A while back, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States I mentioned how proud I was to see this flag (below) at every New England Revolution home game and many New England Revolution away games.
I think it speaks volumes about the club- a club that, to be honest, has lagged behind in many areas over the years- that it’s main supporters groups, those that populate “The Fort,” care about only one thing on match day- the match. All are welcome, all are included.
Imagine my surprise and delight to wake up this morning to a tweet from @john_a_maxwell of the BRILLIANT (I can’t emphasize this enough!) website/podcast Tell Him He’s Pelé linking to this story in the Ross-shire Journal.
Several things jumped out at me in this article, the first of which was this:
I didn’t like reading that, just like I cringe whenever I hear about a banana being thrown at a player of African dissent- it shames the game I love so dearly. I understand that football, by it’s very nature, is tribal. Going back to it’s earliest days “the club” has represented everything from the city to the neighborhood to the immigrant group to the factory to the regiment and numerous other things that supporters were fiercely loyal to. And yet, homophobia (in it’s broadest sense) in football seems to make the least sense because every one of these groups contained, contains, and will always contain, LGBT people, be they factory workers, immigrants, neighbors, etc..
Football has traditionally been regarded as holding up a mirror to society and this has especially been the case in the United Kingdom over the last century and a half. Does your country struggle with sectarianism? Well, the “Old Firm” and it’s issues didn’t appear out of nowhere, did it? That said, there is also a school of thought that has begun to argue that football (and sports in general) can actually drive social change rather than simply reflect it. From that perspective, Ross County publicly welcoming LGBT supporters to Victoria Park makes perfect sense. This is a club that has- rightly- promoted itself as both a “community club” and “more than a football club” and openly welcoming one more segment of the community into the club is consistent with this approach to the game and all that surrounds it.
Which brings me to something else that stood out in this article was, well, the entire second half of it. The fact that before any public initiative was announced by the club LGBT supporters already felt comfortable and welcome at Victoria Park and that there were others who, when searching for a club to support sought out Ross County because of its reputation for inclusiveness and proactive approach to social issues speaks volumes about the club and it’s supporters.
At the same time, I am not naive enough to think that any and all prejudice against members of the LGBT community will disappear- in Dingwall or anywhere else- because of this move by the club. I am, however, hopeful that, in the best possible way, this move by the club will be the “thin end of wedge” in Dingwall and the Highlands at the very least. One of the defining characteristic of the Scottish people is that they can be a “hard” people- and frankly, that’s been a necessary trait for survival of many kinds over the centuries. It is also true, however, that when it comes to the Scottish people, once you’re in, you’re in. Maybe not with a hug and a smile (at least at first!), but you’re in just the same.
Well done, Ross County F.C.