A-LEAGUE soccer club Brisbane Roar has been urged by Queensland-based LGBTI advocates to signup to an agreement specifically addressing homophobic abuse by game crowds during games.

In October, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) national spokesperson Shelley Argent met with representatives from Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Broncos, Queensland Reds and Brisbane Roar about making the stadium a “homophobia-free zone”.

“I am pleased to say that Suncorp is supportive of the idea,” Argent said.

PFLAG plan to hold further meetings with the Reds and Broncos on the issue but Roar management said that existing measures were suitable.

“However, the Roar Football Management Team have decided the Football Federation Of Australia — Spectator Code of Behaviour is enough, including the four public announcements about expected crowd behaviour,” Argent said.

“But is it enough to minimise homophobia at sporting events?”

Argent has expressed disappointment that the Roar’s Code of Conduct does not specifically mention homophobic behaviour or language.

“Exclusion is not necessarily deliberate. However, its exclusion implies to me that the Roar either don’t care or don’t understand the impact it has on individuals and their families,” she said.

“Homophobia increases suicidal ideation, depression and low self-esteem. Nothing good comes from homophobia, not even for the perpetrators, who just appear ignorant and to be avoided.”

In the October meeting PFLAG proposed to the three teams that messages be displayed on stadium screens that homophobic language, like sexist and racist language, would not be accepted.

It was also suggested that on their websites, the teams include homophobia as behaviour that is unacceptable during games.

On a national level, earlier this year Australia’s five major sporting codes signed up to the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework in the lead up to the Bingham Cup in Sydney.

The Framework was designed to provide a guide to sporting codes on how to address homophobia and offer an inclusive sporting environment, with each peak body determining their own policies using the Framework as a foundation.

One of the framework’s three pillars refers to tackling homophobic and abusive language: “Each member union or club must implement policies which are consistent with the policy, such as prohibiting homophobic and abusive language within the clubs’ member protection policies, codes of conduct, or like documents.”

A section within the sample anti-discrimination policy offered by the framework specifically refers to including “parents, guardians, spectators and sponsors” when attempting to foster a positive and inclusive environment.

Last month, Football Federation Australia — the governing body for the A-League and its clubs like Brisbane Roar — said it had begun to roll out an LGBTI inclusion program for soccer staff, players and clubs as part of its commitments to the framework.

Argent has called on the public to challenge what she sees as the Roar management’s inaction on directly addressing homophobic language.

“As spectators we don’t have to condone the Roar’s inaction or the ignorance of others,” she said.

“So basically, if the Roar don’t want to be part of change, we the fans can lead the way. People just need to be aware.”

Speaking to the Star Observer, Argent said that there has been “no movement whatsoever” with Roar management over the past few months and that her efforts to pay for adverts within team publications have continually been met with obstacles.

“I couldn’t get past [the switchboard], who said [they] passed my proposed advert-community notice on to some guy. I called every day to speak to [him], but of course he was always busy,” she said.

“I even sent a copy of this proposed advert to The Coffee Club – principal sponsors of the Roar – asking if they had an objection to this advert being placed in the magazine, but again silence.”

Brisbane Roar management was contacted for comment but no response was provided at time of print.

Main photo credit: Ann-Marie Calilhanna (Source: Star Observer)

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