By Chris Park
If ever you were looking for a man who liked to be a little controversial, Norman Redman would fit the bill. He lived in Littlehampton and ran an ice cream stall on the local seafront (1) and was a part time gym instructor (2). He also was a Sussex and London Football Association referee, officiating for the local boy’s football league and at some adult matches (3).
In 1973 Redman wrote to Gay News explaining how his role as a professional referee was in no way affected by his homosexuality (4). He said he neither “hid” nor “advertised” his gayness: “It seems that the gay person is more accepted in the sports world than any other. My only complaint is that it can be so bloody frustrating in the changing rooms!”
Then in February 1976, under the clever headline “Pressing gaily on”, he was reported as making his 5th attempt at election to his local council, letting it be known that he was the founder of the Arun group of CHE, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (5). Just over a week later, he is reported to have challenged the Saints (Southampton Football Club) to a match with a team of CHE members. It seems that the Saints were unable to rise to the challenge: it was refused - with no little contempt (6).
Things really started to get interesting when in July/August 1976 he gave an interview to Gay Times. From August into September that year he was hardly out of the news throughout the UK (7). In part this was because Len Mullineux, the manager of an under-14s team, the Wickbourne Lions, angrily refused to have Redman as referee and demanded that the League replace him. “Our boys will be called off the pitch. They just won’t play. We are prepared to forego the two points”, he declared.
Mr Jim Twitcher, chairman of the Bognor Regis and Chichester Minor League, rejected this request as Redman was a “perfectly good referee”.
However he did say, “as Mr Redman has admitted that he is gay, we would not allocate him to our 12-year-old matches. We [on the committee] are all parents. We all have sons.”
The next day, he was in the headlines again (8). On the advice of his solicitor, Redman demanded an apology from Len Mullineux for implying that he was a danger to young boys. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mullineux was quoted as refusing to do so. Sadly, I could find no reports as to the outcome of this part of the story.
Two years later in the summer of 1978, Redman was in the headlines again (9). This time he was setting up the Gaystars XI, what seems to have been the first ever gay football team. Much was made, particularly by the Daily Express, of the fact that his first recruit was a team hairdresser. I should point out that the Kevin Keegan perm was a phenomenon in 1975. Slough’s Evening Mail was more concerned about what might happen when a goal was scored: “Won’t we be left wondering if all the ensuing kissing and hugging is for real?”
Redman gave his motives for setting up the team as “to boost public relations between CHE and the general public. We also think that by coming out into the open we may encourage other gay persons to ‘come out’.” He took the whole project seriously. He applied to the London and South-east Sports Council for a grant to buy kit, which would be all blue. He registered with the Sussex County FA, so that they would play with other affiliated teams. He wrote to Alan Mullery, then manager of Brighton and Hove Albion, for advice on coaching and approached Coventry City for permission to observe the team in training.
Sadly, according to an article from 1982, ‘serious gay sportsmen disliked the gimmicky show business image of Gay Stars [sic], and the club folded after a few months.” (10) This article was about another club claiming to be the world’s only gay football team. Disappointingly, the club was not named - at the request of the team’s manager, Graham Smith.
Redman”s next brush with fame was also in 1982 (11). He claimed to know of enough gay players in all four leagues to “field a team plus four substitutes”. He said: “They tend to be more skilful in manoeuvrability and make good attackers.” Manchester City’s manager, John Bond, is quoted as saying: “This doesn’t surprise me.” While Bobby Robson, then managing Ipswich town, soon to be England Manager, said: ‘I’m utterly staggered. Football isn’t conducive to them, and there is no place for them.”
The article also mentioned that it seemed Redman would be the sole representative of Britain at the first Gay Olympics, due to be held in San Francisco that summer.
Later that year, Redman was mentioned in a South African newspaper (12). He was working to launch a “national sports association exclusively for homosexuals”. He wanted it to “encourage homosexuals of both sexes to take part in indoor and outdoor sports against each other and against “straight” sportsmen and women”. Once again, I could find nothing about the outcome of his efforts.
In 1987, Redman found further notoriety when he came out as having AIDS (13). He is referred to as “bachelor Norman”. He was by now working as a council equal opportunities officer and had been a referee for 20 years. He had been diagnosed as HIV positive only 6 months previously, so did not in fact have AIDS at this point. He said in a later interview, “I’ve given up trying to explain the difference [between HIV and AIDS].”
The main concern for The Sun was his contact with boys. He had notified the FA of his diagnosis. They allowed him to continue, although Peter Bentley, chairman of Sussex County FA, said:
“Mr Redman is not a bad ref. But where young boys are concerned I think you have to worry.”
West Sussex FA claimed that he had “brought the game into disrepute”. Redman is reported as being so angry that he sent back his trophies (14). In 1988, Redman branded Westloats Club from Bognor Regis “uneducated idiots” as the players were afraid of catching AIDS (15). This caused further backlash against Redman from Sussex FA, who found him to have brought the game into disrepute. He tried sending the club some Terence Higgins Trust leaflets to help educate them and appealed the ruling to the National FA but got nowhere.
Redman seems to have led a quieter life after this, with no more national news headlines.
- Evening Argus, Littlehampton, 2 September 1976; www.campaignforhomosexualequality.org.uk
- The Guardian, 31 July 1978
- Brighton Evening Argus, 21 February 1976
- Southern Evening Echo, Southampton, 3 March 1976; Sunday Mirror, 7 March 1976
- Hartlepool Mail, Scarborough Evening News, Dublin Herald, Scottish Daily Express, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, 2 September 1976
- Western Daily Press (Bristol), Bognor Regis Observer, East Anglia Daily Times (Ipswich), Kent Evening Post (Maidstone), The Journal (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), 3 September 1976
- The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Evening Mail (Slough), 31 July 1978; The Daily Express, 2 August 1978; The Sussex Express (Lewes), 4 August 1978
- The Yorkshire Post (Leeds), 19 February 1982
- The Daily Mirror, 5 April 1982
- The name is unclear, it may be the Port Elizabeth Evening Post, 15 September 1982
- The Sun, 27 February 1987
- The Daily Mirror, 18 September 1987
- Time Out, 15 June 1988