The Football Association launched a new initiative yesterday to promote inclusiveness for gay, bi and trans people in football.
The launch of Opening Doors and Joining In included a six-point action plan on education, visibility, partnership, recognition, reporting and monitoring.
Speakers at the launch yesterday included Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall and former England defenders Graeme Le Saux and John Scales.
FA General Secretary Alex Horne said: “If you ask me whether there are any gay professional footballers, you are asking the wrong question. What today and the action plan is about is ensuring that anyone can participate in our game without fear, regardless of their sexuality.
“If someone is gay, we want them to feel secure if they choose to be open and know they will not be subject to abuse or ridicule.”
But there are fears the initiative does not recommend enough identifiable goals.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who formerly sat on the FA’s anti-homophobia working party, said: “This new initiative is commendable and welcome, but it’s full of vague, general pledges. There are not many specific, concrete proposals. It’s worthy but low-key. Sadly, it won’t make a major public impact.
“To set the agenda and reach the fans, the Football Association should be pressing clubs to include anti-homophobia messages on tickets, in match programmes and on stadium screens at half-time. This would ensure the FA’s new initiative gets high-profile visibility and impacts public consciousness.”
Chris Basiurski, Chair of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network, welcomed the move, saying: “The GFSN is encouraged to see this Action Plan from the FA and we look forward to working with them to make sure we see viable long term results. We believe that this issue needs the same funding and commitment as has been invested in the fight against racism in football.”
Darren Bailey, the FA’s Director of Football Governance and Regulation pledged to fight abuse on the terraces.
He said: “Homophobic and transphobic abuse is unacceptable and will be punished. It has no place in society and no place in football. We have the rules, we have the commitment and we have made a promise to change the culture of the game. What we need is to know when abuse happens.”
Club England’s Managing Director Adrian Bevington said: “We want to ensure that if any player wishes to be open about their sexuality, then they can do it with the full support of The FA. We want a “So What?” culture in football.”