4 March 2014
On Wednesday 5 February, Village Manchester attended a talk at the National Football Museum on homophobia in football.
The event, which was organised by campaigns and activist organisation Just a Ball Game?, was broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live and had current and ex-players such as Steven Reid, Clarke Carlisle and Owen Coyle as speakers.
With a number of footballers coming out recently – whether it be an ex-player, a semi-pro player or a female player – the issue of homophobia in football has gained a lot of column inches recently.
Presenter Mark Chapman posed a number of probing and insightful questions to current West Brom player Steven Reid, ex-player and Professional Footballers' Association chairman, Clarke Carlisle and former manager Owen Coyle about their experiences in changing rooms and quizzed them on their opinions regarding gay players in the future.
Clarke Carlisle, who has forged a career as a commentator since he decided to hang up his boots, said that homophobic language has long been commonplace in dressing rooms and that players needed to receive more education to combat homophobia.
Owen Coyle, who played with Justin Fashanu in Scotland with Airdrieonians, was surprised that attitudes to homosexuality have barely changed since his playing days. Owen played in the same team as Justin (after he announced his sexuality) and despite big strides with other forms of discrimination, it is sad to see that things became stagnant regarding homophobia.
However with Thomas Hitzlsperger, Robbie Rodgers, Liam Davies and Casey Stoney all coming out within the last year, it seems that things are now moving forward at quite a pace.
Liam made the trip up from Gainsborough for the event and told the crowd about his situation and how things have been for him since he came out, whilst current Manchester City Ladies player Andie Worrall gave her view from the woman’s side of the game – which has a much bigger number of gay players.
The Football Association was represented by Sue Ravenlaw, FA Head of Equality and Child Protection, who set out what the governing association is doing to tackle homophobia in the sport – namely releasing a suite of new films outlining how fans and players can report discrimination and working on mandatory education from under 12’s through to adults for those convicted for discrimination. Simon Smith gave the views of supporters on behalf of the Gay Footballers Supporters’ Network whilst promoting the recently launced Fangroup Coalition.
The event, held in the home of all things football, was well attended and many good points were made by both those on the panel and in the crowd. With all of the media coverage and forward strides that are now being made regarding homophobia in football it seems that the atmosphere where a gay professional footballer feels happy and secure to come out is coming closer.
And it is about time homophobia in football was given the boot!
Just a Ball Game? radio debate reviewed
VMFC Chairman John Bridges (left) and Communications Officer Rob McPherson (right) meet Liam Davies