Is Homophobia a Problem in Football?

Adam Conway

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When we think about discrimination in football, we think about racism. It is seen as one of the ongoing problems in the game. As soon as we start to believe that it has been eradicated, it rears its ugly head. The fight against racism is one in which we are led to believe is of high priority, and rightly so, but is homophobia just as big a problem? Many would assume not, as it is less heard of, but therein lies the problem.

Robbie Rogers

Last Friday, via his website, former Leeds United and United States international Robbie Rogers (right) publicly revealed his homosexuality. He became only the third professional footballer to do so. In 1990, former England Under-21 international Justin Fashanu (above) was the first player in Britain to reveal he was gay. He was labelled an “outcast” and an “embarrassment” by fellow professional and brother John, and subsequently ended his own life 8 years later. Anton Hysen, of the Swedish lower leagues, remains the only other football player of note to announce his homosexuality.

According to a report in 2005, 1 in 16.6 people in Britain are gay. With roughly 5,000 professional football players in Britain, it would be safe to assume there is at least minimal crossover. It could be argued that young, gay men and women aren’t as interested in football as the heterosexual population. Maybe they don’t feel it is their place in society or feel they are welcome. This in itself is another problem.

While it is likely there are a number of gay footballers, it’s often suggested that they feel the need to hide their sexual orientation. Despite a number of athletes from other sports openly discussing their sexuality in recent years, football is very different. It may be a somewhat of a generalisation, but football fans are ruthless and feed off this kind of information. Robbie Rogers knew this, and also announced his retirement on the same day at the age of 25.

A football fan tweets his reaction to Rogers’ announcement:

It doesn’t make it any easier for homosexuals within the game when fellow professionals make comments like these.

Is homophobia a problem is football or are there more pressing issues to be dealt with? Feel free to have your say by leaving a comment below.

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Adam Conway