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Cybersmile and EE launch GayVAR campaign to challenge homophobic abuse in football

© Cybersmile / EE

The Cybersmile Foundation and EE’s latest new GayVAR campaign sees the return of the Hope United squad to address homophobic abuse in football.

Fronted by football stars including Jordan Henderson, Lucy Bronze, Rio Ferdinand, Declan Rice and former England international Joe Cole, the powerful campaign brings together important messages to football fans, inspired by pitch-side VAR (Vide Assistant Referee) – highlighting the absurdity of homophobic slurs and abuse. The campaign aims to encourage fans to call out homophobic abuse when they witness it, and encourage them to consider the negative impact these slurs, which are often described as ‘banter’, can have.

The introduction of the GayVAR campaign coincides with research conducted by EE that found nearly three-quarters of Brits (71%) and LGBTQ+ respondents (88%) both think that homophobia is an issue in football. Nearly half (40%) think social media makes the problem worse.

One-fourth of those polled have personally experienced online homophobia in the previous two years. Unfortunately, despite its widespread occurrence, few people speak out against it; more than one-fourth (27%) of witnesses to homophobic abuse do nothing. In particular, respondents from the LGBTQ+ community are less inclined than the general UK population to take action if they witness hate (27% vs. 21%), indicating the need for stronger allyship across the UK in general.

Lucy Bronze, Rio Ferdinand and Andy Robertson are also participating in a free online video content series as part of the initiative which is aimed at sharing digital skills – highlighting how people can report abuse.

This week, Cybersmile and EE revealed the latest videos from the campaign, showcasing the impact of homophobic abuse on social media, and how easily it can spread. This is the 2nd campaign between Cybersmile and EE since last year, with new Hope United shirts being made available to raise further funds for the charity, their support services and wider mission for a truly inclusive internet.

What do you think of the GayVAR campaign?