In the wake of Sol Campbell being targeted with verbal abuse, the Guardian’s Mark Gould attended a Kick It Out symposium on homophobia in British soccer. There’s no need to copy Graham Le Soux, he read the piece over breakfast earlier today.
Jason Bartholomew Hall is one of the organisers of the Justin Fashanu Campaign, which wants the FA and Fashanu’s former clubs to commemorate the 11th anniversary of Fashanu’s death in May next year. Fashanu, who hung himself in a lock-up garage, remains Britain’s only openly gay footballer, an admission for which he received years of abuse from fans and fellow players.
“We haven’t really moved on in the 10 years since Justin’s death. There isn’t anyone in football in the UK or worldwide that is out,” Bartholomew Hall said. “I worry that if a player came out the backlash would be horrible and simply drive more gay players underground. It could be professional suicide. Clubs wouldn’t want you to do it.”
Former pro Paul Elliott, who played for Chelsea, Aston Villa, and Italian club Bari and is now special advisor to the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, feels there is a momentum building just as the anti-racism movement built in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He knows of dozens of professionals who are gay but would never come out in the current climate.
He said: “It’s a combination of fear and a lack of stakeholder engagement from key people like the PFA to ensure they are supported. That’s the key thing. I have spoken to dozens of players who feel this. They are also concerned about implications professionally and socially “ they have nice lifestyles.”
Lucy Faulkner, the FA’s well-liked head of equality and diversity, stressed the FA’s new chairman, Lord Triesman, wants to tackle homophobia – as he told a meeting of Supporters Direct only a day earlier.
Faulkner was asked by the panel host, Radio 5 Live’s Bob Ballard, why the FA did not show an example by laying down the law to Chelsea coach Phil Scolari. Scolari (above) denies he is homophobic but has gone on record in the past as saying he would throw anyone out of his team if he found out they were gay.
She said: “It’s a question for clubs like Chelsea as employers to make it known to employees that this is unacceptable. We would not do anything about past events but if it happened in future he could be charged with bringing the game into disrepute.”