Tackling homophobia in men's football

In this blog we look at homophobia in men's football and ways we can help protect children and young people, so they can enjoy the sports that they love.

Following the controversy surrounding the FIFA Men’s World Cup, which kicked off in Qatar this week, Labour MP Luke Pollard told the House of Commons ‘As an England-supporting homosexual it is not safe for someone like me to watch the World Cup in Qatar.’ Conversely, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has told football fans travelling to Qatar to “compromise” with the country, where homosexuality remains illegal. The outcry has caused backlash by some, who, while supporting the need for Qatar to reform laws, have pointed out that homophobia and violence towards women are issues rife within UK men’s football.

The English Premier League is one of the most famous institutions in the world and while the women's game continues to grow, fuelled by the recent EURO's success of England's Lionesses, it is an institution dominated by men. According to Statista data, 71% of the Premier League's viewers in 2021 were male, and 63% of soccer fans globally are male. Statistics that are reflected outside of the stadiums too, with over 1.5 million men in the UK playing football recreationally at least twice a month.

 Whilst the 'beautiful game' remains the UK's number one sport, football's reputation is tarnished by links to racism, violence and homophobia. In a new series of blogs, we aim to raise awareness of the issues surrounding sport and how we as 'Safeguardians' can make these matters a priority with practices, policy and resources.

In May of this year, 17-year-old Jake Daniels made headline news as the UK's second ever male professional player to come out as gay. The Blackpool F.C. forward was heralded as 'brave' as he shared his story which reached a global audience. Lauren Moss, BBC News LGBT and identity correspondent commented that Daniels' coming out was the 'First sign that football is finally catching up'.

“I am hoping that by coming out I can be a role model, to help others come out if they want to. I am only 17 but I am clear that this is what I want to do and if, by me coming out, other people look at me and feel maybe they can do it as well, that would be brilliant. If they think: ‘This kid is brave enough do this, I will be able to do it too.” - Jake Daniels  

The support Daniels received from his teammates, fans and world-renowned coaches was a stark contrast to the events in 1990, when Justin Fashanu announced the same thing. Fashanu made history as the UK's only openly gay male professional footballer, who's coming out heralded a wave of homophobia that eventually led to Fashanu ending his life just 8 years later. To commemorate Fashanu and raise awareness, the Brighton-based Bishopsgate Institute launched the Justin Campaign to educate school and university students about homophobia in football.

Whilst attitudes have been changing since Fashanu's time, homophobia is still prevalent in the men's game, with the Gay Times reporting 30% of football fans wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing two men kissing at a game. The YouGov survey which was conducted with Paddy Power also revealed that 63% of supporters wouldn’t feel comfortable confronting someone for using homophobic abuse.

However with a new generation of football fans being raised in a more accepting society, and with a sustained focus on Men's Mental Health thanks to campaigns like Movember, there is hope that attitudes within the game will change. Having openly gay players, more support available for members of the LGBTQ+ community with sports and better safeguarding practices are all vital in changing discriminatory behaviours that have been developed by previous generations. 

 It's our job as 'Safeguardians' to support, protect and prevent but reporting cases outside of a school environment can be tricky. Coaches, managers, and team-members don't always have access to an office, computer or reliable reporting system. Using a digital platform like MyConcern, teams have access to leading safeguarding technology on a desktop or secure app. Concerns can be recorded pitch-side in seconds and a single core set of data means information can be shared and monitored easily, to support early intervention. For abuse happening in changing rooms, or away from the company of adults, our new platform MyVoice, which launches in the New Year, has been designed to give everyone a voice, everywhere. Meaning anyone can report a concern about a teammate, coach or adult regardless of whether they have an account on one of our parent products. It is more important than ever that gay and minority football players and fans are supported, and that safeguarding measures are in place.


For support on any of the issues raised during this blog
Stonewall is an amazing Charity that supports all lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people everywhere.  

Posted Date

22nd November 2022

Rosie Eastwood
Marketing Content Manager

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