Homophobia is endemic in football and clubs are not doing enough to tackle the issue, a report has found.
Just a week after publicist Max Clifford told PinkNews.co.uk that a player who came out of the closet could expect to see his career in ruins, the report found that the majority of football fans have heard homophobic abuse on the terraces.
‘Leagues Behind’, from gay rights charity Stonewall, found that homophobia was still widespread in the sport, despite advances in tackling issues such as racism.
The 2,000 straight and gay fans questioned felt that abusive chants from fans were one of the biggest issues, while one in four thought the sport was anti-gay.
Among the findings:
* 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
Many of those questioned by the survey felt homophobia was not seen to be as serious as racism, while some criticised the FA for a “gross” lack of leadership.
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill described the sport as “institutionally homophobic”.
He added: “Football is Britain’s national game.Yet in 2009, not one gay professional footballer in Britain feels that football is an industry in which it is safe to be openly gay. This poll shows the majority of fans think more needs to be done to tackle the problem.”
The report recommended that the same sanctions for fans using racist abuse should be applied to those displaying homophobia.
It said that the FA’s anti-abuse campaign Kick It Out needs to be more promoted and that a better reporting system should be in place.
The report also recommended that clubs which fail to tackle homophobia should be threatened with having points docked.
Only one Premier League football player has been openly gay. Justin Fashanu killed himself in 1998.
An FA spokesman said: “The FA recognises that football has a duty to tackle all discrimination within the game and aims to confront aggressive issues such as homophobia.
“There is no place in the game for homophobic or racist abuse and The FA calls for the strongest possible sanctions to be taken against anyone who is found guilty.”