Tuesday, 12 February 2019

It's Just A Ball Game? & The FA Chairmans reception

Life just seems to whizz by so quickly. I need to be more attentive and keep my blog updated more regularly. It is not as if I don't have lots of blog posts swirling around my head all the time!

Lucy had her second final sign off for surgery at the GIC in January so we are now just playing the waiting game for the hospital to contact us and get that ball rolling. She had been unwell since before Christmas up until the middle of January where it turns out a problem with her thyroid was causing all sorts of issues (and possibly the heart attacks last Christmas). These seem to be sorted now after a change of medication with a couple of follow up appointments over the coming months.

So back to the subject of this blog. To coincide with the start of February being LBGT+ history month Lucy was interviewed and filmed by Sky Sports for a feature about what it is like to work in the game when you are out and also interviewed by The FA talking about how her first term as English footballs first transgender ref had gone. Both articles were released online and she received lots of positive feedback.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that Lucy had been asked to present at an event for Just A Ball Game? (JABG?) which was being hosted by The FA at Wembley Stadium, what a venue!! We knew a little about the organisation but  we now know they do an awful amount of work toward their goals and need to be commended and supported and all this was started 8 years ago by Lindsay England, what a woman! They have some well known patrons, a couple of which are Sophie Cook (the 1st transgender football photographer) and Adam McCabe (an American gay footballer) and lots of support from the LGBT+, football and non football communities. They are promoting the hashtag #strongertogether on social media.

View from where we were with JABG? on the screen
Up on the terraces
Lucy had been asked to run a workshop in the afternoon which meant that we were able to attend various other bits of the event. There were speakers from all different organisations plus discussion panels and it was very interesting to hear from Merseyside Police about all their initiatives they run for their employees but also for the people in the areas they police. They are definitely making strides to connect with people within the LGBT+ communities and seem to be a leader and trail blazer for all police forces in the country. We heard from Detective Sgt Christian Owens who talked about his personal journey which was very poignant. Neville Southall was part of a panel discussion and has very strong pro-trans opinions and it was great to hear from someone so vocal and high profile supporting the community bearing in mind the backlash that is happening at the moment in the media.

Neville Southall and Adam McCabe as part of one of the open discussion panels
There were various workshops running at different times. Each one was for a maximum 45 minutes. Lucy had worked on her presentation which covered her life story and her life in football up to the current time. In it she spoke about her childhood, how football saved her, suicidal thoughts and attempts (which upset her as it was the first time she was admitting to these in front of a large audience and many cried with her), how football hindered her transition due to the worry of being out in the football world, meeting me (I felt honoured to be included), the change from 'South London geezer' to who she is today, The Mirror story and then chatted about refereeing. Even though I know her story inside out, I still love hearing her talk about it even though it always makes me very sad hearing what she has gone through. She added childhood and teens pictures and had a great pic of her refereeing now. Everyone was really engaged and there was a very long Q&A session after, so much so her session went way over the allotted time. There were so many supportive and positive comments. I really hope she gets to do something similar again.

Lucy presenting during her workshop

Lucy as a child in football (can you spot her?) and refereeing now
One of the other workshops which we got to attend was being run by the Equalities team from the PFA (Professional Football Association) and covered the Equalities training that they give to all professional players. The speakers were Jason Lee (ex-footballer) and Simone Pound and they ran through what they cover. It was a really interesting workshop and they covered 'industrial language' (banter comes under this) and what is acceptable and what isn't. Although it is obvious, there are circumstances where derogotory words are not dealt with as football is full of banter and these generally have been considered  'banter' (industrial language)..... there definitely needs to be more control over what is accepted by the clubs, teams, managers and officials. Lots of onus seems to being put on the referees however change needs to come from the top down and if it is dealt with properly by senior officials in all roles at high level games it will feed down to grass roots. What was amazing is that they cover this information off in a 40 minute session which seems very short considering any type of equalities/inclusivity training in the corporate sector is a half day minimum. There was a bit of a discussion by other delegates that maybe this was not long enough.

The whole day proved to be a very informative and was great for networking and building alliances. We met lots of very interesting people including Greg Clarke, The FA Chairman, and quite surprisingly my blog was mentioned a few times by several different people (hello if you are one of those). This was the first time that JABG? had done an event like this and we both thought it was very beneficial and worthwhile and hope to be involved in any further events like this in the future. While we were there a photographer from a French magazine which is doing a piece on Lucy came down to take some pictures of her and Adam McCabe recorded a podcast interview with us which will be available shortly. We also met up with Jon Holmes the Sky Sports journalist that had done the recent piece on Lucy.
Us with Jon
After the JABG? event finished we hung around for a little bit as we had been invited to The FA Chairmans reception to commemorate the start of LBGT+ history month which was in the same place. Many of the people who had been at the JABG? event were there and plenty of others turned up and it was packed. Again we met some really interesting people, all with a connection to football. Greg Clarke addressed everyone and there were guest speakers which included discussions around what is needed within football to make it more accepting. Again it was really interesting to be part of this event and we felt very honoured to have been invited.

As we had been there from early morning until late in the evening it was interesting to watch the maintenance of such a high profile and famous pitch. They had been working on it on and off throughout the day and had grow lights all over it. As it got darker, the lights were more obvious and it just looked amazing.

As we were leaving the famous arch was all lit up with LGBT+ colours which was a sight to see. What a day!

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