Hayley Paterson, the Justin Campaign's new Press Officer, talks about what made her join us in the fight against homophobia in football.
I love football, I always have. I’ve played it for as long as I can remember. It’s a sport that can offer up a ridiculous range of emotions, that being pure ecstasy to total agony. I live for the sport, but there’s also an ugly side to football – and one which ultimately led me to getting on-board with The Justin Campaign.
I knew all about Justin Fashanu, I admired his courage and prayed that when announced he was gay, those words would change world football forever. It has in some instances I have no doubt about that. Without his brave stance we wouldn’t have people talking about homosexuality in sport today and trying, like this campaign, to stamp out the prejudice that surrounds sexual orientation in football.
Since Justin’s incredible act of bravery and tragic death, there have since been a couple of footballers who have taken the plunge to come out and say who they really are. But there is still so much more that needs to be done – and that is what I want to be a part of.
As I wince into my coffee cup realising how old I really am after working out that I have played women’s football for no less than 17 years since the tender age of 11, it is apparent to me that sexual orientation is much more accepted and talked about in the female game – that’s what I want to achieve in the men’s equivalent.
Sexual orientation in sport needs to be talked about. It’s time to challenge the small-mindedness where people think that players can’t possibly get changed in the same dressing room as a gay team-mate for fear of them coming on to them.
And pardon the pun, but it’s time to tackle the archaic views that top-flight football clubs cannot have a gay player in their side because they won’t be as strong or athletic as someone who is straight.
I want to talk to people about their views on homosexuality in football. I want to challenge the stereotypes and interview players, managers and whoever else concerned about a subject which should no longer be taboo in the world’s favourite sport.
That’s why I have got involved in this fantastic campaign. I don’t just want to focus on the top level men’s clubs, I want to challenge the thought processes of grassroots level and women’s football.
So, as I climb back down from my soapbox, I just wanted to sign off by saying it’s an absolute privilege to be involved with this campaign in a press capacity and I hope you all do the same – it’s time to change world football forever and if we’re all on the same team (so to speak) then I’m sure we can challenge those old-fashioned misconceptions and kick out homophobic discrimination once and for all.
(Follow me on Twitter @HayleyP_11)