by: Thomas van Zijl | October 9, 2014

Homosexuality is not only a taboo in professional football, amateur associations also find it difficult to discuss the topic. The Hague football club SV Erasmus is no longer banning the subject and is working on its own gay acceptance plan. Secretary Hans van Vliet hopes that partly because of this his association will feel like a second home for everyone. 

hansvanvlietThe subject of homosexuality first came up for discussion at SV Erasmus eighteen months ago, during a discussion about bullying in youth. There, Van Vliet noticed that it was very strange that of the 500 members, none would be gay. “You can tell me a lot, but it's statistically impossible. The conclusion is therefore irrevocable that not everyone at this association dares to be themselves.”

At about the same time, the KNVB launched a plan to draw attention to homosexuality in football. Van Vliet saw a lot of nice words on paper, but lacked the handles that his club could work with. “SV Erasmus is an association from The Hague South. Numerous cultures come together here. Naming this topic is difficult. We have to get behind. The KNVB plan did not show how we could catch up.”

Workshop John Blankenstein Foundation
Van Vliet contacted the union and found out that the plan did indeed live up to the word, partly through workshops of the John Blankenstein Foundation. Van Vliet: “They were guests here to convince us how important it is to put homosexuality on the map. If we don't, young people can end up in isolation. Because of their background, it is often difficult for them to talk about their sexual orientation at home, so let's make it less complicated here at the association."

In the association's internal newsletter, the board has now informed all members that the current season is dominated by norms and values. “We have drawn up a code of conduct that clearly shows that we are open to everyone, regardless of sexual preference.”

Balancing on thin rope
That seems obvious, but Van Vliet and other board members are balancing on a thin rope. They meet the necessary resistance from a number of members. “There are people who think that we shouldn't be too proud of tolerance. This is largely due to the composition of our membership base. Not everyone is equally open to homosexuality from a cultural and religious perspective.”

The board of SV Erasmus will have to get its members on board if the club is to succeed in its pursuit of being a place for everyone, regardless of origin and sexual orientation. The pioneers in the process gathered at the end of last season to exchange ideas, but a plan of action has not yet been drawn up. That should take shape in the coming months.

“At the beginning of July we came together with about twenty members and a number of interested outsiders. It won't be up to them, but we are still looking for the right instruments to do just that silent majority to get along.” Van Vliet sees a crucial role for the parents of youth members. “Our association framework will have to discuss this, but it is not easy. For us, the subject matter and dealing with this theme is also new.”

Role for the municipality
The secretary of SV Erasmus therefore looks at the municipality with a slanted eye for the realization of his action plan. After all, this problem does not only affect his club, there may be more associations that have a similar ambition. “I think there is a role for municipalities to ensure that not every sports association reinvents the wheel. Bring us together and in touch with people who know how to engage in dialogue in an effective way. Or with a top athlete who can act as a figurehead.”

According to Van Vliet, only if that happens can a breakthrough come about. “The attitude is certainly not yet universally benevolent and positive, but a lot has changed for the better in recent years. It is now up to associations and municipalities to take a decisive step.”

For more information: Click here for practical stories that aim to make gay acceptance a topic for discussion

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