Football vs Biphobia

 football-v-biphobia logo It’s easy to grow accustomed to living in a society where celebrities, film stars, musicians, politicians, and other public figures are gay, lesbian and yes even bisexual.

But there’s one area of life near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts that has a distinct lack of anyone willing to admit being anything other than straight: football.

While Gareth Thomas, a Welsh rugby player, has come out in hopes of making it easier for other rugby players to be openly gay, there are few other names that would come to mind as lesbian, gay or bisexual sportspeople.

Justin Fashnau because the world’s first openly gay footballer when he came out in 1990.  His career suffered both before and after he came out: Brian Clough refused to let him train with the team when he found out Fashnau was going to gay bars, and few teams were willing to offer Fashnau a contract once he’d told The Sun he was gay.  He was disowned by his brother, and ended up taking his own life in 1998.
No professional footballer has come out in more than two decades since.

From this tragic story has emerged The Justin Campaign, which aims to foster a more LGBT-friendly environment in football at all levels.  In 2010 the campaign marked Justin’s birthday, 19 February (right in the middle of LGBT History Month!) with Football v Homophobia, where individuals and teams staged events to express their disapproval of homophobia in football.

In 2011, the imitative has the approval and support of the FA and Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation which has proven successful in tackling racism in football.

Something similar to those anti-racist campaigns is clearly called for in UK football.  Stonewall produced a report in 2009 wherein football fans, players and industry insiders unsurprisingly all said they feel homophobic abuse is rampant on the terraces, on the pitch, among the management and executives, and at amateur as well as professional levels of the game.

Three in five of people who answered this question in the YouGov survey Stonewall’s reporting on said they believe homophobic abuse from fans dissuades gay professional footballers from coming out (one must assume this would hold true for bisexual footballers as well; no questions specifically asking about them were mentioned the facts and figures here).  Almost two-thirds of fans polled think that football would be a better sport if homophobic abuse was eradicated.

Over half of fans thought that the FA, the Premier League and football clubs were not doing enough to tackle homophobic abuse.  One comment even says, “Something like the successful Kick It Out campaign would be a good start.”

Now that Kick It Out has expanded its horizons from racism to other forms of inequality and exclusion, with things like its support of The Justin Campaign’s Football v Homophobia, perhaps there is hope that the success UK football has had in combating racism will also extend to abuse based on sexuality.


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