Sticking the boot in to prejudice

YOUNGSTERS from across Surrey descended on Woking to score major points in the fight against the beautiful game’s last, ugly taboo.

The Football v Homophobia campaign, which under the direction of Megan Worthing-Davies fights for equal rights in sport, arrived at Woking Hockey Club in Goldsworth Park on Monday.

MESSAGE - players wore Football v Homophobia T-shirts

MESSAGE – players wore Football v Homophobia T-shirts

The worldwide crusade, which runs throughout February, puts the boot into prejudices surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in football.

Teaming up with the council and Woking Town Football Club, the campaign held a tournament for kids aged nine to 15.

Woking Town Club Secretary Hanna Newton explained: “We were the only people in the UK to receive one of the 12 grants awarded internationally by Football v Homophobia in December.” The event, which featured teams from Claygate, Epsom and Sutton, as well as the borough’s home grown future stars, helped tackle the problems in the game by addressing them at grassroot level.

The keenly contested competition has been heralded a huge success, with discussions already surfacing about making the tournament an annual fixture. Hanna added: “The day was a great success, with representatives from both Football v Homophobia and Kick It Out delivering workshops and chatting to the players and coaches.

“This is the first event of it’s kind and, after seeing how successful it’s been, we intend to organise one every February.

“We’ve been given a great chance to promote awareness for the Football v Homophobia campaign, which we feel we have done very effectively to combat homophobia within our sport.” The tournament was made possible by a £300 donation from the campaign, and was organised in partnership with Woking Borough Council, with Sports Development Officer Matt Glazier taking a lead role in the build up and execution.

The council’s Portfolio Holder for Cultural and Community Development, Councillor Graham Cundy, aired his delight at Woking’s inclusion in the crusade prior to the event. He said: “Sport can act as a unifying force and the tournament will allow the young people involved to meet new people, have fun and put their football skills to the test.

“What a fantastic event where the community can come together in a fun-filled atmosphere while supporting equality not only in sport, but in the wider community.” Players showed their support for the event by wearing Football v Homophobia T-shirts before collecting prizes for their participation.

Surrey County FA Football Development Officer, Jon Burr, was also a key figure in the organisation of the tournament.

He added: “It was a great day, extremely successful and we are looking forward to the next one.”

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