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Football Association launches anti-homophobia campaign as Amaechi, critics blast them

The Football Association in England has launched a new campaign to end homophobia in soccer. The program, called 'Opening Doors and Joining In,' is aimed at making football more inclusive of both players and fans. It clearly shows the FA wants to get serious about the issue (though some question whether it will have much result). The FA has also released two lengthy videos (below) featuring players and executives talking about the need to end homophobia and transphobia. From the FA Web site:

The event included a six-point FA action plan promoting inclusion, widening diversity in the game and addressing discrimination in all its forms – education, visibility, partnership, recognition, reporting and monitoring.

FA General Secretary Alex Horne opened the conference and set the tone for a frank exchange of views which demonstrated how far the game has come, but also how far is still to go. The key going forward was to ensure an environment where discrimination will not be tolerated.

He said: “If you ask me whether there are any gay professional footballers, you are asking the wrong question. What today and the action plan is about is ensuring that anyone can participate in our game without fear, regardless of their sexuality.

“If someone is gay, we want them to feel secure if they choose to be open and know they will not be subject to abuse or ridicule.”

It may be a nice start, but not everyone is ready to hop on the FA bandwagon, and for good reason. The FA's story about its own program started with this little nugget:

The FA has pledged to continue leading the way on tackling homophobia and transphobia within football.

Continue leading? Mmmmmm...I don't think so. I don't believe you can "lead from behind." While they are leaps and bounds ahead of all of the pro sports leagues in the United States, they are all collectively well behind the curve. And the FA's previous anti-homophobia campaign included a TV commercial that many thought was so bad they couldn't even run it.

Before the announced launch of the campaign, out former NBA player John Amaechi laid the blame for homophobia in football squarely on the shoulders of the FA. He told the BBC:

I don't understand why football fans aren't more angry by the way they are portrayed by the football authorities. If you look at the first horrible video they did on anti-homophobia, it made it very clear that the problem lies with you. You stupid, blue-collar people in the terraces. It's you stupid urban, re black, people on the field. It's your fault. Then they sit in their boxes and their boardrooms and all the attention is deflected away from them.

Well, it's 2012 and they have just appointed their first woman to the board. Does that really tell you they are a progressive organisation or they are now reacting to the fact the focus is starting to shift on to them? A board that has just voted a woman on to the board in 2012 is not progressive. They are by definition the problem.

Amaechi has also used Twitter to target the FA's limits of "posters and platitudes."

Others are also skeptical of the impact the FA's efforts will have. From Pinknews:

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who formerly sat on the FA’s anti-homophobia working party, said: “This new initiative is commendable and welcome, but it’s full of vague, general pledges. There are not many specific, concrete proposals. It’s worthy but low-key. Sadly, it won’t make a major public impact.

“To set the agenda and reach the fans, the Football Association should be pressing clubs to include anti-homophobia messages on tickets, in match programmes and on stadium screens at half-time. This would ensure the FA’s new initiative gets high-profile visibility and impacts public consciousness.”

To be sure, some nice videos of people talking and a six-point plan are a good start to the campaign. And it's very encouraging to see the FA clearly want to get serious about these issues. But specific goals are needed to have a true effect. Hopefully the FA will continue to put resources toward this initiative and find its way.