I went along to Peterborough United vs. Watford on Saturday 21st April to conduct a pilot study for my dissertation research on sexuality in football. Overall I was very encouraged with the outcomes.
The main aim of my pilot study was to gauge how willing fans were to talk about the issues, assess the quality of my questions and address any theme that came out of the participants responses. From the results I can elaborate and add to my extended list of questions for the final study.
I approached a number of fans with two initial questions: Firstly, 'what are your views on a potential gay footballer playing for Peterborough United?' and secondly, 'how do you think fans in general would react to a PUFC player coming out?'.
Overall, I was encouraged by how willing fans were to talk to me and the depth they went to in their answers to my questions.
A few themes emerged from my research, mainly the fact that it wouldn’t matter if a player came out, especially if they were playing well. Participants thought that home fans would welcome and support a player coming out whereas away fans would make up chants purely as ammunition against the other team. It was not suggested that these chants would be homophobic in any way. All participants believed that it would take a ‘big name’ coming out to change and normalise the situation in football in the long term. Finally participants thought that the main thing stopping players coming out is the fear of the unknown both on the pitch, with the fans, with the media and in the dressing room.
A few points emerged that I had not considered prior to my study. Firstly the varying attitudes of fans in different areas of the ground. A steward in the Family Stand suggested that she could only speak from her experiences in the Family Stand and that other stands, especially the terraces may react differently. Secondly, the differences in the attitudes of fans across the country; It was mentioned by 3 different parties that fans at Elland Road often aim homophobic chants at players. These last two points have highlighted the need for my research to encompass experiences of Peterborough United fans from further afield than just London Road.
Overall, I am very encouraged by my afternoon at Peterborough United and I look forward to reporting my findings as my research takes shape.
Thank you for your support