Homophobia is alive and well in English soccer, where only 16 of 160 clubs in seven divisions reacted positively to an initiative to support gays in the sport, the Independent reports. This comes at the start of a weeklong international imitative, Football vs. Homophobia.
The campaign wrote to every professional English club asking them to get involved. The letters suggested a number of ways in which clubs, players and coaching staff could raise the profile of the issue – from mentioning it on Twitter to promotions in match-day programs or PA announcements. Only six Premier League clubs agreed actively to help.
"Football's in the gutter at the moment," said a senior government source. "And they've got real problems with homophobia in dressing rooms and on the terraces. It needs top clubs to speak out repeatedly and as publicly as possible."
Amal Fashanu, the niece of Justin Fashanu, the openly gay English soccer player who killed himself in 1998, had some pointed words:
"If a player decided to come out now, I don't think there would be enough support available. That's why we are trying to create a climate so that people will feel safe.
"The really, really sad thing is when you have people who are actually not gay but fear that they might be categorized as such if they speak up. They don't want to stand up against discrimination. Why? Them saying, 'Listen, let's kick homophobia out of football', that's not going to make them gay.
One of the 16 English teams supporting the Football vs. Homophobia is the Ipswich Town Football Club.
Camilla Haycock, Media and PR Manager at ITFC said: “There is no place for homophobia in football. Ipswich Town is happy to support the Justin Campaign by emphasizing its important message to our fans by flying the rainbow flag at Portman Road during Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Trans Gender history month and via the match day program.”
For more information, see the Justin Campaign, started to fight homophobia in soccer in memory of Justin Fashanu.