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Comment: Football needs a culture change, not a gay role model

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  1. Dan Filson 3 Feb 2012, 12:15pm

    It’s not either/or, it’s both that are needed.

    1. Chester666666 3 Feb 2012, 1:06pm

      Role models inspire
      Culture change would aid to oppose the bigotry and ignorance

  2. Interesting comment piece. Attention is now rightly, if belatedly, on the FA and top clubs to set an inclusive tone. Dismissing homophobia as “banter” and tolerating all this nonsense about the sancrosanct heterosexual dressing room is an embarrassment to those who don’t want football to look like a sport for ignorant bigots.

    Not too sure who this Danny Campbell chap is, though – has Radio 5 been developing the perfect phone-in host through genetic hybridisation of Nicky Campbell and Danny Baker?

    1. Atalanta – Thanks for the heads-up, and perish the very thought! :-)

  3. David Preece 3 Feb 2012, 12:59pm

    Enjoyable read. Some great points. It’s important that the subject is kept in the public eye in the hope of breaking down the prejudices and creating an environment where people are comfortable to be themselves.

  4. Darren Taggart 3 Feb 2012, 1:39pm

    Interesting, if more than a tad condescending. I think there’s a danger of the writer disappearing up his own arse on what questions he asserts are the right ones.

    During every interview Amal asked the very question dismissed above as “moronic” and she was absolutely right to. What better metric of the success of the FA’s intent, ‘4 year plan’ and much lauded Charter than the number of out players? It’s not moronic at all; certainly the RFL uses gay headcount to justify success.

    Also, no one needs to ask themselves how they know gay people aren’t shower rapists. The “argument” wasn’t quashed by the MoD, it was dismissed by the MoD on the grounds that claims without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    Football needs to get in line, not wait until the poor, delicate flowers can be coaxed out from under their rocks. Every other business in the UK has managed it; what’s up with the FA?

  5. An excellent article.
    i watched the prog last week with horror. Having never been to a football match (and actually not wanting to) i was shocked by the so called “banter” that goes on both in the changing rooms and, worse still, from and between the fans. i was also shocked by the idiotic comments from John McGovern, he should certainly not be a BBC reporter, how can he say that he doesn’t think being called a “poof” is insulting. Shame on him.

    1. Dan Filson 3 Feb 2012, 2:10pm

      I thought John McGovern’s remarks were remarkable as they seemed to show him being very defensive, pretending not to be comfortable with words like ‘gay’. He was unwise to show his neanderthal qualities.

      1. “neanderthal qualities”. . .you’ve made me smile!!!!

        1. Now, Clive Finlayson of Gibraltar’s Natural History Museum reckons Homo neanderthalensis was more intelligent than is commonly believed (cf. the book ‘The Humans Who Went Extinct’)!

  6. I’d say it needs both.

  7. Kevin Jones 3 Feb 2012, 3:09pm

    great article, expertly and accurately put..thanks

  8. Great article, Adrian …

    Football certainly does need a culture change and I agree it is telling that not a single FA ofrficial or leading manager was willing to take part in the programme …

    I would argue that the culture change would be remarkably assisted by a role model or role models …

    1. Thanks – indeed it would be nice for some well known player to come out. But we shouldn’t expect it. And for the vast majority of LGBT players, it won’t make a jot of difference. The FA must do the ground work first. And in fact, we could also say, the government must make it mandatory for all children to be given objective education about sexual orientation. Maybe that is the subject of a second article, who knows…..

      1. No prob, your welcome …

        I entirely agree we should not expect a Premiership player to come out and lead a revolution in LGBT issues in English football, if it happens, and they are prepared and want to – then fantastic ,,,

        Regardless of whether a major player comes out or not, the FA should be leading the way and doing ground work (as it has – to an extent successfully) with racism …

        The second article you mention could be interesting … that would take some interesting planning to bring into effect but should be hugely beneficial to society …

  9. Even major sporting brands seek to promote values of diversity and inclusiveness nowadays, and distance themselves from old-fashioned ‘macho’ positioning. Brand-owners do not want to see their products being endorsed by narrow-minded homophobic and racist thugs on TV or, more likely, on YouTube.

    Perhaps a reference to situations like this one!

  10. Staircase2 3 Feb 2012, 11:37pm

    I think Amal Fashanu did a great job – and I also think the fact that she’s a young, beautiful, intelligent and (ostensibly) straight black woman would have helped to open the doors to the interviews that took place.

    I am however, woefully disappointed that no black players came forward to talk on the subject – especially when several were seen earlier appearing to flirt with her.

