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Proud Canaries' success working with Norwich City Football Club to tackle homophobia to be discussed in parliament

PUBLISHED: 21:34 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 23:25 12 December 2016

Proud Canaries with their banner. Left to right: Jules Bremner, Di Cunningham, Nick O'Brien and Michelle Savage. Photograph by Stevie Read.

Proud Canaries with their banner. Left to right: Jules Bremner, Di Cunningham, Nick O'Brien and Michelle Savage. Photograph by Stevie Read.

Stevie Read

The leader of a Norwich group set up to promote the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in football and to challenge discrimination will take her message to MPs tomorrow.

Di Cunningham, who is the organiser of Proud Canaries - which was the second officially recognised LGBT supporters’ group in the country, and who is also chairman of the national body Pride in Football, said she wanted to see a consistency of approach to recording and tackling homophobic discrimination at clubs across all leagues.

She said Proud Canaries were filling a vacuum and urged the issue to be addressed at a national level by organisations like the Football Association.

She highlighted the “fantastic relationship” her group had with the Norwich City Football Club liaison officer, and initiatives such as Rainbow Laces - where players and chairman Ed Balls wore multi-coloured laces in their shoes and City mascot Captain Canary’s involvement with involvement in Pride.

She highlighted the initiatives in Norwich in evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, but said that when appeared in the Commons today she wanted to talk about the national picture.

“It is all very well thinking it is good at Carrow Road, but you go as an away supporter in the league and the cup and you don’t find consistency of approach.”

In evidence submitted earlier in May she said there had been five instances of homophobia at Norwich City, where offenders had been given final warnings and warned any repetition would lead to a ban, since the group had launched in 2014 - but said she was not aware of any recent reports.

“Some campaigners have suggested that the club is not applying a zero tolerance policy by not dealing with offences with summary and permanent exclusion. We believe that that Homophobic abuse in English Football has generally been tolerated and ignored and that some supporters need a little time and encouragement to process the change in expectations of other fans and club officers,” she added.

The organiser said there needed to be a national system of reporting and recording homophobia.

“LGTB fan groups are a good thing. They are a free resource. Why aren’t they being espoused at every club? They are a good thing so let’s get clubs embracing them and working with them?,” she said.

A Norwich City Football Club spokesman said: “We are delighted Di is getting a platform in the House of Commons reflect on what has been done and what still needs to be done. She and her colleagues in the group deserve the lions share of credit for the energy, passion and commitment they have put into not just supporting their football club - because remember they are fans, but also into working with us really positively to try and improve how the club confronts all discrimination, and in their case the key issue of homophobia and transphobia.”

Anyone aware of homophobic abuse at Carrow Road can contact Norwich City Football Club anonymously on 07931 235513 or email safety@canaries.co.uk

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