Just a ball game? 

Equality - 23 Jun 2020

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I’ve been campaigning for safe and inclusive spaces in sport most my life and for the last 10 years heading up JUST A BALL GAME? (JBG?) but am acutely aware of how far we have to go on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, both in sports and in working life.  

I grew up in a small village in Yorkshire as a Bradford City fan with a love of most sports, music and art. On leaving school I took a number of coaching qualifications including Badminton (I played Yorkshire league open age at just 13 ) mountain biking, windsurfing, and also all 5 strands of Rugby League and Rugby League refereeing.  

I played goalkeeper for my works football team (all men) and took up playing RL at 22 years of age as there were few opportunities to play football as a woman, although I did get offered a chance to be a pro women’s goalkeeper in Italy as a teenager. 

 I joined the Halifax Ladies Rugby League team, we won the league in our first year and I got to play in the first 3 ever Women’s Challenge Cup Finals, represented Yorkshire in the war of roses match and was part of the first ever women’s GB Rugby League squad. Sadly this all came to an end with ACL injury in 1992.  

So, being a shareholder of my supported football team and running the supporters club, I set up the Bradford City Supporters Trust in 2003 and joined the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) getting voted onto their National Council. My equality work at the FSF lead to me writing the PINK LINK guide to safe spaces in towns and cities across the world, where England men’s team would play for the FREE LIONS website.  

I founded  JUST A BALL GAME?’ as a campaign in 2010 after it began as a blog a year earlier, with the idea of making it active from grass roots  up and to help make a difference around LGBT+ inclusion and visibility as no sports NGB's have taken LGBT+ bullying or visibility/inclusion seriously. 

JUST A BALL GAME?’ aims to  encourage and promote football, sport and healthy leisure activities among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans people and others (LGBT+ ) regardless of race, religion, sex, age, physical ability or disability. 

We work to help build at both local and national levels a LGBT+ football & sports community, linking individuals, organisations, clubs, and associations engaged in football/sport, ensuring effective communication. 

Over the last decade JUST A BALL GAME? have worked to raise awareness about equality, inclusion and diversity, combat all discrimination and LGBT+ bullying/abuse in football/sport, and partner with other initiatives and organisations. 

We’ve held events and campaigns to promote effective LGBT+ engagement and representation in mainstream football, sport, leisure activities and encourage LGBT+ participation and volunteering in the wider sporting community from elite to grass roots. 

We promote equal opportunities and gender parity and are proud to have Barbara Plant, GMB trade union National President as one of JUST A BALL GAME?’s patrons.  

While we still have a long way to go in terms of fighting discrimination and hate towards LGBT+ people, I‘m proud to be fighting for equality

I began my trade union life as a guest speaker over a decade ago at a fringe event during the National TUC Conference. I was asked to join the TUC Tackling Homophobia in Football Alliance, writing and co- writing documents for/with unions, speaking and organising stalls at TUC LGBT conference every year.  

 I became a member of the GMB union 2 years ago taking on a number of roles in the North West region, their LGBT+ Shout group and also part of the Regional Equality Forum. 

I’m really proud of the amazing work we do in raising awareness of LGBT+ issues in sport and also in the workplace and tackling homophobic/biphobic and transphobic behavior.  

In 2016 I was awarded the City of Bradford's first ever LGBT+ Champion title and in 2019 was given the UK PM's Points of Light award for services to LGBT+ inclusion in sport. 

It’s been a real honor to do the work that we do and while we still have a long way to go in terms of fighting discrimination and hate towards LGBT+ people, I‘m proud to be fighting for equality-the winning team.  

Just A Ball Game? is be happy to visit GMB regions and or branches to showcase some of the work we do to raise awareness about equality, inclusion and diversity, combat all discrimination and LGBT+ bullying/abuse in football/sport, and partner with those in the workplace and beyond. 

Please go to the JUST A BALL GAME Website for more information- www.justaballgame.co.uk 

Lindsay England

GMB NW&I region and founder of LGBT+ campaign organization - JUST A BALL GAME?  

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