We’re all aware that there’s homophobia in sport – especially soccer. We were praising recently of Gareth Thomas – the most capped Welsh rugby player, now playing for Cardiff Blues – who had taken a brave step and had come out as gay, and is now a patron of LGBT History Month, which is this month.
But the big problem is soccer. (The only out mainstream soccer player has been Justin Fashanu. He ended up committing suicide in 1998 after being accused in the States of sexual assault against a 17-year-old youth. In his suicide note, Fashanu said the sex was consensual.)
The Football Association, the UK’s governing body for soccer, has postponed the premiere of a short film about homophobia in the sport. It was due to take place next Thursday at Wembley Stadium, but FA chiefs now say they need more time to work on the project. A new date has not been set.
Two of those consulted over the project are the gay human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and former NBA basketball player John Amaechi, who have both criticised the film. Amaechi described it as an “expletive-laden rant”.
Pink News tell us that Amaechi has condemned the cancellation and attacked the film as “further proof of the FA’s willingness to window-dress its most serious problems”.
It’s not clear why he condemned the cancellation, or postponement, if he didn’t like the film, but perhaps we’re not getting a clear version of the story.
It does seem to show that the FA’s commitment to kicking homophobia out of soccer is a half-hearted affair, and one has to question the organisation’s commitment.
Tatchell, of the gay-rights group OutRage!, says, “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.
“The FA is saying [the premiere] 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.”
What won’t have helped in getting players to come out is the recent advice by the PR guru Max Clifford for them to remain in the closet.
While I can appreciate that a player wants to keep his career, he would be doing a far more noble thing to come out and encourage others to do the same. If we take Clifford’s advice, no player will ever come out, and being gay will continue to be seen as something intrinsically wrong, and organisations such as the FA will continue faffing about and not really doing anything about it.