Thursday, 3 February 2011

GUEST BLOG: The last taboo

Kieron Brady is a former professional footballer who played for Sunderland in the 1992 FA Cup Final. After having his career cruely cut short through injury he now works to promote equality.

The last taboo.

That oft-spouted mantra that by now has a familiarity to all within the LGBT community vis a vis the issues of homophobia, homosexuality and football.

It raises the perpetual questions as to why the national game has not yet succeeded in creating an atmosphere where a player can enter into the public domain that his sexual orientation differs from that of most, if not all, of his colleagues.

My career in the game was brief, a blood condition was sufficient in ensuring that my lifelong aspirations were to be curtailed not long after my teenage years were a reality.

I was in the game, and moreover the environs of the changing room long enough however to perhaps locate one of the areas which is contributory to why the aforementioned atmosphere has yet to be realised.

The answer, ironically may not have its roots in homophobia per se but more so around the sexism and, some would contend, borderline misogyny that permeates through the 'locker room' and acts almost as a de facto clause on one's contract of employment.

We should put to bed instantly any promotion that football is engulfed by the profoundly intolerant.

The game, certainly not from experience or knowledge, is not immersed with Westboro-esque attitudes, the 'Christian' collective hailing out of Topeka, Kansas whose raison d'etre is hatred of many but have acquired infamy through their spleen being directed at the LGBT community through their 'Godhatesfags' promotion. Real Christian eh !!!

Within the discourse around this it is more important to emphasise that the obstacles to a player placing his sexuality into the public arena are more likely to be because the player, or players, are reticent owing to the reality that this feature of their identity emasculates them in an environment of overwhelming manliness, a manliness which many within the game pursue through persistent promiscuity with adoring fans and wannabee 'wags'

Footballers, particularly the younger players, enter the lair with a greenness, their learning of the game coinciding with being brought into a sub-culture of socialising, excesses and omnipotent peer pressure which stipulates that scoring on a Saturday night is as important as finding the net hours previous.

This almost inescapable aura is contributory to why any player, either gay or bi-sexual in earlier years or who has realised this in a post-pubescent period will go through periods of uncertainty, not around his sexuality, around whether such a public proclamation is conducive to maintaining his place amongst the pack.

For most, a declaration that one is asexual would be a preferred option, their inner turmoil convincing them that it would be better to state that I am different, but I am not that different which may lead to an instinctive thought amongst others that screams 'What if he fancies me'.

It would be laughable if without an underlying seriousness.

With the celebrity of footballers at unprecedented levels, it is difficult to see how this will alter any time soon. Fame and fortune are magnetic, both have an allure to the impressionable and as this is a reality that abounds throughout all genres of entertainment it is somewhat unrealistic to expect the beautiful game and its nuances to manifest themselves in a wholly different manner.

And so the question remains, how can the atmosphere be created where players would, if they wished, be prepared to make known that they are gay or bi-sexual?

The answer, though I am not naive enough to think it is definitive, is in education and a greater awareness of their rights and as important, their responsibilities.

As a young player, I was bereft of any knowledge around employees rights. I paid by 'subs' to the PFA without actually knowing what the monies were for or indeed what I could expect from the players association if a situation required their assistance.

Professional football can be akin to the military, the new recruits are indoctrinated to a degree into respecting their seniors and any dissent, regardless of having a potent or justifiable argument, is generally met with contempt that one would have the audacity to question the authority of one of the deified.

This schooling only serves to de-individualise players, it prepares the players for clich├ęs and conformity which in turn leads to robotic rhetoric about 'Me scoring is not important, as long as the team wins' and 'If I can be half as good as x player I will be doing well'.

Young players in particular know full well that other retorts to the mundane questioning of post match interviews can lead to scornful words from elder statesmen in the ensuing days in the workplace.

I recently said in an interview that to make a breakthrough regarding homophobia in society that an order of events would be a footballer making public his bi-sexuality or that he is gay, then in light of any abuse in the environment of his working life it would be imperative for stringent action to make clear that homophobia has no place in the game or in society and this would act as a deterrent for those prepared to exhibit their ignorance and intolerance.

Like racism in yesteryear the calm came after the storm as it were and I believe that challenging the issues of sexism, sexual harassment and discrimination will have gains made through events of late within Sky TV.

I daresay across industry in the ensuing days many who had absorbed the coverage of this episode learnt what actually constitutes sexual harassment or discrimination and have suddenly felt empowered and this new found knowledge may lead to employees across working life recognising that such behaviours cannot simply be excused as workplace levity which infers that a victim has 'no sense of humour' or are 'over sensitive' if they are unprepared to accept such jibes around their gender.

I can appreciate that within the stresses of employment humour is a vital component in absenting the anxieties that the job brings but wit is at its best when all concerned are genuinely laughing and not in order to secrete their angst at the subject matter.

Someone asked me recently if I thought we would have made great strides if one day the papers had splashed across the front pages that a top footballer was gay.

I replied that we will, but not as much as when we are at a stage when a professional player being gay is NOT front page news.

We may have to experience a storm before the calm so to speak, many social inequalities only begin to be deconstructed and the course of history altered through a pivotal moment and watershed when someone decides to take a stand, even if the person momentarily has little idea of the momentous events that can follow. I give you a public bus in Alabama, Rosa Parks and a disputed and dilapidated chair.

In the context of the 'gay footballer' we have to ensure that any public acknowledgement does not have diuretic properties for the footballing establishment. They have to be prepared to clampdown on any invective emanating from supporters, however, in order for the confidence to be created in the former players have to know that they have entitlements and protection as footballers, employees and as important, as citizens.

If that confidence can come through equality training and education then it is worth pursuing as the outcome, if managed aptly, will be beneficial in making a more egalitarian society.

To remove the last taboo it may be necessary for the authorities and clubs to say to fans in the strongest terms that you will be the last to boo.

Kieron Brady
Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance

"True and transparent Equality is only achievable when the suppressed, armed with conviction, see themselves as equal"


  1. Brady never played in the 1992 FA Cup Final for Sunderland.That is a blatant lie that he did and makes you wonder how many more lies and obfuscations are in this article.

  2. Did you know that Keiron Brady is a supporter of the IRA and killing British soldiers? See here