Homophobia in football is on the rise, whether this be insulting chants, verbal abuse towards players or being spat on or kicked at football matches.
London Titans are an LGBT team in, surprisingly, London. Their team is seen as a ‘safe place’ for gay, bisexual or transgender people to play football without fear of abuse from straight players or spectators.
Jim Hearson is a gay player who has experienced homophobic abuse during games, he feels the end goal for London Titans is to kick homophobia out of football.
He said: “The end goal is for us to not to need to exist anymore because once theres no hint of homophobia about and everyone feels comfortable then we’ll have done our job, but that could be a few years off yet.
“It’s definitely getting better, the fact that we’re playing in mainstream leagues and not getting any abuse, that’s good.
“But there are still isolated incidents that we need to be aware off. Until it’s totally wiped out at all levels of football then we need to keep going.”
“We have had people who have been kicked, punched and spat at.”
Jim, also head of communications at London Titans, praised local football bodies for trying to combat discrimination.
He said: “They’re definitely trying, there’s a fair few initiatives. We’ve got a good relationship with middlesex FA, we play in their league.
“There’s a lot of momentum towards equality in this respect. It’s just a case of plugging away at it, because it’s just making sure people know it’s still an issue that’s the main thing really.”
“It’s a long way off, but every little helps really.”
London Titans playing at an LGBT tournament they held in October.
“I quit football after abuse”
Tom Carr is a gay footballer who used to play in a non-LGBT team, but has since quit football after being abused by opposition players who knew he was gay.
Tom was playing in goal when members of the other team took it in turns during corners to stand next to him and insult him under the referee’s nose.
The Plymouth fan was left so scarred by this that he left football, and hasn’t returned since.
He said: “A few years ago I was playing in goal for my local side, we were playing an opposition where a lot of the players knew each other, so the opposition knew I was gay and they chose to target me during that match to unsettle me.
“About five minutes in the centre back comes up who knew me from school and whispers things in my ear that no-one else can hear. Abusive words and phrases.
“It was really unsettling for 90 minutes, I couldn’t really go anywhere, or tell anyone. After that I didn’t play again. It’s more psychological abuse than anything.”
The Premier League and homophobia
‘The most entertaining league in the world’, The English Premier League is home to hundreds of footballers. Yet there is not one openly gay footballer in the league.
Statistically, this is extremely unlikely and there has been rumours circulating for years that a handful of players are homosexual but have avoided coming out through fear of abuse.
Football fans can be vicious in a pack mentality, something that has been demonstrated through racist chants in football, so is that the sole reason a player wouldn’t be open about their sexuality?
Here’s what a member of the London Titans thinks: