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Fans dispel homophobic stereotype

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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A large-scale study of football’s stakeholders has revealed that the overwhelming majority are "relaxed" about the presence of gay players in the professional leagues; findings which are at odds with the homophobic reputation of the game in this country.

Researchers from Staffordshire University quizzed 3,000 fans, players, managers and officials on their attitudes to gay players, revealing interesting results. 80% of respondents would "welcome more honesty from players about their sexuality", while 27% of players who responded said they personally knew of current gay professional footballers.

The leader of the study, professor Ellis Cashmore, said of the findings "most fans are embarrassed by the assumption that they are rabidly homophobic. They emphatically state that the only feature of a player that interests them is whether or not he can play. As one fan put it, ‘I’d rather have a gay player who can play football than a straight player who can’t’."

Not all responses were so positive, however. Comments included "Gays can’t play football – fact" and "I’m homophobic, so would find it weird chanting for an openly gay player".

PR Guru Max Clifford claims to have advised at least two Premier League players to hide their sexuality in the past because the game "remains in the dark ages, steeped in homophobia". The results of professor Cashmore’s research raise the question as to whether it is this supposed attitude of fans and fellow professionals that is holding back gay footballers from outing themselves, or other factors.

Clifford’s comments indicate that it is perhaps the attitude of their clubs, agents and marketing companies that are behind the secrecy, believing that a player outing himself would be detrimental to his career (or at least his earnings). The findings of Staffordshire University’s research, as well as anecdotal evidence from others sports where players have outed themselves, seem to dispute that theory.

The second stage of the research on attitudes to homosexuality in the game is open to all fans, and can be found at, while you can join the debate on the findings of the survey and let us know what you think can be done to eradicate homophobia at the FSF’s Facebook page.

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