This document has been written to help improve the League, providing a clear blueprint for accepted rules and expected conduct for both players and clubs. The document does not cover every eventuality and as the London Unity League continues to develop, so will this document via feedback and suggestions by clubs partaking in its running.
In an exclusive interview, LUL News speaks to Pete Ransom, Player-Manager of London Falcons FC, about what’s happening at the club and his thoughts on LGBT-friendly football in the UK.
Pete Ransom: When I took over as Falcons manager 18 months ago, it’s safe to say we were in a dreadful position as a club: with no sponsor, a lot of players having left and having finished second-bottom in the league. What I wanted to do was to put a structure in place that would allow the club to grow and be sustainable over the long term.
Things have gone far better than I could have possibly expected, thanks to some really intensive work on recruitment last season. We certainly didn’t expect to win the league – I’d have been happy with a mid-table finish back last September! We really focused on the basics – getting a weekly training session going at Kennington Park, making sure we were financially stable, improving our online presence and then gradually building things up like the move to Barn Elms Sports Trust which provide significantly better pitches than the ones at Wandsworth Common. We were also delighted to gain Emerald Life Insurance as our sponsors. Their chairman and CEO are both massive advocates of what we do and, in addition to funding our new kits, they provide a wealth of advice and contacts with which we can build the club.
Moving forward, we’re currently going through the affiliation process with London FA. In the short-term, this provides financial benefits in the form of cheaper insurance and venue hire. However, our goal for next season is to expand to two teams and to enter an affiliated Saturday league. I’ve played a lot of Saturday and Sunday league football in the past and, for me, it’s the place we need to get to if we’re to stick to our message of promoting diversity in a club with a really healthy balance of straight, gay and bisexual players. In the past, we’ve lost a huge number of players to Stonewall FC as they were the only team offering this and, obviously, are pretty good! Having somewhere to grow the club and satisfy our players’ ambitions is really, really important.
Pete: We’re looking forward to the Gay Games in Paris next summer. The 2010 Gay Games in Cologne was my first experience of an LGBT sports event and the scale of it really blew me away – it was one of the best weeks of my life. Falcons haven’t been to international tournaments for a while so it’s a great way to get a different experience of playing football while of course having a great time alongside it.
Pete: It’s been really interesting to see the LUL grow and improve in quality since my first season in London back in 2013/14. Back then you could guarantee some easy wins each season but that really isn’t the case any more and that’s credit to all of the teams who have looked at what they offer and sought ways to differentiate their proposition. I’m also encouraged to see more straight players in the league. I know others may disagree but, for me, I don’t want to be boxed off in a private zone for LGBT footballers and it’s a wonderful sign of progress when you have straight guys playing for predominately gay teams. They’re our real allies and champions.
On an additional note, I think it’s really important to single our the league secretary, Robin, for special praise. A league only runs as well as its secretary and, with all of the additional leagues and tournaments to cope with, I think he does a stunning job in making everything run smoothly.
Across the rest of the UK, I think it’s a really interesting time for the GFSN. We took a tough decision last season to drop out of the national league as I couldn’t justify the expense of travelling around the country to play football when we have an ever-improving league right here in London. The GFSN league is almost a victim of its own success in that regard – it provided the initial safe place for teams to play in and develop but now it’s seeing teams shift their focus away from it into local leagues. That said, for teams who aren’t lucky enough to play near other clubs, the league will continue to be essential for them and we’re always excited to participate in the GFSN Cup each season. We had a brilliant time up in Liverpool at the start of September and we’re looking forward to joining Titans, Romans, Charlton and Soho in Bristol on the 25th for the quarter finals.
Overall, I’m always an optimist when it comes to equality and inclusion in football. In general terms, life has never been better for LGBT people in the UK. Look what we’ve gained in the past 20 years – from civil partnerships to marriage and then adoption through the anti-discrimination legislation in countless areas. More than that, people’s attitudes have really changed and when someone finds out you’re gay you don’t have that feeling of trepidation I experienced even 15 years ago. We have 25 paying members at Falcons. One-third of them are straight and I couldn’t imagine the club without them. They came along, threw themselves into every element of what we do and it’s a great example to everyone on where we’re at in society.