Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Laces_2672681bProfessional footballers in Scotland and England have been asked to wear rainbow laces in their boots this weekend to highlight homophobia in the game.

Sets of laces have been sent to each individual player at every Premier League and Football League club, plus at the 42 teams in the Scottish Professional Football League by gay rights charity Stonewall who have joined forces with Paddy Power.

The Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign is all about changing attitudes in football towards gay players and the rainbow laces, and advertising, are part of the campaign.

One advert reads “Over 5000 footballers and none of them are gay -what are the odds on that?”

Have a think about that. There must be a few footballers who are gay surely? But as we all know, football is a man’s game, right? So there’s no way someone would be gay! Right?

Wrong. I’m damned sure there are many of them, and we all know the real reason that no player has officially “come out”. Their life would, no doubt, be made a misery by some of the “enlightened” fans we have in this country, and no doubt he’d get stick on the pitch too. I can understand it. Why ostracise yourself?

Can you imagine alienating yourself on such a grand scale? It’s wrong, but we know the facts don’t change. Homophobia has always been huge in football.

I’ve been in dressing rooms, and to be honest they’re not for shrinking violets. But why should someone’s sexuality get in the way of them doing their job? Does it change their ability to play the game? Could there be a Messi or Ronaldo in the gay community?

I never looked on my colleagues differently because of their sexuality and even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t get away with it in the workplace – I’d be fired at the first hint of homophobia and rightly so.

I’ve heard it said that dressing rooms are intimate places and some men would feel uncomfortable with sharing with a gay man. What? Why? It’s a wee bit presumptive for a start! I think some of these people secretly think of themselves as God’s gift! Gay men have standards too … or do you know many heterosexual men who fancy every women that walks the street? (Being willing to sleep with them is different!)

Football is of course a totally different arena. It’s the last bastion of masculinity (well maybe some elite golf clubs would argue otherwise!)

But let’s say your favourite player was gay. How would you feel? Be honest.

I’m sure it would take a bit of getting used to because, of course, no footballer is gay, and so they would be unique, surely?

But would you really stop supporting them because of what they do in the privacy of their own home? Frankly, it’s none of your business, nor mine.

Paddy Power would probably not take a bet on the odds, given that there are 134 clubs across England, Scotland and Wales in the PremierLeague, Championship, League One, League Two, Scottish Premiership, Scottish Championship, Scottish League One, and Scottish League Two.

This means there are around 5000 players registered across these Leagues.

The odds on there being no gay person in a random sample of 5,000 In long form that number is: 22,947,321,563,647,480,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!

Surely that’s worth a fiver? You would get the same odds for predicting a 150 result accumulator.

We have Show Racism The Red Card, which we all fully support, so why don’t the clubs back this campaign in the same manner?

Call me cynical – but if a club’s top star was to come out as being gay, would the club be pleased – would it enhance or damage their commercial value?

The UK itself, has in the main, been fairly liberal in its attitudes to homosexuality since it was legalised in 1967. Many people are backing gay marriage and would hopefully back a gay footballer.

There are many openly gay entertainers who are idolised and remain as popular as they ever were with a sprinkling of criticism or humour about their sexuality.

Take George Michael. He’s done pretty well since coming out – nobody seemed to openly criticise him. Elton John – one the greatest ever entertainers. Gay and was chairman of a football club.

But football has always had an immunity to openly gay men. There have been rumours in the press about individuals or urban myths about players being gay within the support.

In 2008, ex-Celtic defender Paul Elliot estimated that at least a dozen Premiership footballers were gay but were afraid to “come out” due to a perception that they would receive a negative reaction. Would you? Can you imagine the abuse. If a gay
player was having a poor game? You can bet your bottom dollar that their own support would subject them to homophobic abuse. On the other hand, I’m damned sure you’d be jumping around hugging your mates if they scored the winner in the Champions League Final.

Previous surveys on the subject brought up the recurring theme that the governing bodies aren’t doing enough. They know that, but they have offered their support, and the PFA has done the same. More importantly, there needs to be acceptance and understanding from the players themselves.

In all my time of supporting or being involved in football I can name one gay player, which would increase the odds massively given that’s almost 40 years.

How many SPFL players will wear the rainbow laces this weekend and back this campaign?

More importantly what will the club’s boards and fans do?

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Comments on Somewhere Over The Rainbow

  • Steven Clarke

    A lot of pertinent points there. Whilst we all carry prejudice it goes further when it forms bigotry.

    Celtic’s Mission Statement should cover this?

  • Willmacufree

    Maybe we don’t know how many are gay because nobody is bothered about it. Why do we have this apparent need these days to delve into and publicise people’s sexual preferences? It’s nobody else’s business.

  • John

    A very interesting read, and sadly one which I find hits the nail firmly on the head when it comes to fan and supporter attitudes.

    Much as I enjoy my football, my first sporting love is the always skillful, yet sometimes brutal, war that is ice hockey. The stereotypes around the game that were brought to the fore in Paul Newman’s 70’s classic Slap Shot, and more recently in the not-so-classic Goon, would suggest that hockey is a game for fighting, drinking, shagging “real men” and that there would be no place for anyone who’s sexuality didn’t fit that mould. On and off the ice. But it isnt so. There are a number of “openly gay” (whatever that actually means) players at the very top of the game in The NHL and lower leagues and their sexuality just isn’t an issue. It simply doesn’t matter. There have been gay players grace the ice here in the UK, both home-grown and imports, and in the many years I’ve spent playing and following the game I’ve never once heard any abuse or derogatory comments about their sexuality thrown at them. A misplaced pass, or not back-checking hard enough, now that’s a different matter and their overall ability will be questioned in the starkest terms even by those who have never laced up a pair of Bauers in their life.

    Maybe it all comes down to the fans. While I love to see two guys drop the gloves on the ice and toe to toe for 30 seconds, I’d be appalled to see it on a football pitch. A good hit into the plexi-glass leaving an opponent floored will get the rink on its feet second only to a goal, but I’d hate to see a full-back (do we still have them?) put an opponent into the stands. So while my favoured sport has a far more bloodthirsty edge to it, the fans really don’t give a damn about the sexuality of the guys, and girls, they are cheering on the ice.

    It’s a funny old game.

  • ATucker

    Another excellent article !! This is one example of why Gay Footballers fear coming out.
    In Britain, no professional footballer has come out and continued his career since Justin Fashanu, a black millionaire player from 1990. He quit playing in 1994, but hanged himself four years later, aged 37. Fashanu had said he had not been prepared for the backlash that followed his disclosure, his football career suffered heavy damage as a consequence. The danger is not so much coming out, if you don’t exceed what’s expected of you, the fans will then use the sexuality thing to have a bash at you.
    I doubt if they will ever be made to feel safe and comfortable.
    A shame really.

  • Althetim

    Why is it gay people have to make a song and dance about being gay? Why can’t they just get on with their lives without demanding everyone else gets involved with it too? What exactly are they trying to achieve by sending these laces to every pro footballer in the country? Are they attempting to persuade – or force – footballers to express their sexual preference? If so, why? Who gives a damn?

  • Gavin McCann

    Is football as a sport not culpable of not allowing people to be who they are?

    Black players to this day suffer racism. Look at John Terry.

    The whole point is that fear of loathing means any player would not disclose their sexuality.

    I think we’re a long way from full acceptance.

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