    I think having her do the documentary made an ENORMOUS amount of sense, which seems lost on several detractors. The fact she’s Justin’s niece (and John’s daughter…) that she is clearly comfortable being around gay men and is intelligent enough to make sense of the story, although over-ridingly because, as Justin’s niece, she was able to turn the story into a humanised and personal story about a family torn apart by the sexuality of one of its brothers.

    The detractors miss the point in thinking this was about us ‘learning something new’ – it isn’t – its about the healthy light of awareness & publicity…

  11. Thanks for the well thought & written article. I’ve always enjoyed football (except when England are playing badly), so appreciated Amal Fashanu’s effort of researching the self-righteous homophobia within football. I don’t expect many, if any, pro footballers to come out, mainly due to the relentless personal intrusion the heartless paprazzi would inflict on them. No-one has the right to demand them to come out either. I believe the only way that gay footballers would be able to survive is if they all came out together, because they wouldn’t be singled out as much, due to the support they would receive, if well planned in advance. There must be at least 250 amongst the 5000 pros. I’m not convinced they would be convinced with my suggestion though, because it would still be hard. Wish UK was as tolerant as Sweden! Well done Anton Hysen! And Gareth Thomas! Who will the next out footballer be?

  12. Absolutely football needs a wholesale culture change before we demand gay footballers come out!!

    It also occurs to me that the problem isn’t so much “gay” footballer’s refusal to come out:- rather the gay community’s exectations of them to.

    Many gay people define themselves by their sexuality, but surely a footballer attracted to other men defines himself, first and foremost, by his sport?

    Why is it necessary to come out when he still risks being verbally abused by thousands of spectators every week?

    I’ll bet most of us posting anonymously on PN would prefer a quiet life any day over a decision that would turn our lives upside down, unless you were at the end of your career and self-assured and confident to the degree that Gareth Davies is.

    And I’m sure many such footballers today don’t even identify as “gay” per se, as society increasingly discards limiting sexual labels that conveniently seek to pigeon-hole and stereotype what is, after all, only one aspect of who they are.

    1. @Samuel B

      Almost entirely agree with you …

      I think regardless of whether a player comes out or not (and that should be their own decision not based on any desires, wishes or expectations from any element of society) the FA and others have a responsibility to ensure there is an overhaul of the culture of the game. That shouldnt prevent any player who feels it is right for them to come out from doing so, if they want to that should be their call (and whilst it might help the cultural change – that should not necessarily be their motivation).

      I am a gay man and (in part) I do define myself by my sexuality. I also define myself in other ways (ethnicity, gender, profession, English and Spanish speaking, singer, writer etc). When I meet a new person I neither say “Hi, I’m Stuart and I’m gay” nor do I say (usually unless it is a workplace context) “Hi, I’m Stuart and I’m a medic”. I define myself by both and neither have prominence over the other. I suspect some footballers …

    2. … will place significant prominence on their sport in terms of their personal identity. Others will place significance on the region or nation they are from. Others may identify in terms of their sexuality, Others may identify in terms of their family life. There could be other issues including hobbies, religion, politics, skills etc etc Many will have a composite identification – perhaps a gay, white, male from the north west of England who enjoys golf and can speak English and Italian? ….

      I don’t think we should presume whether the players identify as gay or not … and let them deal with it in the way that is right for them …

      Orientations “labels” will always exist but how much they matter (depending on the circumstances) may well change (and that change may have started) ….

      1. Samuel B. 4 Feb 2012, 3:54pm

        I totally agree, Stu, but when we meet people in our every day lives it doesn’t take much courage to reveal our sexuality if the appropriate moment presents itself.

        But can you imagine how it would be for a professional footballer to contemplate doing the same thing publicly, thanks to the overly macho culture football has inherited from moronic managers past and present, such as Brian Clough?

        I don’t think most gay men in that situation would out – or should the word be “crucify” – themselves because professional football just is not ready. I wouldn’t wish anyone to feel that sort of pressure in the set of cisrcumstances that exist today.

        The irony is that football is rugby’s feminised counterpart. The players are more pruned, plucked and preened; football requires nifty and often delicate footwork instead of pushing, barging and shoving; has more than its fair share of metrosexual players thanks to the likes of David Beckham; and so on.

        Yet rugby barely barely an eyelid!!

        1. Samuel B. 4 Feb 2012, 3:57pm

          Yet rugby barely batted an eyelid when Gareth Thomas revealed all!

