12 gay footballers, says former UK professional footballer

Action plan to tackle anti-gay abuse; BBC's Bob Ballard criticises FA and Chelsea

October 20, 2008

Paul Elliott
LONDON — Former professional footballer Paul Elliott said he knows 12 top current players who are gay. He said they are reluctant to come out because they fear negative reactions.

Mr Elliott, who now advises the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was speaking at 'Homophobia – Football's Final Taboo' – a forum organised by the Kick It Out campaign and hosted by the Football Association at its Soho Square headquarters last Tuesday night.

BBC sports reporter and commentator, Bob Ballard, who chaired the event, criticised the Football Association (FA) and Chelsea for allowing the appointment of Phil Scolari as Chelsea manager. Mr Scolari said he would never have a gay player on his team, which is against the FA's equal treatment rules.

Accusing the FA of double standards, Mr Ballard said that if Scolari had said he would kick out black or Jewish players he would have never been appointed at Chelsea.

Another speaker, gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, said:
"The Football Association has great equality policies on paper but it often fails to put them into practice. It's time to turn the FA's opposition to anti-gay prejudice into action and give homophobia the boot."

Mr Tatchell outlined a four-point plan of action that he wants the Football Association to adopt.

The Football Association is backing a new Kick It Out campaign against homophobia and other bigotry on the pitch and on the terraces.

As well as Mr Elliott and Mr Tatchell, speakers at the event included Lucy Faulkner – Football Association, Barney Efthimiou – Gay Football Supporters Network, and Jason Bartholomew Hall – Justin Fashanu Campaign.

The issue of homophobia in football has been bought to head by the recent anti-gay abuse directed against Portsmouth's star player and England International, Sol Campbell.

The wave of homophobic chants by Spurs' fans at the Tottenham – Portsmouth match at Fratton Park on 28 September included:

"Sol, Sol, wherever you may be / You're on the verge of lunacy / And we don't give a f**k if you're hanging from a tree / You Judas c**t with HIV."

"He's big, he's black. He takes it up his crack. Sol Campbell, Sol Campbell."

For more background on the homophobic insults against Mr Campbell, click here.

At the meeting, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! won general approval when he urged the Football Association to adopt a four-point plan to stamp out homophobia:

"I would like to see the FA to organise a dozen premier league straight players to condemn homophobia in a MTV-style video. Straight voices for equality are likely to have the strongest impact on homophobic fans.

"To challenge and diminish prejudice, this video could be distributed to football clubs, schools and youth clubs, and it could be played on stadium screens before matches and at half-time.

"The FA and individual clubs should include snappy, visual anti-homophobia messages on tickets, match programmes and billboards near stadiums.

"Kick It Out and the FA could privately sound out several gay and bisexual premier league players about a collective coming out. If half a dozen top footballers came out in a joint statement, there would be safety in numbers. No individual player would be vulnerable to isolation and victimisation.

"The FA, as the governing body and with the most resources, needs to take the lead on executing this four-point plan, but also involve Kick It Out, the Professional Footballers' Association and others.

"Bigotry has no legitimate place in any sport. Homophobia is no more acceptable than racism. We want all prejudice kicked off the pitch.

Congratulations to Kick It Out and the Football Association for taking a stand against homophobia.

"Gay players, like black players, should never be expected to put up with bigoted taunts, insults and threats. We want football to offer a safe, welcoming atmosphere for players and fans of all races and sexualities," said Mr Tatchell.

Kick It Out's new campaign, which started on Thursday 16 October, will see professional football link up with schools, universities, community and youth centres, for a nationwide stand against discrimination and for diversity. Over 1000 events and activities are scheduled to take place.

Kick It Out, which has long campaigned against racism in football, has broadened its remit to become football's equality and inclusion campaign. It is spearheading the new anti-homophobia initiative under the theme of One Game, One Community.

Kick It Out's Director, Piara Powar, said:

"We've been campaigning to rid our game of discrimination. We've made significant headway; black players are everywhere and ethnic minority communities are getting involved, whether they are on the pitch or in the stands. However, there are still no openly gay players and casual abuse of many players has homophobic overtones." –Issued by OutRage!

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