Openly-gay footballer: The late Justin Fashanu

The English Football Association’s (FA) new anti-homophobia plan has been criticised for being vague and not helping gay or bi players to come out.

The four-year-long “Opening Doors and Joining In” campaign to promote equality in football was launched at Wembley Stadium in London on Monday.

It commits the FA to taking action to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion in football.

“If you ask me whether there are any gay professional footballers, you are asking the wrong question,” said FA General Secretary Alex Horne.

“What today and the action plan is about is ensuring that anyone can participate in our game without fear, regardless of their sexuality. If someone is gay, we want them to feel secure if they choose to be open and know they will not be subject to abuse or ridicule.”

The event was attended by Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of LGBT rights group Stonewall, former England defenders Graeme Le Saux and John Scales and Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone.

Club England Managing Director Adrian Bevington commented: “We want to ensure that if any player wishes to be open about their sexuality, then they can do it with the full support of the FA.”

Leading LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who previously worked with the FA to help stamp out homophobia in the game, welcomed the campaign but said that “it’s full of vague, general pledges. There are not many specific, concrete proposals. It’s worthy but low-key. Sadly, it won’t make a major public impact.”

He urged the FA to press 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,” he said.

Tatchell further expressed concern that the FA and individual clubs still have no plans in place to support a player who comes out as gay or bisexual.

“If a player comes out, they have every right to expect the full support of the FA Chairman and their club manager. This includes public affirmation of their decision and assistance to the player and their team mates in dealing with media inquiries and the reactions of fans from opposing teams. None of this vital preparation has been done,” he said.

Tatchell added that while there is no openly gay professional footballer in the U.K. “some gay and bisexual Premier League players are out privately to their managers and team mates”.

The only previous openly-gay British footballer was Justin Fashanu. He came out in 1990 but committed suicide eight years later.

There is currently one openly-gay professional football player in the world. Swedish footballer Anton Hys̩n Рwho plays for a minor side Рcame out in March 2011 to much publicity.

Earlier this month West Ham midfielder Ravel Morrison was charged by the FA for “using abusive and/or insulting words” in a homophobic tweet against another Twitter user. He pled guilty to the charge and the FA is deciding on a punishment.

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