Even today prejudices against LGB people are still widespread. Heterosexuality is often still the norm in sport and this heteronormativity is not questioned frequently enough.
Together with our football partners, we want to launch an awareness-raising campaign to send out a message of openness and acceptance and to promote an open discussion of homosexuality and to increase its visibility, including in football.
In the past, the International Centre for Ethics in Sport (ICES) produced a Toolkit "Respect for Diversity", with support from the Government of Flanders, focusing on racism and the integration of new Flemish citizens through sport.
Equal Opportunities in Flanders is having a new Toolkit designed by ICES, which will concentrate on LGB people and football.
This action plan is intended to have the subject of homosexuality debated more openly within federations, clubs, club managements, supporters' groups, etc. Not just through the campaign, but also via the communication channels of the federations and football clubs. They lead by example by devoting attention to discrimination on the grounds of sexual identity in their own communication, in view of the realisation of an open and tolerant club for all.
Football+ Foundation is the social pillar of and for Belgian football. The organisation works together with the Football Federation of Flanders, the Royal Belgian Football Association, as well as the Pro League. Through their actions they encourage football clubs, amongst others, to fulfil a societal exemplary role.
Naturally, the anti-discrimination legislation applies to football stadiums and the Football Act as well contains provisions to discourage homophobic language and behaviour. The FIFA introduced severe sanctions to be imposed in case of discriminatory or offensive behaviour on the football pitch. Circular OOP 40 from Home Affairs (2006) clearly indicates the boundaries of tolerance and what measures the football sector can take to combat racist, discriminatory and provoking behaviour as well as offensive chants during football matches.
Supporters also play an important role in creating an open, tolerant and LGB-friendly football climate. Initiatives were already taken in the past in the framework of respect and tolerance, such as the covenant '‘There is no room for racism in the Pro League”, which was concluded between the supporters’ federation and the Pro League.
The Flemish School for Sport Coaches offers training programmes for coaches. Apart from the sports technical part, the initiator training also provides for a "General Part Initiator" with a subject "Teaching Methods".
Before a steward starts working in a football club, he or she must follow a training programme. This training programme offers practical experience as well as a theoretical part. This part of the training familiarises stewards with the issue of homophobia and other forms of discrimination and teaches them how to handle homophobic language and behaviour, so that they can respond adequately when being confronted with it.
A 2009 survey in Sport football magazine showed that about 67.8% of the professional footballers think that there is no room for gays in football. However, more recent figures are not available from Flanders and Belgium. Nor have any studies been carried out like those in France and Great Britain. In order words, research is urgently required.
In 2014, Equal Opportunities in Flanders will appropriate funds to hire someone to coordinate the implementation of the action plan within the Football+ Foundation. His or her tasks will be in line with the broader diversity policy to be further developed by the Football+ Foundation in cooperation with the Royal Belgian Football Association.