IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

GayGooners are top of LGBT fans league

09 February, 2018 — By Ralph Seward

Tournament winners Arsenal Community with Lauren and Robert Pires

ARSENAL’S LGBT fans group GayGooners celebrated their fifth birthday in style on Saturday with a five-a-side tournament.

Eight teams battled it out in a round robin for the chance to be presented with a trophy by “Invincibles” Lauren and Robert Pires at Arsenal Community Centre.

GayGooners, with more than 600 members, is the largest LGBT fan group of any football club in the world, and the first in this country. It was launched in February 2013 by Stuart Selby and others who were aiming to challenge homophobia in football.

The Arsenal LGBT fans group is the biggest in the world with 600 members

GayGooners chairman Dave Raval said: “People always ask: ‘When will a player come out?’, but we thought: ‘When will the fans come out?’ So the club provided a safe space, a box, and though we didn’t enjoy the football we enjoyed the day. We’re trying to show that homo­phobic chants are not ‘banter’ in the same way racist ones aren’t accepted any more. We’re going down the same path as anti-racist campaign­ers 30 years ago but we’re going faster.

“We were the first but there are 40 such LGBT groups in England now. The only Premier League clubs not to have one are Stoke and Man United.”

The GayGooners hold regular five-a-side tournaments, arrange away-day groups, and “meet in the pub to complain about the ref”.

Mr Raval said the birthday event was really superb, adding: “No one got injured, everyone had a really good time, there was lots of playful banter, and it was exactly what we were after.”

He added: “We’d like to carry on growing. We’re the biggest LGBT supporters group but want to make sure Spurs don’t overtake us.”

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