This week, I hosted a meeting in Parliament between MPs and the FA on the topic of homophobia in football.
As a 30 year Manchester City fan, the nature of support at games has changed fundamentally over that time. Society has become more diverse and tolerant. There has clearly been much progress against racism in football. But can we say the same for Homophobia?
There are no out gay footballers in the UK, although, according to the Guardian, there are 8 who are Gay but haven't, and they say crowd reaction is the reason.
As the Gay Football Supporters’ Network and the Brighton and Hove Albion Supporters’ Club recently demonstrated, homophobic chanting is still seen by some as ‘banter’: 72% of Brighton’s opponents last season subjected Brighton fans to homophobic abuse. Just a ball game? research also backs up the scale of the problem.
Banter is a lazy argument used to justify unacceptable behavior by fans. Replace the homophobic slur with the racial slur, and you can see how the "banter" argument fails to hold up.
I tabled a parliamentary motion in consultation with the GFSN and BHASC, EDM 1265 calling on the relevant bodies, led by the FA, to work together to give Homophobia as high a priority as racism, This was picked up by the press.
The FA responded, and I set up this meeting with MP's.
I was joined by Funke Awoderu and Chris Inglewood from the FA, as well as Louise Englefield from ‘Football vs Homophobia’, along with a rep from the Football League.
I challenged the FA on what actions they were taking in order to ensure that homophobia is being tackled as seriously, and is deemed as offensive and unacceptable as racism.
They presented their educational programme to me in response, which detailed their efforts in conjunction with Football vs Homophobia, and their training plan to ensure that players, coaches, spectators and officials alike are aware of the impacts of homophobic abuse on individuals. The FA’s also stressed to me their work on the inclusion of members of the LGBT community in football at grassroots level and beyond.
Whilst I was pleased to see the FA starting to take homophobia more seriously, and beginning to recognise the scale of the problem, it still has a long way to go to tackle the problem of homophobia in football.