Hertfordshire Constabulary has marked LGBT+ History Month with a special training session for the county’s football clubs to help them tackle hate crime.
Taking place at the University of Hertfordshire on Thursday, February 7, the training follows on from the results of a ‘homophobia in football’ survey that was commissioned by the Constabulary and the Hertfordshire Football Association (FA) last year.
The survey was completed by over 400 of the county’s football fans and found that 61% of respondents felt that football clubs should do more to educate fans about homophobia.
The results also revealed that 45% had heard homophobic abuse at a football match within the last three years, while 20% would not feel comfortable to report the offence if they became a victim at a match.
In response to the findings, the Constabulary and the FA pledged to take a permanent stance against homophobia in the game, with an aim to create third party reporting centres at clubs across the county.
This means that if victims do not feel comfortable going directly to the police, they can instead report hate crimes or hate incidents to their club anonymously, before the details are passed to the police on their behalf.
Last week’s training session was attended by Potters Bar, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley and Watford Ladies football clubs.
Representatives from the clubs were able to gain a deeper understanding of hate crimes and incidents and learn how the clubs can assist in providing effective support to victims.
The training session focused on LGBT+ hate crime in response to the findings from last year’s survey but also covered other strands of hate crime where race, religion, or disability might be targeted.
Clubs were able to gain more understanding around the work of the Constabulary’s LGBT+ Liaison Officers who are specially trained to support the LGBT+ community.
Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls, the Constabulary’s strategic lead for sexuality and gender identity, said: “The finding’s from last year’s survey show that there is still a lot of work to do in tackling homophobia in football and I’m delighted that so many clubs have shown their support in helping us to end this, along with all other forms of hate crime.”
“The clubs who attended this session will now be able to register as a third party reporting centre which is very encouraging. We will be continuing to work with the Hertfordshire FA to reduce the incidents of homophobic and other hate crimes through this and other initiatives.”
“Being different is not a crime but being victimised because of it is. Hate crimes can have a severe impact on the victim and on the wider community in which they occur. We will not tolerate this and we are committed to ensuring that hate crime is reported so that we can better understand the problem and help to stop it happening.”
Karl Lingham, CEO at Hertfordshire FA said “We take hate crime extremely seriously and are committed to eradicating it from the game at all levels. Our partnership with Hertfordshire Constabulary is important to us and we work together to support our clubs. “
“It is encouraging to see Hertfordshire non-league clubs in attendance, who are being proactive in creating a safer and more inclusive atmosphere at their clubs. This will benefit players, fans, volunteers and coaches and ensure that everyone feels comfortable in being involved. Without evidence we cannot act, so we would encourage everyone to report any incidents.”