The pervading shame in our great game
By Rob Casey
Sunday 21 Feb 2010 12:51:00
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Since his suicide in 1998, Justin Fashanu remains the one and only openly gay professional in a sport labelled by gay rights movement Stonewall as “institutionally homophobic”, after their widespread survey last year. However, while the FA are supporting The Justin Campaign, which launched on Friday, the football community are conspicuous by their absence in terms of really backing this issue, claiming instead that it’s the fans that need to change. Surely now is the time when some genuine role models should be stepping forward…


Despite a majority of the 2,000 fans surveyed by Stonewall in 2009 believing that the football authorities were not doing enough to tackle the issue and more than two thirds of supporters claiming that they would be comfortable with players from teams they support coming out, Professional Footballers Association chief Gordon Taylor recently told the BBC that “The Premier League didn’t think it was a big enough issue,” and that supporters are still the problem. 


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The Let’s Kick Homophobia Out Of Football campaign stalled recently when NO professionals at all were willing to openly support it, a decision Taylor was happy to defend.


We felt it was right for the organisation to come out strongly together with the FA and build from that. It's about educating crowds, as well as players, and we believe the time would be more appropriate when crowds are a bit more civilised.”


Another PFA source also commented that “Maybe in three, four or five years we will have more players involved. At the moment, no one wants to be the player putting their head above the parapet.”


Given the treatment of the only player to have ever done so, as well as the abuse shown towards players speculatively targeted by fans, it’s no real surprise that today’s footballers are scared of supporting such a cause. But it also adds to the shame of the whole situation.


The fight against racism in the sport still has a lot of work ahead of it, but improvements, especially in this country, have been outstanding. The difference there is that a player’s race is clear for everyone to see. You can’t really escape the issue, despite years of trying to. Sexuality on the other hand, is a lot easier to run away from.


Footballers are not just role models for young people, but representatives of a culture. As an Englishman, I therefore want to see my national team players stand together and proudly condemn homophobia, as with all forms of discrimination. I would care as little about their individual preferences as I do other entertainers, (while acknowledging that there are many others who would take a far greater interest, albeit to glamorise, not criticise).


The Justin Campaign kicked off on Friday 19th February 2010, and through no fault of its own, you may well have overlooked this fact. FansOnline has no connection with the cause, but personally I wish it had the support of the FA in more than just words.


Do you agree that England’s top players need to publicly endorse the campaign?


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