Ash Slaughter at Pride HERO

Celebrating Pride: Ash Slaughter

Former employee reflects on his time with us

June is Pride month, a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ communities all over the world and joining in that celebration we spoke to one of our former employees, now working for The FA, Ash Slaughter.

Ash joined us back in 2002, working his way up to Football Services Manager before departing for his current role in The FA’s Grassroots Football Division in 2018. During that time Ash went on a journey regarding his sexuality and we look back to that time and find out what Pride means to him, in his own words…

Winding the clock back, I grew up in Brighton with my family, and as I got older began thinking about family, having a wife, children as you do. As a family, mine were very open with us as children/teens, and some members of the family were openly living in the LGBT community, so this wasn't new to me later in my teens and 20s.

Whizz forward to 2010 with me aged 25. I had been working at the Sussex County FA for 8 years, loved my job having just got a new role, everything in life was great. Refereeing was going well (a huge part of my life) and progressing better than I had hoped, but I was still missing a partner, whilst conscious my friends were settling down. 

Friends, family, colleagues would often ask, “how is the love life” or after going out, “meet anyone nice?” It was at this time, I met a guy on holiday, who quite literally changed my life. Long story, in short, following a miscommunication where I thought he had been looking at a friend of mine, I could not have been more wrong, and it was me he was interested in.

In the following hours and days of this holiday I spent time thinking, ‘I wonder if I am gay?’ ‘Did I enjoy his attempt at kissing me?’ ‘Am I attracted to guys?’ So many questions, but, one thing I knew immediately, what I felt at the time it happened, it was right and different to anything before.

It was a huge decision to share my sexuality with my workplace. However, I knew it was the right thing to do having shared with my family within a couple of weeks of thought on my return home.

I went to my boss, Chief Executive of the Sussex County FA, Ken Benham, and following a discussion, I asked to inform all the staff together in an impromptu meeting at 1pm. I remember it well as my heart was racing. Ken was great and simply asked me, “Are you sure, if so, I will support your decision and let’s do it.” His language was so important, 'let's' rather than 'you' do it. Without saying it directly, I felt he was 100% supportive and that was most comforting.

1pm arrived, I had hoped I would not receive any form of reprisal or bad feeling, as my workplace was built on the right values and the people I worked with were receptive and I trusted them, but it was a huge gamble nonetheless, as you never actually know. 

Thankfully, my work colleagues were very supportive, and nothing changed. I was still treated as Ash, as I was beforehand. It was so important to me I wasn't treated any differently and allowed to continue doing my job the same way. 

Ash Slaughter at Pride 1
It was a huge decision to share my sexuality with my workplace. However, I knew it was the right thing to do having shared with my family within a couple of weeks of thought on my return home.

After coming out, this opened my life to many new things. I became involved in refereeing the London Unity League, Gay Football Supporters’ Network Cup and other LGBT competitions running locally, which I hadn't known of before.

I met lifelong friends over our passion for football, which opened my eyes to how many people within the LGBT community loved the game I love. As time progressed, it dawned upon me, the theory or assumption that many have that LGBT people don't like football just isn't true. We have members of the LGBT community across the game in various roles and positions, despite many thinking this is not, and was not, the case.

You are probably thinking, when is he going to answer what Pride means to him and why has he mentioned all of this, get on with it Ash... Well, the reason I mention these things is because they form what Pride means to me.

Firstly, about being yourself, your whole authentic self and not having to act differently in different circles. Sadly, not everyone can do this, due to their environment, previous experience of discriminatory behaviour or many other reasons. I am proud to say, the work The FA and Sussex County FA undertake in their workplaces and in football, has made me feel very confident in being my whole self.

Pride for me also stands for where we have come from following the original protests, where we are now after The FA’s first Pride March in 2019 and most excitingly where we can go in the future, along with the difference we can make.

Tremendous strides have been made over the years; however, it sadly remains the fact that the great work is not seen by everyone in our community. I have friends and colleagues who have suffered the results of such, so we have much more to do to ensure everyone can be their whole self, wherever, whenever and without fear of reprisal simply down to their sexual orientation.

I am privileged and thankful to have had the journey I have, but remain acutely aware many others, including people I know, have not and will not be so lucky for a multitude of reasons. I will take pride in doing what I can to ensure we can help as many people enjoy football, be themselves and partake as their authentic self, whether a player, volunteer, referee, supporter or whatever role they have in our game. I know The FA and Sussex County FA feel the same way to.

Something to takeaway, that I often share with family and friends, is to never be surprised by how your actions, behaviour or language can impact another person. Whether that's negatively or positively, only you can decide. If you have got this far, thanks for reading.

To find out more about our work tackling homophobia and promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in football please contact:

T: 01903 766855