Joe White explains the background and ethos of the Three Lions Pride group

As we enter Pride Month 2020 this edition of What England Means powered by BT, comes from Joe White, one of the founder members of the Three Lions Pride...

Saturday 13 Jun 2020
The Three Lions Pride at last summer's UEFA Nations League in Portugal

There’s no specific date when Three Lions Pride was founded, but it was around late 2016 or 2017 when Di Cunningham and I decided to start the group.

Partly, it stemmed from the belief that by being more visible, we could help to slowly change the game and also the fundamental notion that we should be able to follow England or our club teams wherever they play, being LGBT+ should not be a barrier.

This also meant it was in response to the 2018 World Cup being hosted in Russia – Russia passed an anti-gay propaganda law in 2013 and there was a focus on the human rights of the country, especially given the torture of LGBT+ people in Chechnya.

In 2016, a lot of LGBT+ fans were starting to have a visible presence on the club side of football and Pride in Football (the LGBT+ fans group alliance in the UK) had grown and flourished so as a group, we had started going to England games much more as the game had become more welcoming to LGBT+ fans again.

Above anything, we're all passionate football fans. As well as following England, I’m a passionate Arsenal fan and Di is a passionate Norwich City fan and we both go all over following our teams and that shouldn’t be stopped because we’re playing in a country that has anti-LGBT+ laws.

Me and Di ahead of the game with Panama in Russia

All of this culminated at a very apt time for Three Lions Pride to start and it proved to be an amazing trip – both on and off the pitch. Initially, there was a massive question mark about whether we, as LGBT+ fans, should boycott the Russia World Cup.

There was a range of views among LGBT+ fans on whether we should be going, but after speaking to groups of LGBT+ Russians, they told us to come out because if we didn’t, it would only feed into the propaganda machine out there and LGBT+ fans not existing.

We didn’t want to give them a chance to do that, so with Di and I being the people we are, we believed it was the right thing to do and that we could support LGBT+ Russians as well. We were stubborn enough to still go, even in the face of death threats because we believed it was the right thing to do – to show our solidarity with LGBT+ Russians side-by-side.

Meeting up with Russian LGBT+ fans in Nizhny Novgorod

Football wise, it was an amazing experience; my favourite moment of Three Lions Pride so far would have to come from Russia and when we won the penalty shootout against Colombia. The camaraderie and sheer jubilation after that was incredible and hopefully, we’ll have lots more moments like that to come too.

We only had one or two negative incidents during that World Cup from Russian people but the England fans were always friendly, checking on us and helping us get our flag in a prime spot so it could be seen on the TV coverage, as well as catching up between games.

It definitely smashed the media stereotype of England fans for me, but then the Nations League last year saw us witnessing the darker side. We still presume that the root cause was that a lot of the tickets were bought via UEFA rather than the England Supporters Travel Club – we experienced homophobia and verbal abuse from groups of England fans in Guimaraes but it hasn’t stopped our message that visibility is key and the majority of England fans welcome our presence at games, whether in Russia, Bulgaria or at Wembley.

Today, the Three Lions Pride has around 150 members, which is great. We’ve had people coming back to England games who have not been for decades because the existence of our group made them feel welcome or offered that protection of going as a group and a number of our group also manage to go to the Lionesses games.

Out in Sofia for our game with Sofia last year

Now we’re in Pride Month and we’re usually planning around how busy we’re going to be – through Pride events as well as EURO 2020 - but now that’s all moved to next year.

As a group and LGBT+ fans, we’ve been trying to meet up regularly and the fans groups have hosted quizzes, watching the Bundesliga together and raising money for LGBT+ mental health charities.

We know it can be a very difficult time for people to be socially isolated, especially without the outlet of football until very recently so it’s been a different experience, but like everyone, we’re just learning to try and go with the flow. It’s been wonderful to see people supporting each other, and the importance of intersectionality is so prevalent at the moment – especially around the Black Lives Matter movement.

If you would like to join Three Lions Pride, please sign up for free at or through the Twitter page @3LionsPride Everyone is welcome to join, and allies are an important part of the group.

For more on Three Lions Pride’s trip to Russia, for which they won an Attitude Pride Award in 2019, you can watch a short video here.

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By Joe White Three Lions Pride founder member