Homophobia rife on terraces, finds poll 85 per cent support police action over Sol Campbell abuse.
Three quarters of fans sure there are top gay players
The Football Association faces calls for immediate action as authoritative research demonstrates that anti-gay abuse in the sport has been witnessed by seven in ten fans. The new Stonewall research also reveals that fans now expect visible action from the FA.
‘Leagues behind – Football’s failure to tackle anti-gay abuse’ features a YouGov survey of over 2,000 football fans from across Britain and interviews with top football insiders and lesbian and gay players. It finds that:
• Three in five fans believe that anti-gay abuse from fans dissuades gay players from coming out
• Almost two thirds of fans believe football would be a better sport if anti-gay abuse was eradicated
• Two thirds of fans would feel comfortable if a player on their team came out
• Over half of fans think the FA, Premier League and Football League are not doing enough to tackle anti-gay abuse
‘Sadly, this survey demonstrates that football is institutionally homophobic,’ says Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s Chief Executive. ‘Too little action has been taken about an issue which deters not just gay players and fans from enjoying our national game, but also thousands of other fans too. Football has a firm track record tackling problems such as hooliganism and racism. But anti-gay abuse still almost always goes unchallenged. When England is looking to host and win the 2018 World Cup, football cannot risk this loss of potential talent and supporters.’
Sam Dick, Stonewall Policy Officer, says: ‘This pioneering research clearly shows that the FA, football clubs and their partners have a mandate from fans to challenge anti-gay abuse. It’s by no means impossible to challenge this problem. We await some clear leadership from the FA on the issue.’
The report’s recommendations include ensuring that sanctions used against fans who perpetuate anti-gay abuse and violence are consistent with those for racist abuse. Kick It Out, the FA’s anti-abuse campaign, needs to be properly resourced to challenge anti-gay abuse, and this role should be more widely promoted. A high-profile, easy-access reporting mechanism needs to be promoted and the FA should annually collate and publish statistics on the extent of the problem at different teams. Football clubs who fail to tackle homophobia should face the threat of points being docked.
In October 2008, Hampshire Police charged fans with offences of both racist and homophobic abuse after chants directed at Portsmouth player Sol Campbell included the words: ‘We don’t care if you’re hanging from a tree, ‘cos you’re a Judas c**t with HIV’. Eighty five per cent of fans polled supported the police action.
Observations from interviews featured in the research:
‘Nothing is done to stop homophobic chants. It must be the only profession where workers feel unable to come out and be accepted for playing football, not what they are.’ – Ipswich Town supporter, 46
‘I think there’s a lack of leadership in the FA. A gross lack of leadership.’ – Football industry executive
‘No one will ever come out – I’ve a mate in League One and he won’t come out. He’s worried about his transfer fee.’ – M. Semi-professional player
Football seems to now be comfortable with anti-gay chants and abuse and not racism. One seems to have been replaced by the other.’ – Chelsea supporter, 28