Taking Pride in Your Work: LGBTQ+ Voices in Football Media Event
The Football Writers’ Association and Sports Media LGBT+ raise awareness, discuss experiences, and assess what we can do to improve inclusion and representation in football journalism.
Pride Month is an opportunity to raise awareness on issues surrounding representations of LGBTQI+ communities in journalism. On Monday 14th June The Football Writers’ Association (FWA) and the Sports Media LGBT+ teamed up over Zoom in association with Football v Homophobia for an important discussion of experiences, progression, and how we can ultimately improve inclusion in football journalism. This conversation is now available on replay.
Leading the conversation on the panel is Sports Media LGBT+ founder and senior editor and writer for Sky Sports Jon Holmes. Holmes speaks about his experiences as a gay man in the media, how he overcomes adversity and strives to improve representation in sports journalism. He opens the discussion and live Q&A with journalists Nicki Bandini, Matt Dickinson and Adam Crafton, and TV pundit/analyst and professional footballer Lianne Sanderson.
Nicky Bandini, sports writer & broadcaster specialising in European football and NFL, is openly trans and an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community. In this discussion she speaks about the progression of trans representation in football journalism. Bandini references recently covering the Juventus game on ESPN and although she had not considered its significance in the moment, she now looks back and realises the considerable progression. Bandini speaks of her experiences as a child, with the lack of representation of trans people, unless it involved shame or ridicule on shows such as ‘Jerry Springer’. She expresses how working on one of the largest Italian football games was a huge achievement in her career, and for trans people worldwide.
Adam Crafton, reporter for The Athletic UK, explains how the use of language in journalism can be highly problematic regarding coverage of LGBTQI+ communities. He references the article published by The Sun in 1990 concerning Justin Fashanu’s sexuality – which stated that he ‘confesses’ regarding his identification as gay. The use of this language suggests negative connotations of shame and guilt, and alarmingly implies to readers that by speaking his truth is wrong. This truly has a lasting negative impact on public perceptions and stigma surrounding sexuality – even thirty years on. He highlights how football journalism has progressed, but still observes language such as ‘admission’ in regard to those identifying as LGBTQI+. The discussion also focuses on the importance of inclusive language, and a journalist’s responsibility to use their platform to denormalise hating views.
Matt Dickinson, Chief Sports Writer at The Times, speaks about the alarming response from his columns which covered LGBTQI+ footballers. He highlights how the comments such as “What has that got to do with me?” and “Who cares, if the male player wants to come out then come out, what’s the big fuss?” are extremely concerning and untrue. He explains his attempt to engage with the comments, addressing how it does matter. In conjunction with stating the reasoning for why players might feel uncomfortable with identifying with the LGBTQI+ community, due to the societal misconceptions, and discrimination from both players and fans. He expresses how he will keep “engaging, engaging and engaging” until his readers understand the importance of his work and the progress that needs to be made within football journalism.
Lianne Sanderson, TV pundit/analyst and professional footballer discusses first-hand experiences concerning being openly gay and expresses the discrimination from both players and fans that she has faced in her professional career. She highlights how, although she is happy to speak about her sexuality and to be a positive LGBTQ+ role model within professional football, she had to ask interviewers to talk about her professional career – mostly when she had signed for Juventus. She states how she is known as “Lianne the gay footballer, instead Lianne the footballer that happens to be gay”- which emphasises how journalism coverage, not only in the UK but across the world, focuses on her sexuality opposed to her achievements.
Taking Pride in Your Work: LGBTQI+ Voices in Football Media is an important and much needed discussion – which truly highlighted the truths of football journalism. Nicky Bandini shares the positive impact of trans representation, and how it has increased recently within the media sector. A concerning number of improvements still needs to be made. For instance, boundaries need to be respected when talking to sportspeople about their LGBTQI+ identity as opposed to achievements in their professional careers. There is a long way to go before football journalism is where it should and needs to be.
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