The UK government is calling homophobia the biggest problem in football compared to other forms of discrimination.
In a report released today (19 September), the Culture, Media and Sport Committee have revealed their latest findings on racism and homophobia in the sport.
Recent research has found 25% of fans think football is homophobic while 10% think football is racist.
About 14% of recent match attendees also reported hearing homophobic abuse.
Gay football player Tom Price, who plays for Gay Football Supporters Network league club London Falcons, told Gay Star News the reason is because the Football Association prefers to focus its efforts on racism.
He said: ‘Homophobia is the last taboo. There is still racism but it’s not nearly as bad as it was before, because racism is taken far more seriously by the FA.’
Price explained how when he went to a conference aiming to kick out homophobia, a professional footballer spent two thirds of his speech talking about racism.
‘It’s like the FA doesn’t want to tackle homophobia in football, and want it to stay in the background and hope it will go away.’
The report states the FA should work with relevant organizations and charities to develop and then promote a high-profile campaign to highlight the damaging effect of homophobic language and behavior in and around football at every level.
‘The campaign should identify sources of support for affected individuals as well as setting out a clear reporting structure for homophobic incidents,’ it says.
Andy Wasley, from UK-based gay rights charity Stonewall, believes homophobia is a far bigger problem than what is reported in the government’s findings.
He said: ‘We’ve been working with the FA to help tackle homophobia, but still we hear of too many footballers and fans making homophobic remarks.
‘Seven in ten fans say they’ve heard homophobia abuse on the terraces and several players have been fined for making homophobic remarks in the last year alone.’
A statement from the FA states they agree with the Committee that while ‘substantial progress’ has been made, challenges remain for all of the football authorities.
They add: ‘We remain committed, along with all of our stakeholders, to promoting equality and diversity within the game and to the eradication of all forms of discrimination in football.’
Football player Clarke Carlisle, chair of the UK Professional Footballer’s Association, promised if a gay player did come out they would receive the full support from the union.
While he insisted he would never ‘out’ a player, he said in talks with eight gay closeted players, he said one may be ready to come out soon.
Carlisle said: ‘The only point of reference for any of the players who are considering this is Justin Fashanu – and his story is a tragedy.’
Justin Fashanu was the first, and only, English footballer to come out in 1990. Eight years later, he committed suicide.