Man City response to homophobic trolls is making their LGBT fans proud

When Manchester City posted a video of first team players discussing what ‘Pride’ means to them this week, it took the club’s LGBT+ Supporter’s Group by surprise.

June is Pride Month, and to support the LGBT+ community, City arranged for world-class, renowned players like Kevin De Bruyne, Lucy Bronze, Phil Foden, Steph Houghton and John Stones to talk about the importance of Pride, and what makes them proud themselves.

This small, three-minute video was entirely off City’s own backs, as it should’ve been, and the club have employed an Equality and Diversity lead this season. They were also proud to display the Canal Street Blues’ flag in a prominent position at the Etihad during behind-closed-doors games.

For CSB chairman David Alvarado, the small gesture of producing a video for Pride Month went a long way.

“It was brilliant. Hand on heart I didn’t know they were going to do it and it was a really pleasant surprise,” he told MEN Sport.

“If we were sat in the pub having this conversation over the last few years, people would say ‘oh you know it’s great but what’s really needed, what would be nice, is to see more mainstream things from players’. It’s always been a taboo subject, not in a bad way, I know what the atmosphere is like in dressing rooms, it’s nice to see for the first time, first team players getting involved.

“That’s really really good to see. In the past it’s been more of the women’s side – Megan Rapinoe the American international is very vocal. But it’s great to see so many first team players getting involved. Long may it continue.”

There was nothing too controversial in the video, but then it shouldn’t be a controversial subject. For David, it’s another example of the continuing improvements City are making to support the LGBT+ community. However, David admits the online response to City’s promotion of the clip was disheartening – but the club were quick to silence any abuse.

He explains: “A lot of time you find clubs want to do the right thing but aren’t quite sure how to do it. We have a really good relationship with the club and that helps them get into the minds of people. It’s really good to see they’ve put the Equality and Diversity lead in quite a powerful position across the whole City Football Group, not just Manchester City.

“They support us really well. The video they put up for Pride Month had a lot of abusive, trolling messages on them. City put resources in to clean it up and get rid of them.

“In an ideal world as society evolves in future you don’t need to do that because people shout it down. That will be the way it gets moderated rather than deleting it. But that’s the journey that society is going to take.

“Everybody’s realistic to know things take time. You see all the work done with racism and there’s still loads and loads of problems with that. We try and get involved as much as we can with the club.

“You see all the trolls online, and you’ll probably get loads of trolls on this article, that’s the sort of modern side of it. Football matches, I’ve never really had any problems, certainly nowadays. The problems and abuse and discrimination is online these days.”

In a bid to send a strong message about online abuse, Premier League clubs including City went silent on social media last month for a four-day blackout. It was largely in response to the incidents of racial abuse aimed at players, which has sadly continued since, but David thinks there was a missed opportunity to reinforce that all forms of discrimination have no place in society – especially given his observations over homophobic abuse online.

“When they did the media blackout, if you go back and read the statement, it just mentioned racism,” he notes.

David Alvarado of Canal Street Blues at Manchester Pride

“Of course, there are other things; sexism, misogyny, LGBT issues. I was surprised that’s the only thing that was mentioned. Even City’s comms was just a copy and paste of the Premier League statement. It was strange because it seemed to be advertised as all forms, and the communications was quite narrow.

“Would I say I was disappointed? I was more surprised, because maybe some of the narrative, the buzzwords, weren’t actually followed up with action. It’s not a case of saying one form of discrimination is more important than the other, all forms of discrimination are unacceptable. We stand with anti-racism campaigners just as much. But there’s probably more that can be done by clubs in the Premier League than just marketing buzzwords that don’t get made into reality.

“It might just be a communications error. I’m sure they’ll polish it off better next time with feedback. There’s still more to do, and it’s learning points for us all.

“The main thing is – I don’t mean this in a dismissive way – but it’s easy for big corporations to put a rainbow flag on their brand for the month of June. It’s really nice, but what do you do for the rest of the year and is there any substance behind it. With City there is substance behind it, that video was a really nice surprise.

“For me what’s more important is the stuff happening in the background all the time. You see the matches behind closed doors and you see our flag really prominent in the corner. It’s little things like that, when Sky are doing the interviews our flag is really prominent there which is great to see. It’s not just about one month or Rainbow Laces, it comes across as a little ‘box-ticky’.

“What do the Premier League do for the rest of the year is the question. I’m not slagging it off, it raises awareness. We’re making good progress, a really good relationship with City and hopefully we can carry it on in the future. It’s not about what’s necessary, it’s for future generations which is the main thing and making sure that being a City fan, whoever they are, is a good mix.”

David also notes the strides that the women’s game is taking in being more accepting towards LGBT+ issues, suggesting the fact that the WSL is newer in a professional sense means it is coming from a different place in society. He also believes that children are growing up with different attitudes to previous generations, and that society in general is moving in a better direction. The aim is for City fans – and the wider LGBT+ community – to simply feel comfortable in themselves.

That’s why Canal Street Blues started in the first place, back in 2014.

He says: “It’s helped people who may feel that’s the most comfortable way to support the team and be part of a bigger group. It was one of the first groups across the country, there’s a lot now.

“United’s is reasonably new, we’ve got a good relationship with them. CSB was one of the first ones, the idea is to be there for people who want to feel more comfortable in that. I’m sure we’ve got plenty of LGBT fans who are in Didsbury, Timbuktu, wherever, and are quite comfortable being part of a location-based group. All it is, is a way that people who feel different for various reasons have got a place where they can meet like-minded people.

“A lot of our members aren’t LGBT, it’s family members and friends. Quite a lot of our membership are heterosexual, family and friends who want to be part of the group. We’re in a really good location in the city centre. It’s not a niche, closed shop group, it’s about trying to involve as many people and normalisation and acceptance.”

And at the end of the day, these are all City fans who simply want the best for the club.

“I was lucky enough to go to the final last weekend which was fantastic,” Dave reflects when asked about his hopes for the coming season. There’s a long way to go, but he praises City for their efforts on and off the pitch.

“It was a really good time, I’ve had my season ticket since 1994 and when I got it, I’d have never dreamt we’d get that far. It’s disappointing to lose but we’re still league champions and we’re already talking about going to the Community Shield. I’m looking forward to it, there’s lots we can do, continue working with the club.

“A couple of years ago when we won the league, the FA Cup, Community Shield, Carabao Cup and the women’s cup, we got all five trophies in Bar Pop, Canal Street. That’s unthinkable a few years ago to have those trophies on display in Canal Street.

“It’s a great way to get more people interested and realise those two things are compatible. We want to continue working with the club, and winning on the pitch is the most important thing.”