Where: Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London HA9 0WS
Middlesex County League Division One (Central and East)
Overview: I attend matches at Wembley Stadium several times a season with my personal favourites being the Buildbase FA Vase Final and the Buildbase FA Trophy Final on Non-League Finals Day. But tonight I saw a totally unique, one-off match. It was the first regular season Non-League fixture to be held at Wembley since the stadium was rebuilt. The old Wembley Stadium actually hosted eight Southern Amateur League matches in 1928/29 involving Ealing Association FC, who were having their regular home pitch drained at the time. Fast forward 90 years and Stonewall FC were invited by The Football Association to stage a Middlesex County League fixture at Wembley. This coincided with The FA announcing a significant new partnership with Stonewall – the UK’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality (LGBT). The FA has become a Stonewall Diversity Champion with a new strategic partnership between the organisations.
History: Stonewall FC was established in February 1991, when one of their founding members placed an advert in a gay publication asking if like-minded people wanted to play competitive football. The club has grown in membership and now fields three competitive 11-a-side football teams as well as offering regular training sessions and 5-a-side football. Stonewall has achieved a number of international tournament successes, reaching the final of every LGBT tournament entered since the year 2000. In effect, it is the most successful LGBT football club in the world. The team’s usual playing venue is at the Barn Elms Playing Field in Barnes, which is a former home ground of both Fulham FC and Queens Park Rangers FC.
Ground description: Wembley Stadium looked stunning for this match with the famous arch lit up in the rainbow colours of the LGBT pride flag. There was a really interesting question and answer session about Stonewall FC in the Bobby Moore Lounge before the kick-off.
Programme details: A 20-page colour production. The contents included a message of support from FA chairman Greg Clarke, history and pen pictures of both clubs, league table and results, details of the match officials and the line-ups. The match programmes were not on general sale on the night so they could become collectors’ items in the future!
The match: Stuart Gardner (6 minutes) scored the opener for Wilberforce, who then missed a penalty. Stonewall subsequently battled back to win the game courtesy of goals by Nasar Nakhli (27), Mike Sholly (77) and Ollie Rabie (90). There was a great spirit of camaraderie in the crowd.
The people: It was good to chat to Middlesex County League CEO Stephen Hosmer, who does a great job running and promoting his league. Also, David Gerty at The FA handled the media interest very well and he was a big part of the success of the evening.
Tony Incenzo is a reporter for talkSPORT Radio and Sky TV. You can follow Tony on Twitter at @TonyIncenzo
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