A Worthing football club is leading the charge against discrimination in the game.
Worthing United is one of 40 UK ‘champions’ for the Football v Homophobia initiative, which challenges stereotypes and biases around sexual orientation and gender identity.
To help spread the message, Worthing United will face Hailsham Town at their Lyons Road ground in Worthing on February 23.
Assistant secretary Jamie Sanderson said it is important for football clubs to create as inclusive a space as possible.
“We are here in 2019 when society is generally much more accepting of the LGBT community,” he said.
“Football is way, way behind the times in terms of stereotyping and discrimination. We are keen to support anti-homophobia messages and encourage participants of the game to come out and feel comfortable.”
While openly LGBT players are unheard of at any level of the game, he said, former Premier League footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger is arguably the most high-profile player to come out.
However, Jamie suggested the fact he waited until he had retired to announce it was indicative of the stigma, and the onus is on football clubs to educate people on unconscious biases and stereotyping.
“We need to make football appear accessible to all facets of society,” he said.
“There’s a great under-representation of many minority groups, be it LGBT or ethnic minorities. But I do think it is moving in the right direction.”
February’s match will see Worthing players wear rainbow-coloured kits and play with a rainbow-coloured ball, with other initiatives planned nearer to the date.