Seen & Heard is a podcast series hosted by Pride of the Terraces, created in association with LEAP Sports Scotland, Scottish Women in Sport and Scottish Disability Sport. Across the five episodes a variety of topics are discussed, from accessibility of sport in the first instance right through to the impact of global events like the FIFA World Cup.
Three of the episodes have a particular focus on LGBTQIA+ issues, looking at sports media, Football v Homophobia and inclusion in niche sports.
The media episode was the first of the series to be recorded, and featured established broadcaster Emma Dodds alongside Glasgow Caledonian University student Jay Blakeway.
Recording just after the World Cup in Qatar kicked off, it was a natural talking point. While much has been said about the actions of players, managers and officials on and off the pitch across the tournament, our focus on journalism meant the conversation steered to whether either Dodds or Blakeway would be comfortable reporting on such an event if they had been asked to.
“I lived in Dubai, so I do feel comfortable over there,” Dodds reasoned.
“I’m very much of the opinion that you can’t go into someone’s country and tell them how to run it. You have to respect their religion and their beliefs, and just because it’s not the same as mine doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
“I wouldn’t expect someone to come into this country and expect us to conform to the legal elements that they have in their country.
“I’m not comfortable with the way the World Cup was run. I don’t think it should be there, I don’t believe a country with those beliefs should have that world platform, but I would have gone and I would have felt comfortable for my safety having lived there before.
“If I can’t go to a football game and behave how I want to behave, it wouldn’t sit well with me, but I also wouldn’t walk down the street drinking a bottle of lager. It’s just about respecting the rules, and while fundamentally I don’t agree with what they are, you have to abide by that.”
One thing that is often heard in regards to LGBTQIA+ inclusion is that there will be generational change, and with Blakeway being at the very start of his career he is in a good position to detail where things stand among younger people right now.
“Student media is definitely more of a safe space,” he explained.
“In my journalism course we did a sports assignment recently, and a lot of us did touch on Qatar – whether that was their treatment of migrant workers, treatment of LGBT+ people or the corruption behind it.
“It’s an issue that’s definitely prevalent amongst young people, and especially those in the community.
“It is difficult for people already in the area we’re aspiring to get into. I was really impressed with Gary Lineker on the BBC, because he spoke about the elephant in the room. They didn’t try to hide it, they spoke about it.”
Of course, as well as Qatar some of the major LGBTQIA+ sports stories of 2022 centred around athletes coming out.
In the Football v Homophobia episode, two of those figures – Lloyd Wilson and Zander Murray – discussed their journeys since going public with their sexualities and what life has been like since.
Wilson and Murray have become close since coming out, and the episode was full of laughter, but there were some poignant moments too.
“I’ve taken a lot of strength from the questions and statements I’ve had,” Wilson said.
“Like a lot of people that have gone through the lie that myself and Zander lived, I thought I was going crazy a lot of the time. I thought I had serious issues, and I don’t know looking back what I was doing to myself.
“I feel like I’m just starting to live my life now, and it really hurts me to say that. I’ve got a really supportive family and friend group, and to be 30 years old before you’re able to feel like you can be you is pretty sad.
“A lot of the communication I’ve had is that people feel very similar to that. One thing I’ve found is that people instil a heck of a lot of trust in you with what is the biggest secret in their life. They share it with people like Zander and I even though we don’t know them.
“Visibility is a really key point in that, and I really do believe that people who have done what we’ve done have contributed to saving some lives. We know that there’s a national crisis in mental health, I work in an area that works with that, and quite often a lot of people who experience that could have been living the journey that I’ve had to live.
“I find it really powerful when people see my story and my experience as something that has helped them, and that’s why visibility is key for me.”
With Football v Homophobia’s month of action coming up soon in February, both men also gave their thoughts on what more could be done to make football more inclusive.
“For me the biggest thing is continuing to work with fans,” Murray added.
“From everything Lloyd has told me and from everyone I’ve asked, players and managers are pretty much all right. We’re not at 100%, but there’s serious progress there.
“I’ve been into academies now and I was blown away. I spoke to 20 14 to 18-year-old boys at St Mirren, and they all put their hands up and asked questions, but there’s still a lot of work to be done with fans.
