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Telegraph article: How Lee Bowyer is breaking down the LGBT barriers with Charlton Invicta

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/02/28/lee-bowyer-breaking-lgbt-barriers-withcharlton-invicta/


At Charlton Athletic’s training ground on a biting cold day, the club’s assistant manager, Lee Bowyer, is talking the players through a training session with a familiar intensity, and when the ball goes out of play he sweeps another to the feet of a defender with the certainty of the top ex-professional.

Bowyer, 41, has seen it all in his career: Champions League semi-finals, Premier League title bids, one England cap, the notoriety of one of modern football’s highest-profile court cases, and that was just one of his appearances in court. He is back at the League One club that launched him 22 years ago, as Karl Robinson’s assistant, but this is not the first team he is coaching, this is Charlton Invicta, the club’s LGBT-friendly side.

Invicta were the first LGBT team to wear the colours of their affiliated professional club, and to use their facilities – they are a major part of the club’s commitment towards creating a safe and welcoming environment for LGBT people. Not all Invicta’s players are gay but all are assured of playing in an environment where there is no abuse, and no one is judged according to their sexuality. They are top of the London Unity League by 11 points and have attracted interest from other leagues.

Bowyer does not train them every day, but this was a special occasion, along with Robinson and the Charlton first-team captain Johnnie Jackson, as part of the club’s Football v Homophobia month activities. It would be right to say that the past few years under owner Roland Duchatelet have been hard for many of the fans, but the club’s community trust has stayed true to its principles that began with some of the game’s first anti-racism campaigns.

Jackson, 35, in the last of his nine seasons at the club, has been a supporter of Invicta since they became part of Charlton last year and now contemplating his own coaching career recognises how football has changed.

A club legend who will end his career with more than 500 senior appearances at eight clubs, Jackson says attitudes in the game have changed beyond recognition from the days when he began at Tottenham Hotspur.

“I don’t know the answer to why we don’t have an openly gay footballer because they have to be out there, right? I think it’s only a matter of time. In football, and in general, opinions have softened in that regard.

“Fifteen years ago when I turned pro it was a different time, even in the changing room some of the things that might have got said, you don’t hear any more. Even stuff on the terraces has simmered down, and rightly so.

“I think [gay] people would be more worried about the reaction on the terraces. I couldn’t see it being a problem with your team-mates. We all want one thing: we want to win games, and that’s all we are worried about.

“If someone says they’re gay all we care about is that they are putting in the work on the pitch. That’s the same for a straight footballer.”

For Paul Driscoll, the Invicta chairman, the question of the first high-profile out gay footballer is not the issue at stake, rather his club is about helping to quicken the pace of what he sees as an inevitable change in attitude towards LGBT people at grass-roots level.

“People are bored with playing Sunday league football and being sworn at or taking homophobic abuse. Anyone under 30 doesn’t want to hear that. Some Sunday league teams seem to propagate that.

“I grew up in Lewisham and I don’t want to hear it any more. The under-12s couldn’t give a monkey’s [about sexuality], they don’t care. They are two generations away and it will take that for the game to catch up, as it has with racism. We are in a better place with racism, and in two generations’ time we will be with LGBT attitudes.”

Out on the training pitch, Robinson and Bowyer are running through drills with the Invicta players, including Gary Ginnaw, 34, a cost lawyer, the team’s player-manager and lifelong Charlton fan. He says the club’s affiliation with Invicta, and this day itself is “a massive statement of intent”. “Charlton were leaders in the fight against racial abuse in the 1990s and now they are leading the way in the fight against homophobia.

“Footballers are idols these days. I have grown up with Johnnie Jackson’s last-minute winning goals. As one gay man it makes a massive difference to me and there will be other young footballers out there who will say that is actually pretty special what Karl, Lee and Johnnie are doing today.”

Robinson asked his players recently what their reaction would be if one of their team-mates were to come out as gay and their response was as he expected.

“They said ‘So? We’re mates. That wouldn’t change the fact he is my friend any more’. As a manager I hope there is nobody here who feels if they are they can’t speak to me. I really can say that hand on heart with warmth. I would be disappointed if there was.”

Jackson points out that on his latest coaching course he was taught what they see as crucial skills for modern managers: the ability to deal with players from different racial and cultural backgrounds, with different ethnicities and sexuality.

“If you are going to manage you have to deal with people,” Jackson says, “and gay, straight, transgender, you are dealing with people at the end of the day. That’s how I look at it.”

As for Bowyer, everyone at Charlton says that he remains obsessed with football and with winning, and all session he has barely taken his eyes off the action. I catch him as he gathers the footballs up and heads in. For a period of time he was one of the most divisive characters in the English game, now the some-time coach of Charlton’s LGBT team. To Bowyer, it is all fairly simple.

“Every club should do it. There is no harm in giving some time up and passing on a little bit of knowledge. They are so keen and they want to improve and it has been a good day, so I think it is a good thing. For sure attitudes are changing, the game is changing. Day by day, it is what it is and everything moves in different ways. Football is doing the same thing. It’s a good place to be.”
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Comments

  • Good read but hard to believe with Bowyer's history.
  • Good read but hard to believe with Bowyer's history.

    apart from the McDonald's misdemeanour when a teenager what else has he done?
  • Good read but hard to believe with Bowyer's history.

    apart from the McDonald's misdemeanour when a teenager what else has he done?
    Seriously?
  • edited February 28

    Good read but hard to believe with Bowyer's history.

    apart from the McDonald's misdemeanour when a teenager what else has he done?
    Was involved in some hassle with Woodgate a few years back.

