Henderson's Saudi move a 'massive step back' for LGBT+ equality in football

By Sports Desk July 28, 2023

Jordan Henderson's move to Saudi Arabia is a "massive step back" for LGBT+ equality in football.

That is the view of Paul Amann, who founded the Liverpool-backed fan group Kop Outs in 2016 to provide a voice for LGBT+ fans.

After a hugely successful 12-year spell that has seen him captain Liverpool to both Premier League and Champions League glory, Henderson joined Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq this week to play for Reds legend Steven Gerrard.

Henderson is rumoured to be earning up to £700,000 a week in the Gulf state, where it is illegal to be homosexual and LGBT+ rights are not recognised by the government.

Having been a strong supporter of LGBT+ equality while playing in the Premier League, including being a big advocate for the rainbow laces campaign, Henderson's move has been criticised by Amann, who feels the 33-year-old midfielder's relocation to Saudi Arabia will tarnish his legacy as the latest Liverpool favourite to make the transfer.

"It's a massive step back," Amann told Stats Perform. "Not least when you look at the manager who he's moving to play [under], Steven Gerrard.

"You'd like to think that it was just one or two isolated incidents. Sadly you've got Robbie Fowler taking up a managerial post other there, [Roberto] Firmino going to play [there], probably Fabinho as well as Henderson. It's not a good look.

"I'd like to think that the protests bringing to the fore human rights issues, which are the base of our complaint against why people shouldn't go there and take part in sportswashing, will make people more aware of the risks and dangers of going to support that sportswashing operation.

"Fowler, Gerrard, Hendo. They've known working class issues as people born and brought up in the north, they know why we hold the values they do. For them to run off, chase after money, it's pretty shameful."

Amann is particularly disappointed in Gerrard, who signed a two-year contract to coach Al Ettifaq in early July.

"Yes, I've lost a lot of respect for Gerrard as a person," Amann explained. "His playing legacy is secured, same as Hendo, but his personal reputation and their personal legacy – I wouldn't go out of my way to meet them as people, because they've lost a lot of stature by what they've chosen to do.

"Steven Gerrard played at LA Galaxy, alongside Robbie Rogers – another out, gay footballer. If Stevie is prepared to dump a former team-mate and the principles that they stood and lived by so readily to move to Saudi and entice other team-mates to come and play for him… it's a very weird set-up."

Amann is confident that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will, privately, be disappointed in Henderson's decision.

He said: "Jurgen has always struck me as someone who is more than skin deep on these issues, he's invested in the values we espouse as a city and as a club.

"I'd really like to think that he's thinking 'Jordan, just give your head a wobble, you don't need to be going to a place like that'."

Despite recent events, Amann is hopeful that the criticism received by the likes of Henderson will put off players and managers from making the move, much like Fulham head coach Marco Silva, who reportedly turned down a two-year deal worth £40million to join Al Hilal.

"Fortunately, there's proof that not everyone can be bought," Amann stated. "Silva has turned around and said 'No' at least twice, and that's a bit of a beacon of hope that there are more people out there with integrity, who will stand by their principles and won't think the only thing that's important is money.

"We've got to remember the vast majority of people in this world are decent, they stand by their principles and shame on those that don't."

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