Is football really in the dark ages?

Justin Fashanu - top flight football's first - (and last?) - openly gay player...

Totally non-Forest rambling really, but quite interesting nonetheless, I was sent an interesting email today from a chap from Staffordshire University who is conducting a survey regarding football fans and their attitude to homosexuality of players.  It’s not a subject I’ve ever really given much thought to, to me somebody’s sexual orientation isn’t really relevant to their ability as a footballer – and that tends to be the focus of my interest in them, however, is it true that more broadly football is still steeped in homophobia?

Max Clifford thinks so in regard to fans’ attitudes to gay players – or at least, he’s extrapolating what he believes to be true because it’s rather unusual for footballers to admit it publically.  Mr Clifford has advised three top players that it would be unwise to reveal their sexual orientation given that ‘football is steeped in homophobia’.  Of course, many Forest fans might remember Justin Fashanu’s spell with the Reds, one of few openly gay footballers.

Aside from how awful he turned out to be on the pitch, he lead a troubled life off it too – and tragically took his own life – perhaps not the best benchmark to use as a gay footballer, despite being one of the few examples we have available.  The survey was prompted by the PFA withdrawing from a campaign against homophobia in football, suggesting that it would be unfair on the player or players leading such a move due to abuse they’d receive.

I think that’s not a far-fetched view, if you draw a parallel with the very well-backed Kick Racism Out of Football campaign – whilst laudable and a great cause – does the odd billboard, kids walking round the pitch with a banner etc really make a fervent racist bigot change their mind?  I doubt it, to be honest – and much the same with people who already have fixed views on homosexuality – all a campaign would do, in my view, is provide targets for abuse from certain sections of teams’ supporters across the country.

It’s sad that’s how life is, but I think that’s what would happen from my experience of different supporters around the country – I certainly believe it would be true of our own fans. 

According to Wikipedia there are no openly gay footballers in the top four divisions.  I don’t think anybody really knows what proportion of people are likely to be gay, but surveys have shown – for men – figures ranging from 5-10% of the population.  If each of the 92 clubs in the top four divisions had 20 players in their ‘first team’ squads, that’s 1840 people – you’d expect, on average,  92 – 184 of them to be gay at least.  So either there is prejudice to the point where homosexuals are excluded from the game at the highest level, or – more likely – are too scared to admit it (or, maybe, don’t want to).

Should you wish to take part in the survey, then click this link.  If you have any other thoughts of course it would be interesting to hear them – as a fairly run of the mill straight football fan I’d never really considered the subject in much depth.  Would we seriously, though – as a populace – judge a footballer on whether they’re gay or not ahead of their footballing ability?  It seems ludicrous when written, but sadly, I think many would – and put them in a partisan and vocal crowd those attitudes can spread all to easily to those who would perhaps normally be more rational.

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11 Responses

  1. I thought I’d come on here and see what’s going off, y’know see if there is any new news etc and what do I get confronted with? A load of talk about poofs in the game!…. Don’t worry I’m joking.

    The very existence of the ‘Through the Seasons Beofre Us’ blog and its willingness to raise issues such as this lead me to believe that this is one of the very few forums that have intelligent football debate. I’m quite proud its done by a fellow red.

    The thing is nffc we have to except that football is followed by a lot of idiots because like any gang culture it gives a sense of belonging. You only have to go to an England game to look at the absolute dregs of every football clubs’ support. I find it acutely embarrassing that fans can’t look beyond their garden gates and accept people are different. I’m not even talking about being gay or straight its race, religion or whether you call a piece of bread a cob or a roll.

    The way of the terrace is to pick up on anything that will get the back up of an opposing player or the away fans. They can be funny but often they’re not. I’ve been at the City Ground when some of our fans were sing to Leics “you’re just a town full of paki’s”. I’ve also been there when they were singing “Graeme Souness… Triple Heart Bypass” in the first live game on Sky TV. I’ve got to say the last one I find pretty funny but its stuff like the former that make me cringe and ask the question that you’ve posed. Is the average football fan still in the dark ages? Has racism declined because the fans think its bad or is it because they just don’t want to get banned form watching their team? If you think about it like that what hope has an openly homosexual footballer got? Fans can break players, we definitely broke Collymore when he came back with Liverpool and this was a player we loved.

    Clifford is bang on not because he’s right but because it just won’t compute with society, they will become the easy target just like any minority. What I think would be good if there was an openly gay boxer who was as tough as fuck and knocked out everyone in his way. This would address a balance as you have someone doing a very masculine thing and being brilliant at it but juxtaposed with something that supposedly means he can’t be tough. It would take an individual like that to even scratch the surface before footballers started coming out openly.

  2. Football is a very macho game from school boy level to pro.And your article is spot on mate openly gay footballers would make there lives hell by coming out.

    There is simply to much prejudice and as AB says it is rampant in football at all levels and on many other subjects.

    But I do wish that Robbie Sorry LILLY Savage would come out. !!! and put us all out our misery.

    U reds

  3. partly agree with what you say here mate, there are plenty of cock knockers who really are homophobic, tho i really do believe that the reason most gay footballers dont come out is more due to the fact that the age range of the average footballer is incredably young and at this age ‘coming out’ can seem hugely daunting.
    as a soldier i work in a similar environment, and i can well imagine how difficult it must be in these walks of life to admit being gay, especially at a time when they may have trouble understanding it themselves.
    times are changing rapidly though me thinks.

  4. it wouldn’t bother me. it’s up to them. i don’t think forest fans are particularly homophobic, but i’m prepared to hear otherwise. i certainly don’t remember anyone ever chanting anything even close to the vile shite tottenham fans chanted to sol campbell.

    • True, but given the lack of ‘viable targets’ (for want of a better phrase) it’s difficult to predict…

    • What about “Le Saux is a shirt lifter” ?? I think the CG was the origin of that particular chant

      • Probably, he was pretender to Psycho’s England crown at the time, I bet.

        Reds fans have disappointed with chants towards Dave Jones too (although not just Reds fans, yet oddly he decided to kick off about it regarding us).

        It’s a fine line though, I thought the chants at Paddy Kenny after his marriage break up were quite funny – probably because it appeared he found it amusing banter from his reactions.

  5. There will always be a minority of fans who will spoil it. But don’t you think it would also depend on who the players was.
    Lampard / Terry / Gerrard and any well known player would get stick for a while but it would settle down. Someone playing in the lower leagues Lester / Holt would, I think, suffer for longer.

    As long as it doesn’t knock the confidence / effect their game (which it would, if only for a while) let them come out. They’re either good footballers or their not regardless of their sexuality.

  6. […] in June I posted about a survey tackling the issue of homosexuality in football, and largely reinforcing the general view that […]

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