In an exclusive interview, Hotscots FC talks to Andy Muirhead. Scotland’s first Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender football team has claimed that football is still an unwelcoming environment for LGB&T players and supporters, but with the help of football governing bodies, progress can be made against homophobia.

AM: You are Scotland’s very first LGBT football team – why was the team established? Are you specifically LGBT or do you welcome heterosexual players to your ranks?

HotscotsFC: “We don’t think that too many would disagree that football has been and continues to be perceived sometimes as a pretty unwelcoming environment for LGB&T players and supporters. It’s all been documented before, for example in Stonewall’s “Leagues Behind” report, the Equality Network’s “Out for Sport” study or, very recently, the GFSN report on the abuse directed at Brighton supporters by opposition fans.

“Whether it’s having to listen to homophobic abuse being shouted in our football stadiums, or direct abuse on the park or at training football still has a fair way to go before it will be known as a sport welcomes players and supporters regardless of their sexuality.

“The simple fact is that footballers do not generally ‘come out’ – that says it all about what sort of reaction they expect.

“That’s not to say the problem is endemic or can never be solved. Far from it – if the football authorities are able to take action, a lot of progress could probably be made with minimal effort. And thankfully, it looks like the Scottish FA is now interested in getting involved.

“It’s that image that has led to clubs like HotScots being set up. The club provides a welcoming place for people who want to play football and where no one will give a damn about their sexuality.

“We welcome all players, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality. It would be unusual for one of our match day squads not to have a couple of ‘straight’ players included. Often they get involved with the club because a family member, friend or work colleague plays for the team already.

AM: Looking through your fixture list – you seem to play against English opposition, is this a league made up of LGBT teams or is it mixed? Why compete against English teams in a league – why not play in Scottish league setup?

HotscotsFC: “We play in a UK-wide league organised by the GFSN (Gay Football Supporters Network). The league comprises of teams that are explicitly LGBT friendly. Like HotScots FC, there aren’t any that are ‘LGBT only’ – each team has a completely different balance of players of different backgrounds.

“The league celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, and the reason why it was set up was very much the same idea that lead to founding the HotScots – creating a welcoming but competitive environment for folk who want to play football regardless of sexuality.

“There isn’t an equivalent league in Scotland as there just aren’t enough teams. For a while there was a team in Aberdeen called the Granite City Stormers, and now we have a friendly rivalry with Saltire Thistle in Glasgow. We’ve met twice in the GFSN cup so far, with one win each. They’ve cantered to successive league titles in divisions three and two and so will join us in the top flight next year. We look forward to further battles – and to Scotland dominating the league!

“Plus, there is a good social side to the league and we enjoy our away trips to London, Manchester, Brighton, Cardiff and wherever else football takes us.

“This year we are making the trip to Antwerp to play in the “Outgames”. If it is half as enjoyable as the Cologne “Gay Games” that we competed in back in 2010, it will be a fantastic occasion. The massive opening ceremony at FC Koln’s stadium, playing teams from Argentina and Japan, and of course a fair bit of partying all added up to an amazing week.

“This all takes a heck of lot of hard work from our committee in terms of fundraising and organisation, and we also have a lot to thank our shirt sponsors and website sponsors for in terms of financial support.”

AM: How many players do you have?

HotscotsFC: “We’ve got around 25 playing members, though it’s probably fair to say we have a core group of around 15 who will attend training pretty regularly and make up our squad on most match days. This season a good eight or nine players have started every game. Although 15 or 16 games a season isn’t a lot for most amateur clubs, it’s one hell of a commitment when you think of some of the travelling involved and the weekends given up.

“We’ve been pleased to have a few younger players joining us recently, since there is also a handful of us clinging on to our football lives like Davey Weir!

“They are all just football daft. Obviously we’ve got plenty of Jambos and Hibees, but also supporters of the Old Firm, the Bully Wee, Man United, Villa, Chelsea, a couple of Arabs, and a Dee. Some have season tickets – though how much use they get out of them is hard to say.”

AM: What has been the reaction from teams outside of the LGBT circle? Have you receive any hostile reception or ‘choice’ comments on the field of play? If so how do the players deal with it?

HotscotsFC: “We’ve played numerous friendlies against local Edinburgh sides and a couple of years back we took part in a ‘mainstream’ summer league. On the whole the reaction is absolutely fine. However, there have been a couple of incidents of verbal abuse which were out-of-order but there’s not much you can do but leave the referee to resolve the matter More generally, you sometimes detect an expectation that an LGBT football team must be utterly cr*p – and it’s satisfying to dispel some of the stereotypes. There are some who are definitely not happy about losing to an LGBT team.

“Playing in mainstream leagues has become increasingly common. Village Manchester do this instead of playing in the GFSN (though they compete in the cup), and this season both Saltire Thistle and London Titans have competed in both the GFSN and local amateur leagues. Again, on the whole this seems to have gone well, though there can still be isolated incidents including one pretty serious one.

“When it works, as it usually does, it all makes a valuable contribution to getting the message out there that the LGBT community can contribute to football, and should be made welcome.

AM: There has been a number of high-profile professionals coming out and stating that they are gay now, whether it is Rugby, Baseball, Basketball etc why do you think no professional football player has ‘come out’ and announced his sexuality?

HotscotsFC: “There’s been Anton Hysen in the Swedish third division; and Robbie Rogers who came out recently may go back to professional football in the US after originally saying he would leave the game on coming out.

“But closer to home, there will be a number or reasons why players won’t come out publically. First they have to have supportive colleagues and club. Many would be, but not all. Others will be fearful of the reaction of the supporters. And I’m sure plenty will not welcome the media rigmarole.

“We would certainly never twist a player’s arm to come out against their will. However, if and when it happens it would be another boost for the LGBT community and the campaign to end homophobia in football. So the aim is to help encourage an environment where it will be easier for players to come out if they choose.

AM: What is your ultimate goal for the club? And for the LGBT football scene?

HotscotsFC: “From one point of view, it would almost be the ultimate success if HotScots and the GFSN ceased to exist because LGBT footballers were fully integrated into mainstream leagues. That said, we’d still miss the social side of things!

“More immediately, we just want our players to continue enjoying their football, and like any club we want to win things! We won the GFSN cup in our first full season (2008/9). We’ve come frustratingly close to more success this year, reaching the cup semi-finals and finishing as runners-up in the league, losing just one game all season.

“Perhaps if even a couple of players reading this decide to join up we can go on to even better things next season.”

Scotzine contacted the Scottish FA in regards to the work that they are doing to help tackle the problem of homophobia in the game, they stated: “….we have endorsed Hotscots FC in their funding efforts and are close to launching our equity strategy to make football more accessible to all ethnic minority groups, all genders and all sexual orientation.”

Published in Scotzine on 17th May 2013

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