Premier League pledge to tackle homophobia


Premier League football clubs today showed homophobia the red card as they pledged to eradicate it from the game.

The Government's voluntary Sports Charter against homophobia and transphobia was launched in March last year, with ministers urging sports stars, clubs and ruling bodies to sign up.

Today the Home Office said the charter had received a "decisive boost" as it was backed by all 20 Premier League clubs.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: "The whole world admires the skill and competitive drama on display in our football grounds but too often we also see the worst of intolerance and discrimination.

"That's why the Government launched the Sports Charter last year. It's a rallying cry for all of us to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport.

"Everyone with an interest in sport will want to spread the message that homophobic and transphobic abuse is never acceptable.

"Nearly 3,000 individuals and clubs have already signed up and I'm delighted that Premier League clubs have taken a stand by signing the Charter too. It sends a really strong signal when clubs in the best league in the world say enough is enough."

The Premier League itself signed the charter when it was launched last year, with Wycombe Wanderers becoming the first professional club to support it in October.

Commenting on the move by the 20 top flight clubs today, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said: "The Premier League and our member clubs believe that everyone should be able to participate in, watch and enjoy sport, whoever they are and whatever their background."

Openly gay sportsmen and sportswomen, such as Welsh rugby international Gareth Thomas or female tennis legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, are not uncommon in other sporting disciplines.

But the only professional English footballer ever to speak publicly about his homosexuality was Justin Fashanu, who killed himself in 1998 after he was questioned by American police over the alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old.

In his suicide note, Fashanu denied the allegations and claimed that due to his homosexuality he did not expect to get a fair trial.

Gay rights organisation Stonewall carried out research which showed that seven in ten fans attending a football match in the last five years has heard anti-gay language there.

A majority of respondents also said they believed gay players are being stopped from coming out by their clubs and agents, with 78% saying they thought openly gay players would face hostility from fans.

According to a report by gay dating site, two thirds of gay men are deterred from going to football because they believe there is still a "great deal" of homophobia at games.

Simon Johnson, product manager at Gaydar, said: "It's not necessarily surprising that only a small number of gay men go to football matches, but what is shocking is that so many aren't going because they are worried about their safety due to homophobia within the sport."