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Pride of Irons vs Gay Gooners – 6th December 2019

aerial photography of people playing soccer
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Football players – your club needs you!

As part of the Rainbow Laces campaign, West Ham are hosting an LGBT Supporters match featuring Pride Of Irons vs. Gay Gooners, the Arsenal LGBT supporters group.

If you’d like to take part, please email prideofirons@gmail.com.

The club will have their video team there to record footage and Sky Sports will also be invited to join.

This is a mixed gender game and players of all ability are welcome. It’s sure to be a great event and of course we’ll likely head out and hit the town after so even if you don’t want to play, you’re welcome to join.

The game will take place near the London Stadium on Friday 6th December, kick off 7pm.

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Christmas Party – 13th December

It’s that time of year again folks…the annual Pride of Irons Christmas Party! Join us for an evening of food, drink, song and general merriment.

When: 6.30 pm, Friday 13th December 2019.

Where: Stratford area. Venue details will be emailed privately to members.

If you’re interested in joining us this year use the payment link below.

Christmas Party

£20.00

The price includes a glass of bubbly on arrival, followed by a buffet (including vegetarian and vegan options). We’ve chosen a cracking venue this year, near the London Stadium, with a lovely atmosphere. They even have a piano! Which means that some of us are already very excited at the prospect of the talented George tinkling the ivories at some point, ably accompanied by our rockstar co-chair Jo!

As always, newcomers are welcome. If you haven’t met up with us before, this is a great opportunity to come along and meet your fellow members. Drop us an email in advance prideofirons@gmail.com and let us know if you’re coming along for the first time and we’ll make sure to welcome you with big open hammerhead arms.

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Call It Out 2019 at the London Stadium

6th September marked the kick off of Call It Out 2019 – a Europe-Wide convention addressing LGBT-phobia in football and it was co-hosted at the London Stadium by West Ham United and yours truly, Pride Of Irons!

Call It Out is an annual event coordinated by Pride In Football (PiF) – the UK affiliation for LGBT Football Fan Groups – and 2019 marked the third year of the event. What made it even more special is that PiF were in partnership with Football Supporters Europe (FSE) to combine the event with their very own Project Out!; an EU-funded initiative to fight homophobia and empower LGBT+ stakeholders in football.

With so many stakeholders, increased reach and more participation than ever before, the event needed a venue to do the occasion justice. Enter West Ham United and Pride Of Irons. Our partnership has been recognised as one of the best between a football club and its LGBT fan group and so it was a natural choice to hand us the responsibility of co-hosting the event.

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Now by this point you’re probably thinking we’re done with the names of organisations involved, but you’d be wrong. Another party came to the table to make this event happen and that’s the Attitude Magazine Foundation who work to enable organisations to make positive change for the LGBT community. Their help in coordinating the event cannot be underestimated and we offer them so much thanks and appreciation.

Friday 6th September kicked the event off with welcome drinks sponsored by Attitude. With so many attendees travelling not just across the country, but across Europe to attend, the evening gave attendees of the conference a chance to meet, chat and get to know each other. The wine and conversation flowed and there was plenty of chat about shared experience, challenges and lessons to be shared. Speeches from PiF Chair Di Cunningham, publisher and owner of Attitude Darren Styles, Sky Sports’ very own Mark McAdam and our co-chair Jim Dolan.

A few more glasses were drained before the close of the evening and the merriment was taken to the road for the more energetic attendees while the rest of us headed home for a good night’s sleep ahead of the main event the next day.

7th September was the day of the main event – the full conference of Call It Out 2019 and the launch of Project Out! The days kicked off with a presentation from Rory Magrath, PhD (Senior Lecturer and Football Studies & Business Course Leader at Solent University, Southampton) who launched the first ever study speaking exclusively to LGBT football fans. He gave an overview of his findings to date which were extremely interesting. Keep an eye on his Twitter for when the finished paper is released.

The morning and afternoon workshop sessions were broken up by networking sessions and stadium tours during which fans from other clubs showed a begrudging admiration for the London Stadium, though naturally always finished with “But I wouldn’t want my team to play here every week”.

 

The workshops were conducted by LGBT fans, for LGBT fans and included advice on how to run sustainable LGBT groups, presented by Ian from Newcastle’s United with Pride, discussion around Managing Social Media and Trolling by Pride Of Irons’ Jim Dolan and a discussion on Toxic International Competition Hosts by Joe White of Gay Gooners.

With PiF now boasting 50 LGBT football groups (in fact the 50th – Proud Rovers – was kicked off on the day), it’s so very important for us to not only share good practice and lessons learnt, but to try to drive for all of our clubs to work with us to make football a more inclusive place, not just for LGBT fans, but for everyone!

Alongside all of this action, Project Out! was going on with representatives from all over Europe speaking about fan/club interaction and giving recommendations around standards that could make up part of a handbook for clubs and governing bodies. West Ham and Pride Of Irons were represented by Supporter Services Manager Jake Heath and POI Treasurer Al Holmes who impressed everyone with the close relationship we have.

