Monday, 7 November 2011

Equality takes longer than 90 minutes? Yes, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.

For those of you across the world reading, apologies - it is quite a UK-focused post.

In the past week there has been a lot of media publicity on the issue of homophobia in the game, from a member of Brighton and Hove Albion's supporters club asking for authorities to take homophobic chanting more serious to homophobic messages being displayed on a Crawley Town player's Twitter account.

Following these articles, Rod Liddle penned these thoughts in yesterday's Sunday Times titled "Equality takes longer than 90 minutes".

For those of you without a subscription or a hard copy of the paper, I'll provide a few extracts.

Talking about eliminating racism in the game, Liddle writes: "We're almost there but not quite. And the force for change has not been pressure groups or the Kick It Out campaign, but a gradualism occasioned by more black players, more black faces on TV and so on.

"You cannot conceive of yourself as being the master race when a black forward has just made your white defence look static and imbecilic, or when your local MP is black.

"And so it will be, I suspect, with homosexuality. For a while now the FA has attempted to outlaw homophobia at grounds but I suspect that this will make the chants even more homophobic."

Mr Liddle concludes: "You force this stuff on people and in the end it just causes even more resentment."

In a way I can see the point that Liddle is trying to make is that changes in society and culture result in more change than action by those in charge of the game.

A lifelong Millwall fan, he has seen the ugly side of the game up close, particularly through the 70s and 80s when it was a no-go place for many.

But in this issue we feel he has largely skewed his effort wide of the post.

For homophobia and transphobia IS now unacceptable in wider areas of society - even other sports - yet football continues to lag behind.

Not just on the field, but off it too, it remains a very male dominated enclave where any issues around sexuality are frankly just not talked about, never mind embraced.

The reason? Perhaps because football is the most popular game in the world, its authorities could afford to take the view they do not have to take equality seriously.

Note that does not mean they do put the issue to one side, just that there is little impetus for doing so from the financial point of view.

For instance, are sponsors going to turn away from the game if a high-ranking member of the footballing authorities makes a homophobic statement?

How much money did Fifa lose when Sepp Blatter made his infamous remarks about members of the LGBT community attending games in Qatar?

The actions of a number of activists and groups, such as the Justin Campaign, have played a major role inensuring this issue is now being looked at more seriously.

Bosses are now realising that football can be a force for good and, instead of waiting for a rap on the knuckles from the Government or being shamed into action by the media, football authorities can and are taking a more proactive stance.

The Premier League and the Football Association can use its global profile to spread a message of equality and show it can use this to change people's views, not reinforce them.

As one twitter user, known as Gixibyte, wrote when I posted the comments earlier: "The alternative is to do nothing. Which breeds more homophobia. Ignore the isolated minority who fume at anti-homophobia."

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