HOMOSEXUALITY in football has been a topic which has been thrust into the limelight recently.
Former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger told the world that he was gay.
Gainsborough Trinity player Liam Davis has also since revealed that he is a gay professional footballer for the Conference North side.
However, these two instances are a rarity at any level of the game, mainly due to the feared negative reaction that could face those with the courage to reveal their sexual orientation to the watching public.
This is one of the reasons that Burton Albion is putting its weight behind a campaign to combat homophobia.
The campaign, entitled ‘Football v Homophobia’, aims to unite fans, players, communities, grassroots teams, professional clubs and the football authorities in opposing homophobia and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in football.
‘Football v Homophobia’ is endorsed and supported by the Football Association (FA), the Premier League, the Football League, the Professional Footballers Association, the League Managers Association and racism body Kick It Out.
A spokesman for the club said: “Burton Albion and Burton Albion Community Trust is proud to offer its support for this initiative in partnership with the County FA.”
Jodie Allard, football development officer for inclusion at Staffordshire Football Association, said: “Homophobia, prejudice and discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in football is unacceptable.
“As the governing body for football in Staffordshire, it is our duty to create safe and inclusive environments and opportunities in football for everyone.”
“Together with ‘Football v Homophobia’, we will work to improve football for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans, players, members of staff and anyone involved with the game.
“We will work with, educate and lead our teams throughout the county on work around homophobia and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender discrimination, and for the benefit of our communities, work towards a game in which everyone can be proud to participate.”
‘Football v Homophobia’ also operates schemes throughout the entire year that allows people to take action against prejudice and discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity in football, and to celebrate and welcome diversity in the game.
This culminates in an international show of support in February to raise awareness of the issue and to showcase new and existing work.
Lou Englefield, the campaign’s director, said: “This is about everyone taking responsibility to address the causes and consequences of homophobia in football.
“This isn’t just about players coming out. It’s about all of us – including heterosexual players and fans who attend matches week in week out – being willing to speak out and take visible action to challenge prejudice in the game.
“We are pleased to be working alongside all of the football authorities and hope that together we can make this the biggest year yet for the campaign against homophobia in football.”
‘Football v Homophobia’ was born on October 27, 2009 when The Justin Campaign, in association with Kick It Out and Brighton & Hove Albion, held a debate on homophobia as part of ‘One Game, One Community Weeks of Action’.
Much work has been done in the area of anti-racism, attitudes have been changed and it is now accepted that any form of racism is simply wrong.
The FA wants to focus its attention on the issue of homophobia and transphobia in football.
The FA’s General Secretary Alex Horne is keen to stress that steady progress continues to be made.
“It was two years ago that we launched our own ‘Opening Doors and Joining In’ inclusion plan in conjunction with ‘Football v Homophobia’,” said Mr Horne.
“Our goals remain clear; homophobia, alongside other forms of discrimination, is not welcome in English football and we will continue to work to eradicate them all from the game.”
More information on the campaign is available at www.footballvhomophobia.com