English football league teams are falling over each other to create inclusive and diverse environments. But it seems that not everyone is included.
A football team in the EFL Championship has proudly announced that it has achieved a bronze award in the EFL equality code of practice. This was awarded to the club for ensuring it was creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone and it was hitting every target of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) scheme. You might ask why it hasn’t gained silver or gold but, presumably, this is a work in progress.
At the same time, Toby Young, founder and General Secretary of the Free Speech Union (FSU), announced that Newcastle United Football Club – a club expressly “committed to equality, diversity and inclusion” – has banned a supporter from attending its home matches for the rest of this season and the next two. As reported in the Daily Sceptic, this story has been covered by the Telegraph and several tabloids. Linzi Smith, who is gay and champions LGB rights, was spied on by a unit at the Premier League described by Toby as the ‘Stadium Stasi’ and reported to NUFC for posting ‘gender-critical’ views. She was later presented with an 11-page dossier, which included her personal details: where she lived, where she worked, even where she walked her dog. Evidence, perhaps, of Orwell’s 1984 being used as a manual.
Northumbria police said she had not committed a crime. However, absurdly, NUFC revoked her membership of the club and banned her from coming to the stadium until 2026. Luckily, the FSU is supporting her. This is a clear attack on free speech and football clubs should not be allowed to ban fans due to their political views; they should be focusing on how well the team is doing. After all, Newcastle is 13 points from the top four and in poor form.
The club should also be focusing on the safety of fans. On the same weekend, Hull City – the club I support – hosted Millwall, whose supporters have a reputation for causing trouble. This was evident upon their arrival in Hull. There are unconfirmed reports that the fans vandalised trains and caused trouble at the station. Further, inside the stadium the Millwall fans were inviting Hull fans outside for a fight, which resulted in some being evicted from the ground. This did not sit well with the remaining Millwall fans who charged towards the police and the home supporters.
There was more hooliganism when Brighton faced Crystal Palace, known as the M23 derby, which saw several fights outside the ground and resulted in seven arrests. Similarly, last weekend the derby between West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton had to be suspended for 30 minutes in the second half due to crowd trouble: a man was dragged out of the stadium with blood pouring from his head.
Football violence and hooliganism is on the rise: a report this year showed 999 arrests were made between July 1st and December 31st 2022, a 10% increase over the same period the previous year. Football-related arrests were up by 59% to 2,198; the highest number of arrests since the 2013-14 season.
Why is the EFL focusing on woke ideology to make clubs more inclusive and diverse and banning fans expressing legitimate views, when football violence is on the rise? Which is more harmful: a view with which you disagree being expressed on Twitter, or a bottle over the head?