It’s Pride month in June, a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ communities all over the world and joining in that celebration we focus on Brighton Lesbian and Gay Sports Society (BLAGSS), who’ve formed their own group of travelling England Women supporters in recent years. Member and women's football coordinator Justine Thomson takes up the story…
BLAGSS itself was originally founded around 13 years ago in Brighton and runs LGBT sports sessions; we've got football, golf and everything in between!
The aim is to bring people together in a friendly, safe space and also provide social opportunities. I joined around five years ago after hearing about the group locally and wanting to try football.
It was mixed gender at the time, but so many new women joined we eventually decided to split away and shortly afterwards I took over running the sessions to help keep up with the growth on the women's side.
We play every week on a Thursday, get together for a quick warm up and then straight into groups for some small-sided games.
It’s just for fun really and we’ve got people aged 18 up to those in their 50s and it’s mixed ability and experience. We head to the pub for a drink after playing and arrange social events all year round, including going to women's matches.
And the match day experience at women's games is so positive, inclusive and safe that even members who would have never previously attended a match due to various health or social reasons now feel comfortable to do so.
A couple of years ago, we organised a trip to The Women’s FA Cup Final and then we’ve been invited to games by Brighton & Hove Albion who’ve been really great with us, providing opportunities to go along to games and give them feedback from an LGBT fans’ point of view.
But the England support really kicked-off last year and there’s now a big group of us who all really enjoy it. It started with the friendly matches before the World Cup, one of which was at the Amex Stadium, so a lot of the girls went to that and when the World Cup came around, it was only over the pond in France so we just arranged some trips over there.
I think we had different groups of people drive over for four of the matches to go and support the Lionesses and it was great.
It’s been great fun. We also arranged screenings of the games for those who couldn’t go in different pubs and bars and had a few parties with some other local groups and they’ve all been pretty well attended.
Now everyone’s more aware of the England players, it helps us all to share content and campaigns that the players are working towards. For instance, the ‘Obvious Jill’ series during lockdown has been great content for us to share to give ideas on what you can do at home and trying to keep people motivated so that we are ready for the return of football.
We also found that it’s boosted our profile as a group and we now get more people coming along to play, which started while the World Cup was on. People wanted to play football and have fun without too much commitment and that’s what we provide.
It’s just about bringing people together, in a safe space and providing a chance for people to go and watch or play football, that maybe they wouldn’t have done before.
Obviously, this is Pride Month and it would’ve been a busy time in Brighton. We actually had something arranged with the Sussex County FA, as we were going to partner with them to arrange a big football event.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been able to happen which is a massive shame as we were really looking forward to it but hopefully it’s something we can look towards doing next year during Pride Month 2021.
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