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.

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