Scottish football’s governing body is taking strong steps to crack down on the prevalence of homophobic and anti-LGBTQ language across the sport. The Scottish Football Association announced recently it will run stadium announcements and other advertisements warning fans anti-gay language is a hate crime, and thus illegal. The organization hopes its actions will foster a more inclusive environment and encourage more players to come out.
Up to this point, late British soccer star Justin Fashanu is the only male professional soccer player in Great Britain to come out as gay while still playing. Fashanu came out publicly in 1990, but was subjected to homophobic taunts throughout his career, including by one of his own coaches, Brian Clough, who admitted in his autobiography he enjoyed dissing Fashanu with anti-gay slurs. Fashanu, who took his own life in 1998, was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame this week.
In addition to campaigning against hate speech, the SFA intends to develop a support system to aid closeted players in their efforts to come out, the Scottish Sun reports. While female players Nicola Docherty and Shannon Lynn have opened up about their sexualities, there are currently no openly LGBTQ players in Scotland’s senior men’s leagues.
The culture of casual homophobia remains a rampant football in international soccer circles. A study conducted by Stonewall, an LGBTQ charity, found that 82 percent of Scottish soccer fans say they’ve heard anti-gay language at matches.
“A strong response to incidents of homophobia plays a huge role in eradicating its ugliness from the beautiful game and shows your (organization) stands on the side of inclusion,” the SFA said in a statement announcing its campaign against homophobia.
Last year, the Mexican National Soccer Team released a video campaign asking its fans to stop chanting the anti-gay insult “puto” at its stadiums, warning the behavior could hurt the club’s World Cup chances.