Monday, 7 November 2011

Footballers Being Homophobic - Number One: Liam Hearn

Yesterday, in this thing, I said that homophobia was in its last throes. Now while I do genuinely believe that, it still means that it hasn't disappeared completely. Just the other the day the commendable Justin Campaign released a statement in response to a homophobic comment sent and later deleted from the Twitter account of Crawley Town player Hope Akpan. His manager Steve Evans assured fans that it had been sent by "a young member of his family" without his knowledge, and while the day anyone should take Steve Evans' word at face value is the day hell freezes over, he is nonetheless innocent until proven guilty, and The Justin Campaign want The FA to look into it "with immediate urgency".

And unfortunately it's not the only occasion on which a footballer has sent a homophobic tweet. Hope Akpan - whether he sent his or not - was unlucky to get caught; many will avoid being taken to task.

Take, for example, these two tweets from Grimsby Town striker Liam Hearn. They were sent about a month and a half ago but better late than never or something:

@Eugenious10: Y do ppl feel the need to compare & say 1 rapper is better than the other!? I f*cks with Drizzy, Jcole, jay-z Weezy (no homo)Mon Sep 26 20:34:05 via Twitter for iPhone

So in that first tweet Hearn has retweeted his friend, Eugene Francis: "Aspiring Professional Footballer". Eugene was complaining about how some people make rap music into a competition, before naming four rappers that he likes. But oh no! The way he expressed this was through saying that he "f*cks with" them. And that could be misconstrued as him being gay! Hearn has noted this, and cleverly attached the famous rap caveat, 'no homo' to the end, to poke fun at his friend.

@Eugenious10: @Hearnz10 lol soz pal (No Ben Mitchell) another Person to turn Batts on tv..” that is a disgrace! Who would want bens role?Mon Sep 26 21:19:12 via Twitter for iPhone

This happened at around the time EastEnders character Ben Mitchell came out as gay, so, in a typically hilarious bit of footballer banter, Eugene apologises for his mistake and changes the word 'homo' to 'Ben Mitchell'. Brilliant! As you can see, he then makes a fairly overt homophobic comment before Hearn chips in with another. Seriously Liam, you're definitely quite good at football, but if this is anything to go by, you're also a bit of a tool.

Funnily enough, Hearn is quite quick to jump the gun and call someone racist:

Misha B needs to get in the Goonie Goo Goomobile and get the fuck out #givemehalfeddieSun Nov 06 20:09:07 via Twitter for Android

But is himself a proponent of prejudice against a different minority.

You might be reading this and thinking that it's not really anything worth getting het up over. Hearn is only a fifth division footballer (albeit one on the rise), and these messages were only throwaway ones, broadcast only to the 800 people who follow him on Twitter, but the truth is that that's more than enough. Sitting back and letting people talk like Hearn and Francis did in a public forum without saying anything about it doesn't get you anywhere.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


In the past couple of years it's felt like hardly a week has gone by without at least one newspaper picking up on the issue of homophobia in football.

Unfortunately, while this is a very important conversation to be having, I sometimes get the impression that certain sections of the media are only using it as a way of pressing for something that really would be 'newsworthy': a top player coming out. When they ask why not one has yet done so they aren't asking for the good of the cause, but purely because they want one to for their own headlines. And naturally given that it's hardly surprising that they're still waiting.

I imagine, following the likes of Gareth Thomas in rugby and Steven Davies in cricket, it's feasible that a current player might come out sooner rather than later. But what I am more sure of happening, and potentially before we have a gay player from the current crop, is one coming through the ranks.

Whereas the media are hankering for a revelatory story where a recognisable top flight player comes out, it's probably more likely that we'll have more than one young gay player in a few years time who we don't even know yet, and for whom sexuality will never have been an issue. If, or more likely when that happens, it won't really be a story, just a fact, and therefore the papers won't be able to sensationalise it as easily.

