No mean feat for what, on paper, should be a complete car crash of a movie.

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If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t lived.

And thus talk of football films brings us, with all the subtly of an Alan McCormack challenge, bang up to date and back to Griffin Park.

Next Tuesday, 28th February,  sees Brentford and Sky Sports joining forces for an exclusive screening of the film Wonderkid.  The short film looks at one of football’s biggest issues – that of homophobia in the modern game – with Brentford doing their part to help raise awareness.

It is a cause we’ve always looked to promote and now the Bees are tackling this from a different angle, through the medium of cinema. The football film is a tricky enough genre to get right as it is, let alone with the added pressure of a serious issue. Yet, at the same time, I can’t wait to see how this goes and how it is received.

Full information about the event, including how to get free tickets, is on the club website now. See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

Could we go one better with next season’s third shirt? A groundbreaking opportunity awaits.

5 Feb

Finally. 24 hours after the majority of our Championship rivals, Brentford get the chance to get back into action. And what a test it will be, against league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion. Although, of course, that should now read ‘former’ league leaders after Newcastle United regained top spot on Saturday.

With third place Reading also picking up a point yesterday afternoon, the pressure will be on the Seagulls to really go for broke. Brentford, of course, will be looking to build upon Tuesday night’s tonking of Aston Villa. We looked at the forthcoming challenge in the previous column which you can find here.

However, today I wanted to mention the Football v Homophobia (FvH) campaign. Don’t worry, this is no attempt at cod moralising or patronising anybody. The last thing anybody needs, the LGBT community especially, is an article that goes all preachy.

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Yet with February being designated the international month of FVH, today’s game with Brighton has been selected in support of the campaign. You can read more about this on Brentford official where the article notes that as many as 72% of fans have heard homophobic abuse at football matches.

Thankfully, and as we’ve mentioned many times before, at Brentford this would seem to be very much the exception rather than the rule. Aside from an odd incident at Newcastle United this season from a few of the visiting fans, this isn’t anything I’ve encountered before. Home or away. It’s just one of the many reasons I’m glad I can bring my son,family and friends to Griffin Park.

And so, despite no real issue of homophobia at Brentford, the club continue to back the campaigns and make all the right noises. We support the rainbow laces promotion, print the statements on the website whilst the excellent matchday programme will, no doubt also contain similar messages today. Likewise, we also have the @LGBT_Bees group on Twitter who are well worth a follow.

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Harlee Dean shows his support earlier in the season

Yet, equally, it does sometimes feel a little bit like lip service and some clubs going through the mentions. That’s no disprespect to Brentford, who certainly push the right buttons, but more an observation about football in general. How do a club really nail their colours to the mast? Or, rather, their kit?

German club VfL Bochum have long been noted amongst supporters for their late 90s kits, which sported the rainbow colours so closely associated with the LGBT community on one half of the chest. Yet whatever the connotations of this colour scheme, this  was no precursor to the FvH campaign.

Instead it was a case of taking sponsorship to Coventry City levels (the Sky Blues famously attempting to bypass football regulations by incorporating Talbot’s ’T’ directly into their early 80’s kit design). The rainbow colour scheme was actually that of club sponsors Faber, who ran the German lottery. However well meaning this shirt may be considered by the casual observer, it was chosen for nothing more than commercial gain.

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The Bochum kit (with Faber logo inset)

But it did get me thinking. Why not introduce the rainbow colours to a shirt? Even just for one match ? Event specific shirts are hardly uncommon these days and it would be a wonderful way to bring awareness to a new level. Nobody could deny the that the Bochum effort got people talking, even if for the wrong reasons.

One can only presume that contractual / commercial reasons would probably get in the way of such an enterprise before it got off the drawing board. Yet if any club and Adidas wanted to lead the way in throwing their support behind the FvH campaign, then what a groundbreaking way to do it? Even if just by tweaking the colour scheme on the famous shoulder stripes?

Bochum have shown this could be done, albeit by accident. How about Brentford do it for real ?

I’d be proud to wear this or some similar variant. Even if it was for one night only.

Would you?

 

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Could this be in Bob’s locker next season?

Nick Bruzon

As Birmingham City await, the Bees help give homophobia the boot

25 Nov

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.

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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.

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Harlee Dean shows his support

Nick Bruzon

Brentford v Wolves – there’s more to this game than just football

22 Feb

The following article was originally published earlier this month. However, with Brentford v Wolves now being designated as the club’s ‘football v homophobia’ game after the Crawley match was postponed, it is reproduced here, as alluded to in today’s other column.

What would you do if I were to tell you that Sam Saunders, Will Grigg or, for that matter, any of the Brentford first team was gay?

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 (and don’t worry, I won’t) an individual’s sexual preference should be as relevant to us as what brand of soap powder they wash their training kit in. Persil or Ariel – I neither know or, more importantly, have any interest.

This 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. Indeed, in recent years 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 should I?

What has made me particularly happy is that one of them has since said to me, “Its got to the point where I’ve realised that the people I used to’ just watch football with’ have actually become my friends”.

This isn’t an attempt to paint yours truly as some paragon of virtue. Simply that one of the reasons I still love coming to Brentford – and will bring my son when he is old enough – is the friendly, community atmosphere that runs throughout our family of supporters and every aspect of the club. Things as nasty as racism, sexism or homophobia have never struck me as being a problem at Griffin Park.

Sadly, things aren’t that way throughout the wider football world. I’m neither eloquent nor intelligent enough to talk at length about homophobia in the game or explicitly promote the good work now being done to help combat the prejudice expressed by many. That’s why when we have a day like this coming Saturday – when Brentford face Wolves – I’ll leap on any opportunity where I can to get involved.

Aswell as another chance to see the League’s two best teams in action, with February being the international month of ‘Football v Homophobia’ (FvH), the club have selected this game to show their backing for this initiative.

It is an excellent chance for fans to show their support for this campaign but, equally, that Brentford is not a club where bigotry or discrimination of any form is welcome .

If you would like to learn more then you can visit the website at www.footballvhomophobia.com or catch up on the twitter feed at: @FvHTweets .

Brentford v Crawley – there’s more to this game than just football

5 Feb

What would you do if I were to tell you that Sam Saunders, Will Grigg or, for that matter, any of the Brentford first team was gay?

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 (and don’t worry, I won’t) an individual’s sexual preference should be as relevant to us as what brand of soap powder they wash their training kit in. Persil or Ariel – I neither know or, more importantly, have any interest.

This 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.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.