Justin Fashanu: Campaigners hope statue of UK's first openly gay player can inspire change

Campaigners aiming to raise £150,000 to create a statue in honour of Britain's first openly gay male professional footballer say they hope the proposed memorial will act as a symbol of hope for other gay and bisexual players.

Norwich City's LGBTQ+ fans group, Proud Canaries, said the statue of the late striker Justin Fashanu would be a "place for people to remember Justin and also stand as a safe space for queer supporters".

Fashanu enjoyed the best years of his career at Norwich, winning the BBC's prestigious Goal of the Season award in 1980 for his famous strike against Liverpool.

He made front page news in 1990 when he came out as gay and went on to take his own life in 1998 after being subjected to relentless racist and homophobic abuse.

The statue, which will be created by British sculptor Taslim Martin, would depict Fashanu’s iconic celebration after he scored against Liverpool in which he raised a solitary finger to the sky.

The memorial would be surrounded by a community garden so people can come and reflect, and would be based on the banks of the River Wensum, on the approach to the club's Carrow Road Stadium.

Andrew Reynolds talks to ITV News Anglia's Donovan Blake. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Prof Andrew Reynolds, from the Justin Fashanu Statue Campaign, told ITV News Anglia: "It's time because we've spent too long not including everyone in football.

"I think it's time to really open up a space for young kids, who happen to be gay or happen to be bisexual, to feel that they have a place in football.

"We're hoping that this really spreads the message far and wide that things need to change to make football more enjoyable for everybody."

The campaign has already received high-profile backing from actor and Canaries fan Stephen Fry who narrated the official launch video.

  • Stephen Fry narrates the campaign launch video

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker also offered his support, tweeting to his 8.6 million followers that the campaign would help "shine a light on the ongoing battle for LGBTQ+ representation, in football."

Earlier this year, Blackpool's Jake Daniels became the first player since Fashanu to come out - ending a 32-year wait in the process.

It was recently revealed that the life of Fashanu, who also became Britain's first £1 million black footballer when he signed for Nottingham Forest from Norwich in 1981, will be turned into an ITV drama.

If the necessary funds are raised and planning permission is granted, it's hoped that the statue will be unveiled in time for Norwich's last home game of this season, or if not, the first home match of next season.

"Rather than being all elated and jubilant and triumphant, he bowed his head a little bit and he raised his finger, as if to say 'Yes this is what I'm on the planet to do'," sculptor Taslim Martin said.

"It is a challenge but it's something that I'm really thrilled and excited to be part of."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know