        2. @Samuel

          It certainly is telling that the acceptance of LGBT people in Rugby is higher than that in football, and the incidence of homophobia appears to be lower than in football.

          I would agree that my perception would be that choosing (or not) to come out in elite football would be likely to bring with it significant issues that most other people would be unlikely to encounter. Some of that attention may be positive – eg support and endorsement from some commercial organisations keen to seek a strong endorsement from a LGBT celebrity, support from people in the LGBT communtiies, positive media attention etc … but it is also likely to bring negative attention from some bigoted individuals and also (whether intentional or not) added pressure from some gay people with expectations of being a role model and ambassador – which is not fair

    3. Dan Brown 4 Feb 2012, 1:34pm

      A ‘culture change’ will only ever come with a ‘management change’. As someone on the show said, the levels of the FA at which this needs to be addressed are occupied by self-important, archaic old men – bumbling, befuddled dinosaurs whose only interests are financial. The ethics and morality of the game they serve – and they DO serve it, for they are not bigger than the beautiful game itself – are of little interest to them. This sentiment extends to – and indeed, is proven by – Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA.

      I also agree that the ‘culture change’ must come first. In the same way that a Summer flower blooming in Winter will not change the order of the the seasons, so one or two footballers coming out will not change the environment within the game. That environment must absolutely be created first, so that such people feel ABLE to come out.

      Lastly, footballers receive ‘banter’ and ‘abuse’ regardless. As professionals earning thousands, I’m sure they’d cope.

      1. Absolutely FIFA and the relics who “govern” footbal certainly must change if the culture is to be evolved effectively

      2. This is true Dan. We have to press the FA to reveal exactly what they will be doing for starters; so far, we have as Orwell put it, ‘a mass of Latin words falling on the facts like snow, blurring the edges…’ – lots of good intentions.

        If we see no change, then we need to get the stories of players and fans who have been victims. E.g. Are there any ex-apprentice players who were kicked out of big clubs because of their sexuality? Let’s hear the stories of people who had to, or are having to take the abuse, to get the general public on board too.

        If no change is seen, then the next step might be to put more pressure on sponsors. Money talks, as you said, and brand image is priceless….

    4. I wrote: “Many gay people define themselves by their sexuality, but surely a footballer attracted to other men defines himself, first and foremost, by his sport?”

      Stu responded: “I suspect some footballers will place significant prominence on their sport in terms of their personal identity… I don’t think we should presume whether the players identify as gay or not …”

      Stu, I think you are nit-picking to the nth degree, and it isn’t warranted.

      I think most people would agree without saying that ALL “gay” professional footballers out there place far more prominence on defining themselves by their sport than their sexuality.

      Hell, they have slogged their whole lives to reach such a level of porofessionalism and earn piles of money to kick an inflated piece of rubber around an expanse of green turf once a week.

      Professional footballers live and breathe their sport and coming out doesn’t even fit into their equation.

      That isn’t even rocket science! It’s just the way it is.

      1. “I suspect some footballers will place significant prominence on their sport in terms of their personal identity… I don’t think we should presume whether the players identify as gay or not …”

        Basically, Stu is infering that we shouldn’t jump to assumption about whether a pro footballer places more prominence on defining himself by his sport or his sexuality.

        Yet the very fact that there are no out footballers shows categorically that no professional footballer defines his sexuality above his sport.

        Otherwise there would be out players.

        Please let’s not deviate from the crux of the debate where it is not warranted.

        Making a point just for the sake of it, and worse, one that isn’t warranted, only comes across as a petty display of, and poor attempt at, oneupmanship, and risks taking the debate into a cul de sac.

        1. @Samuel B

          I am so not getting into a lengthy debate with you again …

          I am not going to damage (or let you damage) Adrians wise words on this thread …

          I do find it remarkable that I made a comment following on from yours saying that I almost entirely agreed with you, then you follow on saying you totally agree with me and then you come back and accuse me on nit picking around 24 hours later …

          What made you change your opinion from totally agreeing with me?

          I find it most confusing your lack of consistency

          1. Samuel B. 5 Feb 2012, 9:14pm

            A lot of what you post on here pays closer inspection, and I just had a little time this afternoon to sit down and read your post through more carefully and to consider the implication of what you were actually saying: dressing something up as agreeing with me but also digging deeper to find something to nit-pick at, which was totally unncessary and smacks of condescension.

            Frankly I have had enough of it.

            This you do with a lot of people’s postings on here, also. I just felt it is about time someone pulled you up about the fact that you appear to have appointed yourself as PN’s unofficial moderator and you have to have a say in just about absolutely everything, no matter how trivial or petty.

