The Football Association has cancelled the premiere of a short video to tackle homophobia in the sport.
The premiere was due to take place on Thursday February 11th with a special event at Wembley Stadium, organised by the FA and football’s anti-homophobia and racism body Kick It Out.
But yesterday, FA chiefs cancelled the event, saying they needed more time to work on the project. A new date has not been set.
Today, two of those consulted over the project, Peter Tatchell and John Amaechi, criticised the film. Mr Amaechi described it as an “expletive-laden rant”.
The film, in the form of a 90-second advert, had been hailed as “groundbreaking” after a Stonewall report found that homophobia was prevalent in the sport.
There are still no out gay top-level footballers and the only one ever to have come out, Justin Fashanu, was subjected to bullying and later committed suicide.
Former NBA basketball player John Amaechi, who was involved with the project, condemned the cancellation and attacked the film as “further proof of the FA’s willingness to window-dress its most serious problems”.
He said: “The premiere of the product of two years of discussion and promises has been cancelled.”
Mr Amaechi, who has seen the film, also described it as “incendiary” and “vulgar”, adding it would be “roundly perceived as a deeply offensive ‘shock’ advert”.
He told PinkNews.co.uk it was an “expletive-laden rant” and that contrary to what was previously thought, it is not suitable to be shown on big screens. Instead, Mr Amaechi said, it is designed to be shown on the internet as a viral video.
It shows a man making homophobic slurs in his office and then in the stands at a football game. A strapline says that homophobia is not acceptable in an office, “so why should it be acceptable here?”.
Mr Amaechi said that it contains more homophobic slurs that any other words and the man is not shown being challenged for his words by those around him.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The video produced was not in the style that OutRage! and I wanted. We had always pushed for a video that was positive, uplifting and joyful, with a strong music track backing to appeal to fans and which featured vox pops from players.”
On the premiere, he said: “The FA is saying it is postponed, not cancelled, pending a reconsideration of how it fits into the FA’s strategy. The strategy was agreed over a year ago so I don’t understand why it has to be reworked.”
Mr Tatchell said he did not mind the homophobic language in the film, as it was designed to make homophobia look “ugly” and “generate reaction and a debate”.
He said that as far as he knew, there had been no official backing down over plans to show the video in cinemas and distribute it to football clubs.
Gay charity Stonewall were also consulted over the project.
A spokesman said: “Stonewall believes that the ads have the potential to be hard-hitting and effective.
“We hope the time of this postponement will be used to strengthen the urgent intervention needed of homophobia in football.”
A cancellation note said that the FA said it had “decided to take some more time to strengthen our strategy in this area of work”.
It added that the organisation would work with the Advisory Group on Tackling Homophobia and test the film with “broader audiences”.
An FA spokesman said: “After consultation with our Tackling Homophobia Working Group we have now produced a viral film which will form part of our overall strategy.
“We will now enter a final stage of consultation and will shortly be in a position to announce the next stage of the strategy, including the launch of the educational film.”