BBC3 air documentary tackling the issue of homosexuality in football

By James McLaughlin

BBC3 are to air a documentary tackling the issue of homosexuality in football on Monday.

‘Britain’s Gay Footballers’ airs at 9pm Monday, January 30 and will be hosted by Amal Fashanu, niece of the late former Manchester City player Justin Fashanu.

The programme will explore the perceived barriers gay professionals face in coming out publicly and the reasons why no players in the UK have followed in her uncle’s footsteps.

In 1990, Fashanu publicly came out, suffering a backlash from supporters and former colleagues as well as his brother, former Wimbledon forward John Fashanu.

In the 22 years since, only one high level player has publicly come out, Anton Hysén son of former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysén, who made an announcement last March.

However, the documentary will highlight that there are approximately 5,000 current professional footballers in Britain and although some are openly gay to friends, colleagues and families those who are gay are not yet ready to come out in public.

Village Manchester Football Club (VMFC), was established as a 5-a-side team in 1996. Sixteen years on, they now field two 11-a-side teams in the Manchester football leagues.

VMFC Communications Officer, Peter Ransom said: “Although it’s not on the mainstream BBC channels, or Football Focus where the questions maybe should be asked, any highlighting of the issues can only be positive.”

Mr Ransom added: “Hopefully the documentary can help highlight the absence of openly gay footballers at the highest levels of the game. I believe in the next five years, there will be an openly gay footballer, probably towards the end of their career.”

Voluntary body, the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) were consulted in the making of the documentary and welcome the programme.

Chairman of the GFSN, Chris Basiurski said: “We welcome the BBC documentary on gay footballers and hope it stimulates debate on why professional players do not feel comfortable enough to be open about their sexuality.

“The UK is at the forefront of LGBT sport with the world’s only national gay football league so it seems strange that the attitudes in the professional game are so far behind.”

The scrutiny professional footballers’ lives come under is cited as a reason why active players may not be ready to publicly come out.

Mr Basiurski said: “Footballers’ careers are typically short and you only need to look at Rooney or Terry to see how intrusion into a player’s personal life can affect performance. It’s surprising though that no retired professionals have come out.”

The documentary has been supported by former Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton who says “Archaic figures” are proving to be halt progress in embracing homosexuality in football.

Such opinions have recently seen FA action as City’s former defender Michael Ball was fined £6,000 on Monday after he posted homophobic tweets.

GFSN spokesman, Simon Smith said: “The FA is quite clear on homophobic abuse in that it is dealt with in the same regard as racist abuse.”

Mr Smith added: “In Manchester United’s Carling Cup tie with Crystal Palace, some Palace fans made homophobic remarks about Brighton.

“They’ve since been reported and the FA do deal with homophobic abuse seriously.”

‘Kick It Out’ was originally established in 1997 to tackle football racism and is now a full time organisation with public funding.

Organisations such as GFSN and The Justin Campaign are run by volunteers and there is no publicly funded anti-homophobia footballing body.

The hope is that the current crop of players, coaches and boardrooms will help tackle the issue once and for all and future generations of gay footballers will feel comfortable enough to be public with their sexuality.

Mr Basiurski said: “I think it’s down to everyone involved with football to create an atmosphere where players are comfortable coming out when they’re ready.

“We’ve come a long way but we’re not there yet.”

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