Hyde FC tackle homophobia in football

By James McLaughlin

Hyde FC are taking the lead in welcoming homosexuality in football and have sent a strong message to all levels.

But what will it take to finally accept what is seen as the last taboo in the beautiful game?

The issue of homosexuality in football was raised in the recent BBC Three documentary ‘Britain’s Gay Footballers’ centred around Justin Fashanu, the last openly gay professional footballer in Britain. National awareness body ‘The Justin Campaign’ have designated his birthday as the focus of their annual ‘Football v Homophobia’ scheme after he came out publicly in 1990.

Before Hyde FC’s 4-0 win over rivals Droylsden on Saturday, players and officials posed with a campaign banner and shirts with the match attended by members of gay football team, Village Manchester FC.

Founding Director of matchball sponsor ‘Just a Ball Game?’, Lindsay England praised Hyde saying: “They have been brilliant and shown tremendous support.”

Hyde FC have previous history tackling homophobia having received an equality award after becoming the first non-league club to sign the government’s anti-homophobia charter.

Chief Executive Ted Davies said: “We want to tackle homophobia. Some clubs may be hesitant but we’re happy to take the lead and forge a pathway for others to follow.”

“It’s about what’s right in the modern world. We live in a free, caring society and we want everyone to be a part of it.”

Questions have been raised as to whether players would be accepted by players and fans alike if they were to come out in today’s game after Fashanu faced a vicious backlash.

Hyde Manager Gary Lowe said: “I’m sure there are lots of gay footballers out there and I’ve no doubt had gay footballers in my dressing rooms over the years although none have come out publicly.

“It’s new ground, but the important thing is to stand together. We need to break barriers but the first will always the hardest.”

It is evident that football has moved on from the dark days Fashanu endured and it would be difficult to envisage similar scenes from a modern player’s family and teammates.

Captain Dave Birch echoed this, saying: “Regardless of what sexuality they are, they’d be made welcome and I don’t see why the lads would treat him any different regardless as we are in the 21st century.

“So long as he’s a good footballer he’d be welcome into the dressing room regardless of his sexuality.”

However, with the terrible homophobic abuse of Sol Campbell highlighted in BBC Three’s documentary, it’s clear that the game is still a long way from stamping homophobia out for good.

If a grass roots football club is showing such positivity towards the issue, surely it is time the torch was carried by professional clubs.

Miss England said: “It’s great to see a semi-professional club like Hyde getting behind this cause but now it needs the clubs with thousands of pounds who haven’t necessarily done all they could.

“There’s one or two professional clubs who are working hard but we need to keep doing more,” she added. “The messages have to come from the very top and they have to be the right messages.”

Unfortunately, Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho sent out precisely the wrong message from the top last week.

Inspecting CSKA Moscow’s snow clad pitch before their Champions League fixture, Mourinho was caught apparently using homophobic language.

When discussing what colour ball to play with, the self titled ‘Special One’ allegedly said in Portuguese: “Those f*****…do not say that you play ball?”

Miss England said: “It’s totally out of order and the governing bodies need to come down hard.

“David Beckham had that word said to him by opposition fans a few years ago. We asked for it to be reported but nothing ever was.”

Speaking in the BBC Three documentary, Joey Barton cited ‘archaic figures’ within the game as stifling progress in accepting homosexuality in football.

Although moves are clearly being made to address the issue it may not be until the younger generation come through that wholesale progress happens.

Miss England said: “I think the next generation coming through are part of the solution. The culture needs to change and when it does, people will follow.”

With the Gay Football Supporters Network meeting Prime Minister David Cameron last week, it is clear that tackling homophobia is starting to gain similar exposure to anti-racism campaigns.

Although it is a long road ahead, with continued backing and clubs tackling the issue as proactively as Hyde FC, it should only be a matter of time before high profile bodies take the cause up with such enthusiasm.

If the current players and powers that be tackle homophobia on board wholeheartedly, future generations should help blow the full time whistle on homophobia.

However, for now it seems, we’re only approaching half time.

‘FOOTBALL V HOMOPHOBIA’: Hyde FC tackle an important issue

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