Charlton Athletic are to become one of the first professional football clubs to participate in Pride in London. 120 people linked to CACT, the club and associated groups will join a Charlton-themed float at this year’s Pride in London parade on Saturday 7 July. Up to now football teams have been represented in the march by their fan groups.
CACT Invicta FC, the first LGBTQI+ friendly football team affiliated to a professional club’s community trust, will join Charlton’s LGBTQI+ supporters’ group, the Proud Valiants, at the procession in Central London, which first took place in 1972.
Participation in the event will celebrate CACT Invicta winning the London Unity League title in their first season affiliated to Charlton, and also CACT’s wider commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
CACT Invicta FC said:
“Wow, what can we say, we are just blown away that we can be involved in the first ever Pride in London march that Charlton Athletic have ever been a part of. As the first ever LGBTQI+ friendly football club to be formally affiliated to a professional club’s community trust, we get to show the whole of London on 7 July that CACT reaches out to so many people across the South East, the club is one big family, and side by side we support one another – a sign of unity.
“It’s a huge step for the LGBTQI+ community and football as a whole, it allows us to stand united by breaking down barriers and shaking off stereotypes. It’s allowing the next generation within the LGBTQI+ community to believe in football and that football is a sport for all which nobody should ever feel excluded from.
“We are making history and we are delighted to be the start of that”.
Rob Harris, Proud Valiants’ Chair, said:
“Charlton Athletic and CACT have become champions in the fight against homophobia. We are very proud to be taking part in this event and celebrating not only with CACT Invicta but the whole Charlton Family. To make such a visible statement is historic and I hope that anybody in the crowd who has doubts about their sexuality or feels uneasy going to watch football as they fear the atmosphere may realise that football is a sport for all and that Charlton will not accept any form of prejudice.
“Pride tops off an amazing season of events that the Proud Valiants have worked on with the club, CACT and CACT Invicta including a dedicated first-team match in February, the third Charlton v Homophobia Tournament on 22 May and an upcoming conference for other professional clubs around homophobia and setting up supporter groups. All this goes to show how we all here at CAFC are setting the bar for all teams up and down the country.”
Charlton were recently named EFL London Checkatrade Community Club of the Year, with CACT Invicta the club’s showcase project.
Dr Michael Seeraj, CACT’s Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, said:
“This has been a remarkable first season for CACT Invicta, not only winning the London Unity League, but also being commended by the EFL, as part of CACT’s award for winning this season’s EFL London Community Club of the Year. We are committed to tackling discrimination and promoting inclusion, and are extremely proud that CACT Invicta now form an integral part of our wider equality programme. Pride in London will be a fitting finale to what has been a truly incredible year”.
The 120 wristbands that organisers have allocated will be distributed to CACT Invicta, Proud Valiants, and a number of CACT service users from across South East London and Kent, where the organisation’s work takes place.
Other events taking place this year to tackle homophobic abuse in sport include the Charlton v Homophobia football tournament on Tuesday 22 May, jointly hosted by the club and their official LGBTQI+ supporters group the Proud Valiants, which sees four LGBTQI+ friendly teams play 11-a-side matches at The Valley to raise awareness about the importance of creating an inclusive environment on and off the pitch.
CACT Invicta were formed as Bexley Invicta in 2011. Player-Manager Gary Ginnaw didn’t play football competitively for more than 12 years because he felt uncomfortable about the atmosphere. CACT Invicta train and play home matches at the club’s Sparrows Lane training ground, and their model has since been replicated by Norwich City’s Proud Canaries FC.
Proud Valiants were formed four years ago, when a LGBTQ fan approached the club and asked if they would be willing to endorse a supporters’ group for fans who identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer, loved football – but may feel isolated. The club welcomed the suggestion and the Proud Valiants were born and have since seen their membership soar. Their members have taken part in debates both here and overseas, and been invited to Parliament – as well as being covered in a wide range of media as front-runners in the battle against homophobia in the game.