The late Justin Fashanu
A new survey reveals that the majority of football fans in the UK would be accepting of openly gay players.
The survey, conducted by Staffordshire University, found that 93% of fans think that there is no place for homophobia in football and 90% agree that what matters is a player’s skill on the field, not his sexual orientation.
Despite this 40% feel that gay players should not come out as gay as “it’s a private matter and straight players don’t have to declare their sexual preferences”.
The majority though, (60%), would indeed like players to “be brave” and come out.
The survey polled nearly 2,000 fans, players, managers, coaches and referees.
Jamie Cleland, one of the researchers behind the study which is ongoing at www.topfan.co.uk, said that he was surprised at “the vigorous rejection of homophobia from fans across the world”.
Explaining the contradiction between the results and homophobic chanting against certain players during matches, co-researcher Ellis Cashmore noted that fans said “they are using the terms just as a way of putting the player off and not necessarily meaning that they think homosexuality is wrong. I mean: they reserve this for opposition players. You’ll never hear supporters hurling abuse at their own players”.
Both the researchers and many of the people who took part in the survey equated the current scenario with the racism faced by British black football players in the 70’s and 80’s.
Rampant homophobia in the sport has been blamed for the fact that there is currently no openly-gay player in professional football.
The only previous openly-gay British footballer was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 and committed suicide eight years later.