FA to tackle homophobia with video featuring football stars
The Guardian, Saturday 27 December 2008
A video showing football stars speaking out against homophobia will be released next year as part of an unprecedented drive by the sport's governing bodies to tackle a sharp rise in abuse and discrimination.
The video will be shown in cinemas, on TV and in stadiums in an attempt to rid terraces and pitches of homophobic chants and slurs, the Guardian can reveal.
The Football Association (FA), the Professional Footballers' Association, the players' union, Kick It Out, the sport's diversity and inclusion campaign, and Peter Tatchell, of gay rights group Outrage!, began work on plans for the video at the end of last month. It is hoped that up to a dozen players, including David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, David James, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Cristiano Ronaldo, will be persuaded to take part. The video is due to be released in March and could be shown in schools if the FA wins the backing of the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
"We're delighted that the FA has decided to produce and fund the video, it will have a hugely positive impact on young people and help to challenge bigoted attitudes among fans," said Tatchell.
The FA has put aside a budget of £20,000 and is hoping that a major advertising agency will take on the project at minimal cost.
Gay rights groups have been pressing the FA to tackle homophobia and believe the ad campaign is a breakthrough, prompted by a number of recent high-profile allegations of homophobia. Hampshire police are still investigating the homophobic and racist chanting directed at Portsmouth's Sol Campbell during a match against Tottenham Hotspur in September.
Danny Lynch, of Kick It Out, said that football - often seen as the one of the last bastions of homophobia - was out of synch with public opinion. "When we were set up 15 years ago, monkey chanting and banana throwing was commonplace, but football has changed and you just don't see that kind of behaviour any more. But in the absence of traditional racist abuse, we have seen this sharp rise in homophobic abuse and dealing with it is now a key part of our remit, " said Lynch.
Justin Fashanu was the first openly gay professional player when he came out in 1990. Eight years later, after he committed suicide, a coroner said prejudices, and the sexual assault charge he was facing, probably overwhelmed him.
Jason Bartholomew Hall, of the Justin Fashanu Campaign, said: "Footballers are revered by youngsters. It would be fantastic if they saw their heroes saying that homophobia is unacceptable."
Guardian article on response to the Pope's comments against gay rights: "Pope's Speech: 'Gay Rights Groups React Angrily'