The end to a truly fantastic day was provided by a veritable smorgasbord of celebrity guests in a round table discussion chaired very kindly by Mark McAdam who stepped in at the last minute to cover Jess Creighton who was unable to make it.

Mark was joined by actor Charlie Condou, journalist Nicky Bandini, wrestler Brad Slayer, Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo and our very own Alisha Lehmann.

Charlie spoke of the changing environment in football and how he feels as a parent taking his young children to games. Nicky spoke of her career in football journalism and the difference in atmosphere in stadiums and league across the continent. Brad had a very positive message about the acceptance of LGBT people in wrestling and Anthony told us his story of being an ally and officiating his sister’s wedding to her wife. Alisha spoke of the difference in women’s football and how different attitudes are.

As the weekend drew to a close, many selfies were taken, numbers exchanges and promises made to help lift each other up and make changes for the good of football. We may be rivals on the pitch, but outside of match days we are a community that supports each other.

Some fans departed for the long journey home while others strolled over to Hackney Wick together to watch the England game. The day was over but the work continues. Football is changing for the better and we’ll keep doing what we do until we’ve succeeded in making football accessible to everyone – as it should be.

To see more from the day, head over to the West Ham website.

If you don’t support West Ham and you’re wondering if your club has a group, you can find the full list here.

Maybe your club doesn’t have a group? If so, get in touch with Pride In Football who can help you start one.

 

Pride 2019

The problem being a West Ham fan who lives in Kingston is when you need to be at the London Stadium for 8.00am on a Saturday morning.

Luckily I have a friend who lives close by who I inexplicably managed to convince to also roll out of bed at 5.30am although I quickly got the impression she had started to regret her commitment:

Lucy

But as we trekked South West to East under the already hot morning sun we perked up with tea and cereal bars, and in the end, of course, it was all worth it.

Pride is always the biggest event in the social calendar for Pride of Irons. It’s a chance for us to come out en masse in our claret and blue rainbows and sing and dance and march and be, well, proud.

This was the second year we’d hired a bus for the parade, and as I had been unable to attend last year I was particularly thrilled when it pulled up outside the Stadium, ready to collect us early birds.

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We skidded (joke, we slowly trawled) our way to our parade spot after a lovely, happy drive through London, waving our flags at slightly bemused passers-by, but getting a few crossed arms and cheers of support in return for our efforts.

With the parade technically not starting until early afternoon we had plenty of time to decorate the bus, have a dance, exchange some friendly barbs with the two other London clubs we were marching nearby with (let’s call them Schmarsenal and Schmurs) and wait for everyone else to turn up. And turn up they did.

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The first time Pride of Irons marched at Pride was in 2015 with Pride in Football and there was about seven of us there – fast forward to 2019 and we had a massively diverse group of over 50 of our members join us. It’s always incredibly humbling to have such a stark reminder of how much we’ve achieved and how much we’ve grown over the past 5 years. Pride for us is always a celebration of that.

Anyway, back to the day. Finally the crowd in front of us starting moving and we were off. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of what marching at Pride is like; the streets are absolutely rammed with people of all ages, ethnicities, genders and sexuality, all united in their love of an opportunity to have a party, watch a parade and show their support for the LGBTQ community.

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Being West Ham we like to standout as much as possible and what better way to do that than with our very own Hammerhead and Pride of Irons’ favourite drag queen Flora Tub.

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They worked the crowd tirelessly the whole route, no mean feat in the middle of summer. We handed out stickers, waved our flags, blew our whistles and started countless renditions of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and Come on You Irons. Every time we went past a hidden Hammer in the crowd we were greeted with a cry of approval, a high five, crossed arms and in some special cases a nice hug. In fact I met one lady on the way round who used to play for West Ham Ladies! Give us a shout if you’re reading this.

One of the reasons our marches at Pride are so successful is down to the incredible relationship we have with West Ham. Their support of us as a group is a true reflection of the values the Club hold and promote, and this is no better reflected than at Pride.  In fact this year they paid for the bus hire for which we are incredibly grateful, and that shows their real commitment to our group and our cause. That and the fact that West Ham employees marched with us. They weren’t working, they just care.

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I’ve said this before, but I think it’s always worth remembering. Despite the dancing, the singing, the drinking of cans of pink gin before 11am Pride is not just a party, it is still a protest. In fact, something one of our lovely members told me as we were walking through Piccadilly Circus really reminded me of this. Michael (our lovely member) blowing bubbles next to me with his face painted claret and blue said, “This makes me really emotional. Seeing so many people out here, being open, living openly. It’s a contrast to how so many people have to live their lives. 10 years ago I couldn’t have marched here. It’s so important that I now can.”

God it made me so proud when Michael said that. It reflected for me why we exist as a group. People should be able to live their lives openly, and many people still can’t. We can’t stop fighting.

But whilst we’re fighting there’s no reason why we can’t also have a party. COYI!