The English Football Association is to tell clubs to be more welcoming to homosexual players in an attempt to halt discrimination in the English national game.
In a campaign to begin in September 2003, the FA says that anti-homosexual attitudes on the pitch and in the stands must be stamped out to make the sport “inclusive” for gay players. It will also give warning that players, officials and fans who abuse, bully or assault homosexuals could be suspended, fined or even banned from the game. The campaign, similar to previous attempts to eliminate racism, will extend from the grassroots to the Premiership, and has been prompted by concern that football traditionally macho image has forced players to conceal their sexuality to avoid persecution.
Only one professional player, the former Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu, who killed himself in 1998, has openly declared his homosexuality. His club’s manager Brian Clough, notoriously bullied him, calling him “a bloody poof”. Other footballers, including Graeme le Saux, the Chelsea and England full-back, who was called a “faggot” by Robbie Fowler, a fellow international, have faced taunts about their sexuality from players and fans, despite being heterosexual.
The FA will communicate its message to clubs throughout the country, spelling out to officials and players that discrimination against homosexuals is as unacceptable as racism.