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“TONIGHT’S REF IS GAY.”

October 2, 2010

That was what The Daily Mirror had to say about John Blankenstein, right before he refereed an England – Denmark match in 1992. John laughed it off with the words, “Actually that’s not entirely wrong.”

John Blankenstein, born and raised in The Netherlands, failed as an amateur footballer in 1966. He subsequently worked his way up, and went from being an amateur referee to presiding over important international football matches.

After being denied as a referee for the 1994 Champions League finale between AC Milan and FC Barcelona, he joked, “Sepp Blatter thought my pants were too short.” The actual reason behind his denial remains vague.

He did not make his homosexuality a secret. In fact, he remained publically committed to supporting gay rights, especially in sports. After his active career, Blankenstein worked for the Royal Netherlands Football Association and several sports organizations, and a number of gay rights organizations including the Homo LesBische Federatie Nederland, which he co-founded, and also COC Haaglanden, The Netherlands’ premier LGBT rights organization.

In 2003, COC Haaglanden awarded him the Bob Angelo Penning, for breaking the taboo on homosexuality in football. He was given the Harry Stapel Prijs in for his efforts in support of the emancipation of gay athletes in 2005.

A year later, at the age of 57, John Blankenstein passed away after fighting a rare kidney disease. To continue his mission, his sister Karin founded the John Blankenstein Foundation. The John Blankenstein Foundation encourages people to talk openly about homosexuality in sports in order to further its social acceptance at both the professional and amateur levels.
It is good to know his life brought forth such positive and inspiring activities that are still going strong and are, unfortunately, still necessary. Our gratitude, John.

[John Blankstein Foundation] [NRC Handelsblad] [Braun-Weisse Tulpen] [COC Haaglanden] [COC Nederland] [HLBF]

– M.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. scruby permalink
    October 2, 2010 10:12 pm

    Great piece. I didn’t hear about him and he’s story is quite amazing and very inspirational.

  2. October 3, 2010 5:03 pm

    I hadn’t heard of his story either, so thank you very much for sharing this! The fact that he was denied refing that one game is unfortunate, but seeing how relatively easily he seemed to be accepted outside of that incident is great to hear.

  3. Janet permalink
    October 3, 2010 5:18 pm

    There were actually more openly gay referees in The Netherlands: Ignace van Swieten and Frans Derks. The last one in particular was considered to be one of the best. Derks was a natural authorative figure who could lead a match (and do it very well) without handing out cards. He was very respected by the players.

    John was definitely the best though. I was sad to hear from his death.

  4. Lia permalink
    October 4, 2010 10:03 am

    great article – I had never actually heard of him before, this was very interesting to read about. It’s sad that he faced difficulty in his job due to his sexuality but it’s also good to see how open and comfortable he was with it.

  5. Tessa permalink
    October 4, 2010 10:51 am

    Really cool article. It’s really inspiring to read about how he did not try to hide or deny his sexuality despite the unfair treatment he got for it.

  6. Zinaid permalink
    October 5, 2010 1:54 am

    Great article. Props to him for co founding an organization and for publicly supporting gay rights. This is such an inspirational story!

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