The Minister for Sport and Equalities, Helen Grant, has praised several Premier League football clubs for throwing their weight behind a leading anti-homophobia initiative.

Manchester United and Chelsea have joined the Football v Homophobia (FvH) campaign for the first time as the group seeks to gain support from 50% of professional clubs in England.

Of the Premier League’s 20 teams, 11 are involved but the BBC reports only 17 from the Football League’s 72 clubs plan a “visible anti-homophobia stance”.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and West Ham have all backed the scheme.

“We’re passionate about supporting this,” said West Ham player Kevin Nolan.

“We hope that it sends out a message that there is no place for discrimination in football, nor in any sport.”

West Ham kicked off a month of action in February by wearing Football v Homophobia T-shirts before their 2-0 win over Swansea last Saturday.

Other top flight clubs such as Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Everton, Stoke and Sunderland are set to follow suit via a range of promotional methods.

Lou Englefield, director of the campaign, said: “FvH is about everyone taking responsibility to address the causes and consequences of homophobia in football. This isn’t just about players coming out.

“It’s about all of us – including heterosexual players and fans who attend matches week in week out – being willing to speak out and take visible action to challenge prejudice in the game.”

She added: “We are pleased to be working alongside all of the football authorities and hope that together we can make this the biggest year yet for the campaign against homophobia in football.”

Sports Minister Helen Grant said: “Football v Homophobia is raising the awareness of important issues and provides ways for everyone in football to get involved.

“Over the last few years, the government has worked hard to help sport tackle prejudice through the Charter for Action Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

“We were pleased to see all the Premier League and Football League clubs pledge their support to the charter and we hope everyone in the game will continue their support by taking action with the Football v Homophobia campaign.”

Mrs Grant last month congratulated former West Ham and German international Thomas Hitzlsperger for announcing that he’s gay.

The Tory MP told PinkNews.co.uk that it was “great” news.

There are currently no known openly gay footballers in the English and Scottish professional leagues.

Last September, gay rights charity Stonewall encouraged players to show their support for gay footballers by wearing rainbow coloured boot laces during one weekend.

However, Football v Homophobia  criticised Stonewall and Paddy Power’s “Right Behind Gay Footballers” slogan as relying on “sexualised innuendo and stereotypes about gay men”.

Several clubs, including Manchester United, refused to back the campaign due to the corporate involvement of Paddy Power.