“Gareth Thomas v Homophobia: Hate in the Beautiful Game”
Gay in Football
It has been fifty years since the partial decimalization of homosexuality took place in England and Wales and Gareth Thomas takes a look at what he sees as the last bastion of open homophobia in sport – professional football. Meeting fans, players and pressure groups alike, he wants to find out what is preventing gay footballers from coming out.
In the world of rugby union, openly gay former Wales and Lions captain Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas has proved time and time again that “where there’s a will, there’s a way” or in his case – there’s a winner. We see how difficult it is to face the disturbing reality of the truth behind homophobia in the not so beautiful game and that there is a apparent lack of a support program for any footballer thinking about coming out to his teammates and the public alike.
Gareth has discovered the shocking view that since no player in the Premier League is “officially” gay, there is “seemingly” no need for such a program. Yet with around 5,000 professional footballers in the UK, such is not only a statistical improbability, but also a sheer impossibility. Indeed, Gareth’s own agent confirmed that he knows of a number of gay footballers that are living lies and in fear. What is so shocking is the “normality” of homophobia. As bad as verbal abuse is, it is nothing when compared to the appalling abuse found online Gareth offered to meet with those who posted such hate but they all declined.
More than willing to meet Gareth however were others who shared his desire to show homophobia the red card one of whom is Amal Fashanu, the niece of Justin Fashanu; namely the sole player in the UK ever to come out while playing the game only to suffer a tragic end. Credit must go to all those players who participate/d in the likes of Kick It Out, Football v Homophobia and Rainbow Laces, all being praiseworthy campaigns aimed at challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at all levels in football. There are run by those who truly care about making the game a beautiful one but the absolute power to make it so, again does not lie with them. It is with the Football Association and the Premier League itself. Gareth requested meetings with FA Chairman Greg Clarke and PL Chief Executive Bill Bush to discuss the situation with them direct. They declined to meet.
Gareth went where some would have preferred him not to and he so with legal advice. He created formed his own “Code of Practice”; an action plan aimed at eliminating homophobia within professional football and one that he duly emailed to the Football Association, the Premier League, the Professional Footballers’ Association and all 92 clubs in England and Wales. What they will do with this highly constructive document remains open to question.
Gareth is a man who gets things done and here he’s done his upmost to address the issue of homophobia in professional football head-on.