For so long, ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ has been the main campaign in football. But all this time homophobia has been an underlying problem in the beautiful game. The issue is exactly that though, it’s underlying and going unnoticed.
I am a huge football fan, a season ticket holder for over 10 years at my local club Nottingham Forest, but it still has never really been drilled into me how serious a problem homophobia in football really is. Not on the scale that racism has anyway. This all comes from a documentary I watched the other night on Channel 4 called ‘Dispatches – Undercover: Hate on the Terraces’ (If you haven’t seen it I would recommend watching it on 4OD). It exposed the widespread homophobic chants in football and the apparent complete lack of interest from police to put a stop to it. The documentaries’ answer to my question of can we kick homophobia out of football was a resounding no. Not anytime soon anyway.
The games in which the most homophobic abuse can be seen unsurprisingly involve Brighton and Hove Albion. Taunts of ‘We can see you holding hands’ and ‘Does your boyfriend know you’re here’ are commonplace now. In all honesty, I used to be one of those that would join in with these chants. My defence would have been that it is a harmless joke mimicking what a place is renowned for, as Brighton is renowned as the ‘gay capital’ of England. I would have argued that it is the same as London clubs getting ‘Come and get your peanuts’ sang at them and my own club, Nottingham Forest, having ‘scabs’ chanted at us everywhere we go for reasons which date back to the Miners Strike in the 80’s. But after having a chat with a non-football fan who was appalled at even the most ‘harmless’ of chants, it got me thinking. You can’t have a light-hearted racist chant, why should you be able to have a light-hearted homophobic one. You shouldn’t.
Ever wondered why for so long there were no gay footballers in English football? They were too scared to come out because of the abuse that they would receive by fans everywhere. As a rough estimate, 1 in 20 people are gay, that is an average of 1 player per squad in England, yet there is apparently not one gay footballer in the whole of the top 4 tiers. It defies the law of averages.
This is the reason why the campaign of Football V Homophobia is starting to pick up pace. The problem is finally being noticed. If I was happy to sing these chants, a majority of fans are too and this is all due to poor education on the severity of the issue.
The most worrying thing is that only 28/92 clubs in the top 4 tiers of English football signed the Football V Homophobia petition. If clubs aren’t setting an example to their fans, I don’t know how the issue is ever going to be stopped. I tried to contact Leeds United, the closest team to me whilst I’m at University, to see why they didn’t sign the petition. Funnily enough, they refused to comment.
This is a real issue, players shouldn’t be scared be show their true selves to the public. But if it is ever going to be viewed as a serious topic, it needs to be signed by all 92 clubs. I know that a petition against racism certainly would be.
As the Rainbow Campaign kicks in again this weekend, some higher profile players and clubs (notably Arsenal) are throwing their support into it. Let's hopw it starts to have an affect and make us all more aware of the issue.
I'd like to thank Art of Football for providing a platform from which I can express my view. We’d love to know what you think so please leave comments below!
Grant Mulligan, Journalism Student at Leeds University