Football V Homophobia | Setting up the Proud Valiants


The Proud Valiants is Charlton Athletic’s LGBTQI+ supporters group that helps members of that community feel more welcome in football. 

The founder of the group Rob Harris spoke to us about his experiences over the last few years ahead of the annual Football v Homophobia matchday at The Valley on Saturday.

“It really took effect about five years ago”, said Harris, speaking to the Hot Shots podcast.

“I set it up because I felt quite isolated because I thought I was the only gay Charlton supporter out there and I’ve had issues when I was younger of trying to commit suicide and things like that. 

“Surprisingly enough as soon as the club agreed to get involved with us, and a lot of that was down to people helping like Anwar Uddin, at what is now the Football Supporters Federation, Lou Englefield [Football v Homophobia] and a couple of other supporters groups. 

“The club was very much on board straight away and suddenly we went from just being one to having now sixty members and things are really changing.”

Harris' work saw him finish third in Football v Homophobia's Hero category earlier this month.

He said it is important all clubs get involved: “It is challenging. It’s a big wake up call for clubs because there's other members, we have a new member who is only 16 years old.

“He’s gone through a very rough time about who he is and being accepted for who he is. He’s just starting to come and watch Charlton play.

“He used to support them as a kid and then he sort of gave up football for many reasons that I gave up football.”

Women's football has numerous publicly known LGBTQI+ members, which is in stark contrast to the men's game, where there is none out in public.

Harris said: “It’s fantastic that the women's game can be so open, I think that's due to the nature of the fans. I think there’s a lot more kind of family orientated fans going to the women's matches. 

“Can the women's game do anything? I think they already do a lot. I think women are more likely to fight for equality across the board. 

“As far as an out male football player, I don’t see it happening soon and that's the thing that these LGBT groups are doing they are raising the profile.”

There is a lot of encouragement but there are questions about whether the support system is there for these players if they go public.

“One of the arguments is that if they came out publicly they would play better because they wouldn’t be having to hide who they are. 

“It has to start from education across the board. We need to have agents that will support the board if they want to come out. 

“We need the clubs to have procedures in place to support them.

Harris added the Proud Valiants will continue their work: “The value of these kinds of groups are to protect. To me it’s not necessarily on a professional level, as in how can we assist a player coming out, it's more about the fans.

“We’re a fan group. For 90 minutes, we love going to football and if we can help one or two people on that journey then my job has been worth it.”

Article by Anwar Yassin

Get your tickets for our game against Luton Town at The Valley on February 22nd.


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