The Anti-Homophobia in Football Commercial the FA Decided Not to ShowBy: Daryl | February 11th, 2010
I think it’s safe to say that football – and specifically English football in this case – is not very gay-friendly. There are no openly gay professional footballers in England, and the treatment Justin Fashanu received in the ’90s probably isn’t encouraging any fellow players to follow suit.
The Football Association has talked a good game in recent years about wanting to remove homophobia from English football. They have been working with Stonewall and other gay rights activists on a project designed to address the problem. The result was a 90 second anti-homophobia commercial that was due to premiere at Wembley Stadium today, but has instead been cancelled/postponed [delete according to your personal level of cynicism].
The commercial is below. Be warned: It features some pretty nasty insults, but only to demonstrate just how unacceptable some of the language you hear in English football stadiums can be:
[Video via Queerty, a blog with the excellent tagline: "Free of an agenda. Except that gay one."]
It definitely gets the point across. Maybe a little too forcefully, which seems to be the problem the FA has. Though I think the offensive language in the video is justified by the eventual payoff, I suspect there’s plenty of scope for the easily confused to take offence.
A spokesman said the game’s governing body was still “committed to its stated aims of tackling homophobia in football.” He added: “After consultation with our Tackling Homophobia Working Group we have now produced a viral film which will form part of our overall strategy. We will now enter a final stage of consultation and will shortly be in a position to announce the next stage of the strategy, including the launch of the educational film.”
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was not impressed with the FA’s decision, or the way English football’s governing body has handled this whole thing:
It has thrown the Football Association’s commitment to tackling homophobia into disarray. The video agreed by the FA and Kick It Out [anti-racism campaigners] features strong homophobic language. The main character, a youngish man, abuses a newspaper seller, tube train passenger and an office worker with anti-gay taunts. The video finishes with him shouting homophobic abuse at a football match. The captions make the point that since homophobia is not acceptable at work, it should not be acceptable on the terraces either.
I wanted an MTV-style video, with an appealing, uplifting, positive message, featuring top players and a good music track. Sadly, the FA never seriously attempted to get top players to participate.
I’ve got some sympathy for the FA here. I’m optimistic, and inclined to believe, that they’re serious about tackling homophobia in football. I think they’re just maybe a little out of their depth and didn’t quite know what they were getting into. I can almost picture the awkward awkward looks on their faces after seeing the commercial for the first time.
Tatchell’s last comment is pretty telling though. A more positive message, carrying the endorsement of some of the big names in English football, would have been both more effective and easier to swallow. Maybe this little controversy will lead to some of those big names lending their support to future anti-homophobia FA initiatives?