Activists hope FA plan will ‘move the needle’ on homophobia in football

Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the Football Association's plans to tackle homophobia in the British sport but call for more action not words

Activists hope FA plan will ‘move the needle’ on homophobia in football
20 February 2012

Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the Football Association's plan to tackle homophobia in the English game, but want stronger deterrents.

The six-point action plan outlines ways in which the sport will combat the increasingly high profile problem of homophobic abuse, both among players and fans, from greater education and raising awareness, to better reporting of abuse.

'The reality is that homophobia does exist and it’s completely unacceptable,' said Alex Horne, the FA's general secretary, at the scheme's launch at London's Wembley Stadium today.

'We have had a clean-up with regards to other areas of discrimination and now is the time to focus on homophobia and transphobia, and ensure that isn’t a barrier to people who want to get involved in playing the game.'

The Gay Football Supporters' Network (GFSN) and rights group Stonewall have both welcomed the FA's plan.

However, speaking at the event, Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said he hoped tangible results would be seen.

He said: 'We think the action plan is incredibly important, as long as this moves the needle. 

'It’s about actually demonstrating if things go wrong, they will be dealt with.'

He added that for more gay footballers to come out there needs to be a professional environment where homophobia is taken seriously.

Also speaking on the event's panel of experts, retired footballer Graeme Le Saux echoed Stonewall's concerns, saying that while he supports the FA and premier league authorities, he wants something to be done about the problem.

Despite being straight, Le Saux was dogged by gay rumors during his playing career, leading to abuse from opposition fans and even players.

He said: 'I want to know what the punishments are. Gay people want to know what’s going to happen if someone’s vitriolic abuse is allowed to continue and that’s the challenge we face because it’s on a massive scale.'

Darren Bailey, The FA's director of football governance and regulation, insisted this was the beginning in a shift in attitude in the sport, but stressed the importance of better reporting of abuse.

He claimed the FA already has sufficient regulations and sanctions to deal with homophobia.

'Homophobic abuse is an aggravated offence and the sanction could be automatically doubled. For a second offence, it will be trebled,' he said.

He added: 'In a professional game, depending on the circumstances, the sanctions could range from £6,000 to £24,000 and match ban.

'If the conduct continues, permanent suspension could be contemplated.'

But human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the FA's plan does not go far enough in dealing with the problem, calling it 'vague' and 'low-key'.

He said: 'To set the agenda and reach the fans, the Football Association should be pressing clubs to include anti-homophobia messages on tickets, in match programmes and on stadium screens at half-time. 

'This would ensure the FA's new initiative gets high-profile visibility and impacts public consciousness.'

Tatchell, who has campaigned against football homophobia for the last two decades and sat on the FA's anti-homophobia working party, also expressed concern that the FA and clubs still have no plans in place to support players who come out.

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

Adam Lambert dumps his record label in dispute over doing 80s cover music

Gay singer would rather focus on original music on next album
No thumbnail available

Ellen DeGeneres rocks Miley's new hair-do

Lesbian chat show host shows her love for Miley Cyrus's drastic new haircut by copying the star's look on Twitter
No thumbnail available

Refresh with a Morning-After facial

Nickel's Morning-After Rescue is a refreshing face and neck gel that will leave you with tingly skin and a kick in your step
No thumbnail available

Trans man debuts on AMC's Small Town Security

Trans man debuts on AMC's Small Town Security
No thumbnail available

Canada axes funding to Uganda anti-gay Christian charity

Canada’s government has cut funding to an Evangelical group working in Uganda for promoting anti-gay views
No thumbnail available

Supreme Court places stay on gay marriages in Virginia - they were to begin this week

High court won't allow marriages to begin in state until it decides whether or not to review case that struck down ban
No thumbnail available

Lesbian moms’ mirror image pregnancy photos will make you double-take

Beautiful images of two lesbian parents who took it in turns to get pregnant have captured the hearts of millions after going viral
No thumbnail available

Our quality, ethical journalism pledge

You can trust Gay Star News to treat our clients and our audience with respect
No thumbnail available

Turkey's first transgender TV reporter speaks about her struggle and success

Michelle Demishevich has progressed from working in nightclubs to being hired as Turkey's first openly transgender TV reporter
No thumbnail available