A Nottingham Forest blog with a concern for the wider game
In Issue 6 of Bandy & Shinty Paul Severn wrote eloquently about the way that the interaction between Twitter and the wider Forest community brought about some life changing events. It is a topic that I believe bears repeating when considering the club’s values. Our club is a community brought together through a shared passion for football and in particular a corner of the game that resides at the City Ground, Nottingham.
Social media can be a terrible thing at times, but it can also be the catalyst for a huge amount of good and often shines a light on how strong the community around Nottingham Forest actually is. Together we recently shared a painful journey with Dylan Baker and his family as he was diagnosed for a fourth time with cancer and passed away in October. Dylan’s bravery and character were an inspiration and demonstrated very clearly how we are at our best when we come together.
Andrew Cove is a Forest fan and whenever he heads to the ground to watch his team play he wants them to win, but something far greater flows from his support. His openness about his son, who has Down Syndrome, has created an understanding and a bond that one hopes will sink deep into the Forest psyche. Tyler’s irresistible personality has changed the perception of Down Syndrome for many people, including myself, and his parents’ honesty about both their joys and their struggles should be markers for us all about how we carry ourselves and how we open up our community to include everyone.
Inclusion hasn’t always been our strong point, the crowd at the City Ground is predominantly white and male. Being white and male doesn’t make you a villain, nor does it mean that you are immune from poor treatment, abuse or bullying, but when you look around Nottingham at the diversity that makes this city thrive you have to ask why it isn’t also thriving in the City Ground. Football shouldn’t be a ghetto, it should be a melting pot, and everyone who walks through those turnstiles should consider whether their behaviour is a barrier to someone else’s participation.
That’s why it is great that yesterday Forest announced a new initiative to celebrate and include the city’s Jamaican community by bringing together events to mark the 40th anniversary if Forest’s European Cup victories and the 70th anniversary of “Windrush” bringing the first Jamaican workers to the UK to help re-build the country after WWII. It is the sort of initiative that demonstrates the positive steps that are being taken under new ownership at Forest and hopefully it is just the beginning of rooting the club back into its (whole) community.
The club has given us a great lead, but it is incumbent on all of us to think about how our behaviour might impact someone else’s enjoyment of following Forest. Does “Nottingham is full of fun…” put female fans off going to watch their team? Is that really the way to treat fellow fans and to encourage young girls to watch the game? Football is an emotional sport and at times feelings run high, there also remains a place for “terrace humour” and creativity in the way we support our teams, but that shouldn’t include language or actions that exclude other people and we all have to take responsibility.
Recently we have also seen the formation of a new supporter group, the LGBT+ Trickies, and again the club has been keen to build relationships, so I thought I would catch up with them to address some of the questions fans might have about their group and its aims.
Why there is a need for a group like LGBT+ Trickies,
This is the biggest question we get asked and one that many people find difficult to accept. People say there are only two sets of fans at a football game, home and away but whilst we would like to think this is what the majority of fans think, we also know there is a minority of people out there that still believe its ok and acceptable to discriminate. Not just to LGBT+ people but to anyone who they perceive is different to what they perceive as ‘normal’.
Groups like ours are here to educate individuals, highlight the problems to the relevant authorities whilst equally providing a platform for fans of the LGBT+ community to air their concerns. feel they are not alone and be supported by a group of people who understand their fears and concerns around attending football matches. We have seen instances even this season of homophobic behaviour and this simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen. What some people term as banter, others fear. If we can help just one person feel they are welcome at the City Ground and attend without fear then we are achieving our aim.
What are the biggest barriers to LGBT+ fans going to games?
As with the above question really, fear. Fear of being discriminated against, fear of being ridiculed. people again often say, what does it matter whether you are gay or not, you are at a football game you shouldn’t combine being gay and being a fan, but this is the exact area people are missing. We are not asking to combine being gay and a football fan, we are simply seeking acceptance as an individual for who we are, a football fan who happens to be part of a minority community, to feel that attending a football game (or other sporting event) and not having to hide any part of our lives is safe to do so.
What are the top 3 things that other fans could do to make the City Ground a welcoming place for LGBT+ fans?
We would like to be clear, we don’t seem to have a massive problem at Forest and we are so thankful of this, however, that said, there are still some fans who think homophobic behaviours are acceptable. We saw recently the amount of positive support we received regarding the rainbow laces campaign and our corner flags being changed for one game. On the whole the support was fantastic but there were still some issues, in particular through social media. Although this was expected, it isn’t accepted.
The pleasing thing from our point of view was the amount of ‘self policing’ happening, this really was welcomed. Not only did it stop a lot of the abuse it echo’s our original point here that the problem isn’t big at Forest in comparison to other clubs so the first thing we would love to see is for this level of support to continue.
Secondly, really is self-awareness, be aware of things that may offend, we’re not just talking offending just the LGBT+ community here but in general. No one wants to attend a football game to be ridiculed regardless of the reason so a little self-awareness and understanding of what words are used may just make someone feel that bit safer.
Encouragement and education would probably be the third thing, encourage people to speak out, encourage friends, family or simply people you may know who fear going to an event like a football game that its ok, that you are there for them and you will support them, whist educating anyone who thinks its ok to mock, ridicule of belittle another person. At the end of the day, we are all there for one aim and that is to support the super reds, there are no points gain or goal scored for abusing another person, let alone a fellow football fan.
Should anyone wish to contact us, our email address is LGBTTrickies@gmail.com we hope to launch a free membership soon and formally launch the group in February, keep your eyes peeled and spread the news of our group. together we really can make a difference for everyone!