    If memory serves me right they were accused of assault.

    EDIT: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2001/dec/14/newsstory.sport5

    Lee Bowyer was cleared according to this so fair question.
  • Good read but hard to believe with Bowyer's history.

    apart from the McDonald's misdemeanour when a teenager what else has he done?
    Seriously?
    yes seriously.

    what has he done?

  • Bowyer found not guilty in criminal case but branded a liar by the judge

    Paid victim 170000 in settlement of civil case
  • Good read but hard to believe with Bowyer's history.

    apart from the McDonald's misdemeanour when a teenager what else has he done?
    Seriously?
    yes seriously.

    what has he done?
    As referenced by others.

    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/cocky-and-calculating-bowyer-lied-1-2418275

  • Bowyer found not guilty in criminal case but branded a liar by the judge

    Paid victim 170000 in settlement of civil case

    He can give me some gbh for £170k
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  • so just to clarify, he was found not guilty?

    so why do you find it hard to believe that with his history, Mcdonalds as a teenager and being found not guilty of gbh with intent and affray, he would be involved with the LGBT-friendly side?

  • so just to clarify, he was found not guilty?

    so why do you find it hard to believe that with his history, Mcdonalds as a teenager and being found not guilty of gbh with intent and affray, he would be involved with the LGBT-friendly side?

    It's been done to death, I have a different opinion to you and that's fine with me. Let's leave it there.
  • so just to clarify, he was found not guilty?

    so why do you find it hard to believe that with his history, Mcdonalds as a teenager and being found not guilty of gbh with intent and affray, he would be involved with the LGBT-friendly side?

    It's been done to death, I have a different opinion to you and that's fine with me. Let's leave it there.
    well at least you are man enough to admit that you are wrong...
  • Bowyer has had some unsavoury stuff in his past but he seems to be a genuinely reformed character
  • Bowyer may well have grown up a bit, and I don't recall him ever being accused of homophobia.

    this article sums up what this club is all about, despite what Douchebag has done to tarnish it
  • People change and it's really sad that this is not acknowledged. Good on the club for fighting prejudice.
  • Interesting when you read the article more mention is made of JJ being the one doing his badges and what the training courses are about than any quote from Bowyer. LB is the headline but not the substance of the article. So you expect that the Telegraph are using his name as the banner even thought the article is largely about the trust, the club and KR and JJ.
  • Good read.

    I do wonder why people have to be 'openly gay'. I'm not 'openly straight'.

    Why should anyone have to declare their sexuality at all?!
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  • edited February 28
    Dazzler21 said:

    Good read.

    I do wonder why people have to be 'openly gay'. I'm not 'openly straight'.

    Why should anyone have to declare their sexuality at all?!

    I get what you're saying but straight is still very much the default. Some people don't have to be openly anything, but for others who they love and who they're attracted to is an important part of who they are, as it is for a lot of people, and they want to state that.

    And being able to be openly gay can still result in facing prejudice or repercussions. And if it doesn't, that is a very recent development, certainly something within my life time.
  • Fair points @Henry Irving I haven't ever thought of myself as being 'openly' anything in terms of sexual orientation.

    I use the terminology of partner instead of missus in real life, I never really noticed it until someone asked if I was gay a few years ago!

    So no I personally don't purposefully hide anything, but I also don't purposefully declare it either.

    I'm probably easier to read now that I talk about my daughter too much...
  • https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/02/28/lee-bowyer-breaking-lgbt-barriers-withcharlton-invicta/
    “People are bored with playing Sunday league football and being sworn at or taking homophobic abuse. Anyone under 30 doesn’t want to hear that.

    But over 30s are fine with it...

  • Redskin said:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/02/28/lee-bowyer-breaking-lgbt-barriers-withcharlton-invicta/
    “People are bored with playing Sunday league football and being sworn at or taking homophobic abuse. Anyone under 30 doesn’t want to hear that.

    But over 30s are fine with it...

    Yes it does sound a bit daft - seems to imply over 30s have a monopoly on prejudice. If you argue about prejudice you shouldn't then demonstrate prejudice based on age.

    There are plenty of under 30s who have no problem demonstrating their bigotry.
  • Stig said:

    Being openly straight, doesn't mean that you have to go around telling people about your sexuality, it just means that you are free to talk about your wife/girlfriend in everyday conversations. Or to bring her along to social occasions. Sadly, some gay men don't feel that they can do that. It's not about shouting their sexuality from the roof tops as much as wanting to enjoy the same rights as others to be open about their lives and loved ones.

    Spot on. I would hope we get to a stage where someone's sexuality doesn't have to be an issue.

    I've never understood why a minority of people are so homophobic along with the ridiculous views within most religions.

    Things have moved on massively in the UK in the last 50 years and we should celebrate that. It's still a sorry state of affairs though that no high profile professional footballer has been able to be open about being gay - it still has to be hidden away.

    People should be judged on their personal qualities not on their sexuality.
  • Might Tom Rubashow be behind this?
  • It looks like JJ is exploiting Invicta just to acquire his coaching badge ;0)
  • Well done to Katrien Meire's leadership in founding the community trust and driving all its great work.

    What a woman.
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