An LGBTQ+ friendly football league has agreed a partnership with a County FA for the first time.

Amateur Football Alliance (AFA) has announced a pilot affiliation with The London Unity League (LUL) ahead of the new 18/19 season. The agreement will see the LUL granted access to the AFA’s resources and support, including access to the FA’s league administration tool, Full Time.

The LUL “is an amateur football league based in London, designed to unite LGBT+ footballers and others in a competitive but friendly sporting environment. Formed in 2006, the league continues to thrive, providing a full season of 90-minute 11-a-side games for its member clubs and a Cup competition.”

The AFA, a County Football Association affiliated with the FA, aims to provide “football opportunities For All, regardless of age, gender, ability, race, culture or background. We also pride ourselves on the skill and competitiveness of our leagues, and on our traditions of fair play and respect for opponents and match officials.”

As reported by Ham & High, Brian Silk, Chair of The LUL, said: “I am delighted that the LUL and AFA are taking this ground-breaking step for LGBT+ friendly football, and all football.

“Leagues like the LUL were originally set up partly because LGBT+ players did not feel comfortable taking part in mainstream football. And, 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’.”

Chief executive of the AFA, Jason Kilby added: “We are pleased to be partnering with the London Unity League to bring the league and clubs the support and service that any other affiliated member receives. The league is forward thinking in how they operate and we are proud to be promoting Football For All.”

Charlton Invicta FC won The London Unity League last season and their Chair of the FA Inclusion Advisory Board and Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) Trustee, Paul Elliott CBE, said: “Following last year’s launch of CACT Invicta FC, the first LGBT-friendly team formally affiliated to a professional football club Trust, it is great to see that the Amateur Football Alliance are taking such a progressive step by affiliating the London Unity League.

“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’.”

Lou Englefield, Director of Sports Pride, said: “It’s good news for football to see a league such as London Unity League affiliating to its governing body. We know the initiative will bring benefits, not only to the league and its teams, but also to the Amateur Football Alliance; ultimately contributing to a more diverse and inclusive game.”

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