A group of fans calling themselves the first gay soccer fan club in Poland wants separate seating for themselves at next year's Euro 2012 tournament, fearing discrimination. From the London Daily Mail:
Teczowa Trybuna 2012 - Rainbow Stand 2012 ... claims members fear hostility from other fans and want to feel safe during the tournament in Poland and neighboring Ukraine next summer.
Organizers at the venue in Gdansk, Poland, rejected the request, saying it would further stigmatize gays. And the Telegraph says that other gay groups say separate seating would put gay fans at greater risk by singling them out.
The group lays out its request on its website, saying that separate "rainbow stands" would send a powerful message to Poland, a heavily Catholic country with a long tradition of homophobia. "We are not concerned about building a ghetto - we are seeking to create a place where we can freely express their emotions," read a translation.
How bad is homophobia in Poland (a place I've visited five times)? This is from the Warsaw Business Journal:
According to the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), a Polish advocacy group who partners with the police in this campaign, about 17 percent of the Polish LGBT community has experienced physical violence, while 50 percent were followed, insulted or blackmailed because of their sexual orientation. Meanwhile, around 80 percent of crimes motivated by homophobia go unreported in Poland.
Hooligans are a major problem in European soccer and Euro 2012 organizers are already fearing violence next year. I don't see how a separate seating area for the gay group will make them any safer from people intent on harming them and would imagine there would be few people brave enough to sit in such stands. I understand and applaud the message the group is trying to send about homophobia, but the idea of separate stands is misguided.
Hat tip to SportsFat.com.