Game of chants: Arsenal’s gay fans celebrate birthday

Pride flags and anti-homophobic flyers send a clear message to match crowd

Friday, 25th February — By Anna Lamche

Gay Gooners new

Gay Gooners celebrated their ninth birthday on Saturday

“THINK before you chant” was the message to fans on Saturday as ­Arsenal celebrated the ninth birthday of their gay supporters’ group.

Those arriving for Saturday’s game against Brentford would have heard pitchside announcer Nigel Mitchell welcome fans “for a very special matchday in partnership with our Gay Gooners” – the UK’s first and largest LGBT+ football supporters’ group.

Anti-homophobic flyers were passed around at pubs and pride flags were waved before kick-off, while a video featuring members of Gay Gooners along with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and Kim Little played during halftime. “It’s not acceptable, and we don’t want to hear it,” Mr Ramsdale said of discriminatory chants.

Gay Gooners co-chair Carl Fearn also contributed to the video. “I was giving quite a stern message about homophobic chanting – my big ugly mug on the screen – ­people stood around me were going, hang on a minute! I got lots of thumbs up,” he said.

“Arsenal also gave us a box for the day. The idea behind the box was primarily for our trans and non-binary members – a sort of safe space.”

Preparations for the day began in January after Arsenal drew against Burnley at the Emirates. Mr Fearn was with the Gay Gooners at a pub when they heard Arsenal fans singing a homophobic chant.

Carl Fearn with Gunnersaurus

“It was the relentless nature of it, and how it went from being homophobic to racist to anti-semitic,” Mr Fearn said. “I just sat there thinking: I can’t do much about this. But I spoke to the landlord and it mushroomed from there.”

Mr Fearn has been working at full steam since then, delivering flyers, designing posters and even addressing Arsenal stewards before the match. “What we’d like is if anybody does report anything homophobic in nature, that action is taken straight away – in our experience, if you deal with it during the match, it is so much easier to deal with than post-match,” Mr Fearn told them.

Arsenal also devoted their social media channels to Gay Gooners on the day. Online, the gesture “was generally well-received. We always anticipate trolls and haters – the club wants to try and find a way to stamp out these keyboard warriors,” he said.

The LED advertising perimeter also displayed a special message from the club in conjunction with Gay Gooners: “That was absolutely fantastic and showed all the way through the match. Every time a goal was scored – and thankfully we did score – the big Pride Progress flags were waved.”

Working with Islington’s Pride, Gay Gooners were also able to unveil their new pink plaque. “The club are looking at whether they can put the plaque up on Arsenal property – they might even attach it the stadium wall,” Mr Fearn said.

The Gay Gooners were “over the moon” after Saturday’s match, Mr Fearn said. “We can’t thank the club enough for the support they’ve given us. The message we were trying to get across on Saturday was: regardless of where we’re from, we’re all Arsenal fans together.”

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