At school only a couple of years ago (and in a pretty poor area), I knew one gay and one bisexual player - both of whom were already out - and one of them had been in the School of Excellence set up at a professional club. Sexuality was nowhere close to being relevant. Simply, among the young, attitudes are changing at a far faster rate than is often noted. It is acknowledged that times are changing, but in reality it's at such a pace that the old guard have trouble comprehending it.

What's particularly important for football is that the perception of homosexuality to be effeminate, or in some way inferior, is no longer the default.

This reminds me of an interview I read a while ago with a gay actor (I can't remember who, which is annoying - they might not even have been an actor) who spoke of how when he was younger he saw people like Danny La Rue and John Inman on TV and thought "I'm nothing like that", making him reticent to come out. Obviously he eventually did, but if he'd grown up nowadays those structures wouldn't have been anywhere near as widespread. Without them, to young people in the UK the only overriding connotation the word 'gay' has is homosexual - different from heterosexual, but that's it. And when that's all the word means we see less homophobia and more people who don't think twice about coming out, even in places that would previously have been the least accepting, 'macho' ones like football. (In fact, given that young footballers often present themselves a lot more confidently than their peers, they might even have less problems with being open with their sexuality.)

The gist of this unnecessarily long post is that homophobia is dying rapidly. The media will soon get their wish of a gay player, but when the first isn't a headline friendly current Premier League player, but one on the rise, they might be in for a bit of a shock. When that does happen - and I really believe it will - it will be a non-issue for the player involved, and most fans their age and younger. Homophobia only really lies in the past; what remains of it now are merely the remnants.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

John Fenty And The Strange Case Of His Financial Baking

Yesterday, former Grimsby Town chairman John Fenty sent an email to the administrator of popular fansite, The Fishy. Mr Fenty took exception to a number of comments on its forum that he felt undermined the work that he had done for the club, and some that defamed him outright. The entire missive is available to read here, replete with accusations of "liable", assertions that he had taken "screen scrapes" of offending posts and references to problems with future "financial baking". There are bits where he comes off a little deranged: "What are they going to say if I convert loans into shares now!!!! that I am vie for control." And bits where he throws in a few light-hearted non-sequiturs: "There are those that think Noddy and Big Ears are running the club, by god I would like to see them stand up to be counted." 

Admittedly John is not and never will be any kind of writer, and certainly has every right to take umbrage with potentially libellous comments, but to outsiders looking in the whole thing would appear to be something of a shambles. And it is. It's just that Grimsby Town fans know what he's like.

Simply, he's a very sensitive fellow, one who's been known to not only trawl the depths of the GTFC forums in search of every last comment on him, but also to then respond in his own inimitable fashion. A good example of this is April 2008's fondly remembered 'Chairman's Response', also known as '(Thread) Chairman UTM2007 WRONG'. While that 27 paragraph stream of consciousness 'piece' in response to the views of one message board poster is still online, their post is not, having since fallen down the back of the internet. It wasn't very important and wasn't very widely read, thus not really worthy of response, never mind an official one of such length. People who hadn't seen it probably made up the majority of people who attempted to read the chairman's riposte, before stopping about three paragraphs in and wondering what on earth he was banging on about. To this day that remains unclear, if typical of his seven year reign.

Now I don't know if he ever does get litigious, but it is clear that even after resigning from his more public position as chairman to become a director, nothing has changed in regard to his willingness to Google himself. So:

  • John Fenty turned all his lights off at Halloween and pretended he wasn't in so he didn't have to give out sweets to kids.
  • John Fenty is an ardent cow tipper.
  • John Fenty lied to not only Charles, but Eddie too.
  • John Fenty caused the global economic crisis.
  • John Fenty once drunkenly shouted abuse at Barry from Eastenders.
  • John Fenty signed The Pigeon Detectives.

I'm not sure if any of the above statements are factual, but equally I'm not sure that they're not. If you're reading, John, I want answers. And I want them posted in a rambling, incoherent article on the official Grimsby Town website.