The London Unity League (LUL) has become the first LGBT-friendly football league in the UK to partner with a County FA.
The LUL, which has been in operation since 2006 and was won last season by Charlton Invicta FC, is to affiliate with the Amateur Football Alliance, a County FA with member clubs playing in various competitive leagues, mainly in London and the Home Counties.
The arrangement will initially run as a pilot scheme for the 2018/19 campaign, giving the LUL access to the AFA’s support and resources, such as coaching and refereeing courses, funding opportunities and the Football Association’s league administration tool, Full Time.
The chair of the FA Inclusion Advisory Board, former Charlton and Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, says the link-up between the LUL and the AFA is an important development.
“Following last year’s launch of Charlton Invicta FC, the first LGBT-friendly team formally affiliated to a professional football club Trust, it’s great to see the AFA taking such a progressive step by affiliating the LUL,” said Elliott.
“I believe this will be the first LGBT+ friendly competition in the UK to be part of a County FA.
“The FA and the FA Inclusion Advisory Board are working hard towards making the game more inclusive; our game is constantly evolving and we are making huge strides.
“This affiliation is sending out yet another significant message – ‘football is for everyone’.”
Other clubs playing in the LUL include London Titans, London Romans, Soho FC and East End Phoenix.
LUL chair Brian Silk has called the partnership between his league and the AFA “a ground-breaking step for LGBT+ friendly football and all football”.
Silk said: “Leagues like the LUL were originally set up partly because LGBT+ players did not feel comfortable taking part in mainstream football.
“Whilst there is still work to do to combat homophobia in our national game, significant progress has been made. England’s football governing bodies and professional or semi-professional football clubs have developed increasingly closer working relationships with LGBT+-friendly football competitions and clubs.
“There has also been the rise of LGBT+ football club supporters’ groups in recent years.
“This affiliation represents a major opportunity for LGBT+-friendly football and England’s football governing bodies to join together, as one, and to send out the message that football is for all. You could say ‘LGBT+-friendly football is coming home’.”