A view from the stands – John Palethorpe on Pride Round

Football gives you a chosen family. You share joy and despair, collectively in the Zone or individually on the couch with the group-chat pinging. For the rainbow community, it’s not always been a safe place. The ease with which the opposition can cop homophobic abuse, or be compared to a woman, happens too often, although decreasingly these days.

Most of it’s unthinking, it’s automatic, it’s ingrained. When you say that calling someone a poof, or a woman, says you see the LGBTQI+ community and women as beneath being a man, there’s often a pause and then “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that”. Except, you did. You just didn’t know you meant it like that, because you’d never thought about it.

The Fever Zone is the most friendly, inviting, and inclusive active supports I’ve been in. There’s no being on edge that the next tackle, or dive, is going to suddenly have someone bellowing that your identity is the worst thing they can think of to accuse someone else of being. 

A few years ago we started Rainbow Fever. It made explicitly clear what already existed, that the zone doesn’t tolerate homophobic or transphobic nonsense. It’s important to do that, to signpost that the Phoenix are a club that wants the LGBTQI+ community to enjoy the game, to feel safe there, to choose to be a part of the whanau.

Pride Round shows the league is taking this seriously, in both the men’s and women’s game. I didn’t think we’d be here, but I’m glad we are. Because football really is for everyone, the thems, the theys, the girls and the gays. And straight people too, can’t forget them! 

My favourite moment was probably the Western United game in 2021. 24,000 in the Tin after 433 days without and sticking three past the snakes was probably as good as it gets. Second favourite is the photo of my boy meeting Ben Old during a National League game back in 2020, he still points him out on TV as his favourite player.

Photos: Me and Dura the game we launched Rainbow Fever, Finn and Oldie after a NL game in 2020, Me and my son Finn.

John Palethorpe #COYN!