            How can these boards possibly be considered impartial when they are basically hogged by one person morning, noon and night, who is now becoming a major irritant to a lot of people on here.

            Step back a little, Stu, and chill out. How man more times? It’s not all about you.

          2. @Samuel B

            I’m not going to engage in a debate about your erroneous comments about what I intend and you seeing things that are not there …

            If you have problems with my style, then deal with it … I’m not changing my style for anyone – I am more than comfortable in my own skin and don’t need your approval (or that of anyone else other than those who matter to me).

            So, if you dont like what I say … fine … its not going to stop me saying it …

            End of discussion.

          3. Perhaps your style is a consequence of your over-saturation of these boards, Stu.

            Never head the saying less is more?

            Evidently not.

  13. “Let’s give credit where it’s due: last Monday’s BBC3 programme Britains Gay Footballers presented by Amal Fashanu, niece of Justin Fashanu, generated serious debate about homophobia in football, in mainstream media and the football blogosphere.”

    Not sure BBC Three counts as mainstream. There was nothing about homophobia on today’s Football Focus on BBC One. However, the presenter, Dan Walker, did speak at length to Rio Ferdinand about racism in the game.

    I suspect the BBC still wants to keep the homophobia issue away from its mainstream channels and football programmes.

    1. Excellent point Dave – does anyone know if there was a trailer for the show on last week’s FF? I am amazed if it were not the case. It was certainly talked about in the national press. should follow this up. There is a massive problem with how BBC news and current affairs deals with LGBT issues in debates, where extremists are never challenged properly on their assertions (the Nicky Campbell debate I linked to in the piece is a prime example). This needs to change, and BBC heads need to be held to account.

  14. Having just watched Amal Fashanu host this documentary, it was sad to see the resistance and lack of cooperation she received from the UK leagues.

    This article reiterates her examples and is another example of the attitudes in the sport

    I would be interested in seeing Amal do a contrasting documentary where where she as contrast explores exclusively gay teams in the UK, Who are the players? their opposition teams gay or straight. Explore the fan base reaction who either sponsor or support the teams and get their reaction to gay vs premiership attitudes.

    1. I wonder, can we encourage LGBT fans to make a really,really special turnout when their team plays Brighton? Safety in numbers, to make a point against homophobia to their own fans.

      1. @AdrianT That would be one initiative! Another might be for the Premier leagues to quite hiding behind each other and show an example! Time for them to say lets make a point of confronting homophobia head on! For example when they have Pride week in major cities in the UK, there is one/two football teams… maybe these teams can set an example by playing a local gay team during Pride week at their home turf? Maybe those Premier cities could overcome their own homophobia by having their teams participate by having a float in Pride parades. Like private companies or Coronation St do! Show support for the gay community instead of hiding from it!

        Participating as a team no one is singled out or becomes a martyr to a cause. There is strength in numbers and if leagues want to combat homophobia maybe a few handshakes before gay/straight games and an example that footballers are not afraid of the LGBT community they must might encourage their fans by example.

        1. A good idea – an initiative like this took place when the out gay swimmer and Olympic silver medallist Johan Kenkhuis organised a sport boat, on the Amsterdam Canal Parade. It featured many top sporting celebrities including former Sheff Wed / Celtic player Reggie Blinker and a number of others – see my article on this.

          Now, I wonder when the first Premiership player will come out about being overpaid…. :-)

          1. @AdrianT A good idea? in reality perhaps one of Titanic proportions! Unfortunately it is an initiative without incentive given the fear of response Amal Fashanu received.

            It is one thing to say we need to change and another to actually demonstrate your desire and intent to change.

            Any change brought about is likely only going to be one motivated to either improves the gate revenue or helps them win more games.

            The benefit of a good PR person and the rewards of media spin it could put on the situation for a team that shows it is willing to lead the pack and change management attitudes by showing initiative are unlikely to inspire cowards in management.

            It’s time for the football association to stop saying and start doing, only then will we see desire to change and perhaps openly gay players emerge. Until then I doubt gay/straight games will happen during Pride, or celebrating pride with LGBT figures in future league forecasts. :(

      2. That would be great … unfortunately Brighton arent in the right league for me (yet!) ….

        I will try to get to a Brighton game either this season or next though …

        1. Wsa invited onto BBC Radio Lincolnshire day after programme was broadcast…

          My key point was that it centred – almost exclusively – on various straights talking ABOUT gay issues. Unless you count Matt Lucas and a bewildered gay professional footballer in Sweden.

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