“I’m keen to get involved with that as much as I can, whatever platform that is. I know Football v Homophobia is doing great work, Time for Inclusive Education, LEAP Sports, the PFA, the SFA, the list of people doing good things is endless.”
While much of those two episodes were focused around football, looking beyond the national sport to some of those which don’t always receive the same spotlight can help to paint a clearer picture of where sport stands on inclusion.
That’s what we tried to do with our niche sports episode, where the panellists were Frazer Robertson from Perth Parrots Floorball Club and two quadball representatives – Sam Tulloch and Emma Humphrey (aka Jandels).
While many mainstream sports still have strict gender segregation in place, both floorball and quadball are open for all genders to play on the same team, at the same time.
As a non-binary person, that was something that meant a lot to Tulloch – even convincing them to play the sport over others they were already involved in.
“I’ve played a lot of sports in my time,” Tulloch explained.
“I’m stupidly competitive, so I’ve done quite a few. The main reason I went to quadball in the first place was because I really fancied a boy on the team, but what kept me there was how inclusive it was.
“It took me a really long time to realise I was non-binary, because I’d never heard of the concept until I was in university, and in quadball you’re not just tolerated, you’re actively celebrated.
“I’m allowed to be non-binary on the pitch, that’s actively written into the rule book. We have the gender rule, where you can have max four currently of the same gender identity. I believe in the UK they’re currently thinking about bringing that down to max three, but I am allowed a role in the team as a non-binary person.
“In korfball, it’s boys and girls and I have to play as a girl. That was a bit alienating, because I was being put back in a box that I had only recently had the courage to come out of. Navigating that space is difficult, because there’s no real way around it.
“I enjoy korfball, but that’s my major critique of it – people use my pronouns, and that’s great, but I’m still not really allowed to exist as myself, whereas in quadball I can do that completely.”
A question that Pride of the Terraces often asks people involved in more niche sports is whether they can be more inclusive because there is less attention and coverage on what they do.
The Perth Parrots were set up to be an inclusive club, which was part of the reason floorball was the sport picked, but Robertson has also found that being so comparatively unknown has forced their hand to an extent.
“I had the luxury of being able to create a team in 2019 and take a bit of a slow, measured decision,” he recalled.
“The reason we chose floorball was because it allowed men, women and those who identify as women to play together. If we look at Scotland’s national sport, football, you’d have men on one side, women on the other and people who are non-binary lost.
“It’s so much easier and simpler to have everyone playing on the same court at the same time, and it’s so much more inclusive.
“Floorball at an international and very professional level is sadly still in that binary camp, but the luxury at a less competitive level – especially in Scotland because it’s so niche – is that we have no other option but to let everyone play because we’re struggling to form teams.
“2022 was really good to us, our numbers have exploded, and that’s partially because everyone can come and enjoy it.”
There is also the element of recency when it comes to sports like floorball and quadball. Without the decades and centuries of patterns being established to exclude certain demographics, it stands to reason that it is easier to build sports to be inclusive from the ground up, from day one.
“My experience lies a lot in the London start-up and data science spaces, and there’s a whole career on change management,” Jandels explained.
“80% of projects of change within businesses fail. There is a whole career dedicated to fixing these issues, and when you think about sport as institutions and businesses where you’re surrounded by people who are just like you, you’re going to be very hostile to ‘outsiders’ or people who aren’t like you.
“Anything that remotely rocks the boat is going to be incredibly difficult, which is why you often see people starting a new business from scratch rather than trying to change a business internally, because there are so many in-built processes there already.
“The challenges that we are facing in quadball, no-one has the answers to. The sport will naturally change and evolve.
“One of the most positive things that we’re seeing in the UK is that 20% of our players are non-binary, which I think is a huge success for our sport. That is something we’re incredibly proud of, and we want to continue to cultivate that, but it is also causing a bit of an identity crisis.
“When you go back into the ‘real world’, you’re looking at numbers closer to 4-10%. One thing that should be coming down the pipeline is that we need these voices who were previously a minority to become more of an authoritative body. They do exist, but they’re not as well promoted unless you actively go out seeking them.
“We need an authority on board that can make decisions or advise on the best ways to support our players moving forward to create a more inclusive environment. Without that, it comes down to the people in charge a lot, and their perceptions of how they view LGBT+ issues.”
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