The month of June is Pride Month, and it is a month that is for highlighting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ communities that are all around the globe. For this interview, we sit down with Andy Dolan from the Millwall Romans, the champions of the London Unity League 2020/21.
1. There is a lot of history with Pride Month from the late 60’s with Marsha P. Johnson leading protests after police raided the Stonewall Inn, what exactly does Pride Month and it’s history around the world mean to you?
I see Pride Month as a good reminder to stay educated on the progress we have made, but also on how far we have to go. Living in a big, diverse city like London, it can be easy to forget how privileged we are relative to LGBT people in other countries or even other parts of the UK.
2. This year’s theme in London is ‘Visibility, Unity and Equality’, how important are these themes in particular for you?
I think visibility is so important because it leads to the other two. Growing up, there were no gay role models available to me other than the extrovert people I saw in the entertainment world. I was a quiet kid, loved football, bit of a nerd. I felt very lonely, like I didn't belong anywhere. Of course, I know now that wasn't true. By making ourselves visible, the whole world sees that LGBT people come in all shapes, sizes and characters, but it's especially important for young people who might feel a bit lost as they figure themselves out.
3. Pride is an important time for the LGBTQ+ community and along with teaching tolerance and moving forward for equality, it also highlights the accepting of same-sex marriage and legal rights for gay couples and/or their families. How much work has been done in this area and what further work needs to be done, do you feel?
We've made great progress legally in the UK, but sometimes social attitudes lag behind. I think this is why allyship is so important: everyone can do something. After the wide BLM protests last year, the message has been spreading that it's not enough to just not be racist, but we all need to go a step further and be explicitly anti-racist.
The same principle applies to homophobia and all forms of prejudice. We're really loving the allyship from Millwall this year, and you can see the positive impact it's had on the group.
4. On the field, the Romans have recently been taken in by the Millwall Community Trust (MCT). How have the club, the MCT and the fans been since the team’s arrival?
MCT, the fans, the club have been amazing. Getting invited on fan podcasts and seeing support on social media from Millwall fans has just made us feel so welcome. The club has also been respectful of our history as a community club, like letting us keep the name Romans, for example, which has helped the transition. Some of the old timers like me put in the hard yards on waterlogged pitches for so long, the artificial pitch at St Paul's is a dream!
5. How was it working with the club Millwall FC on the EFL Day of Action?
Of course any day on the pitch at a pro stadium is a thrill, but the best thing on the day was seeing how much it meant to the Millwall fans in the group. I never knew much about Millwall, but you can see the club is properly embedded in the local community, it's great to see up close.
6. You were successful in your league and were victorious as champions of the London Unity League. How did it feel winning the title?
It's great to win, but I have to say the best thing has been the way we did it, playing a fun style of possession based football. The St Paul's pitch makes that possible. The old muddy pitches we were on called for a more punt and rush approach, which is harder work and less enjoyable.
7. What are you plans and aspirations for the Millwall Romans in the future as part of the MCT and Millwall FC?
We've had a lot of interest, so I reckon the next big thing for us is to try to develop a second team setup to get more people involved. The first team is very competitive, which is great, so we need to think carefully as a group about what we want a second team to achieve.