Last November the Rugby Football League became the first national sporting governing body to sign up to an anti-homophobia campaign. It is hoped that this move, seen by gay rights campaign group Stonewall as ‘ground-breaking’, will be followed by other sporting bodies.
At last years Olympic games, of the 10,708 athletes that took part only 10 were openly gay. A study carried out by Bath University found that between 2% and 10% of people are homosexual. If this is the case, then why is it that there are so few openly gay sportsmen and women?
At present the only professional footballer to come out as gay is Justin Fashanu back in 1990. During his football career he received homophobic abuse from fellow players, fans and even his manager. He received very little support from the FA. Sadly the pressure of being openly gay in a macho sport became too much and he committed suicide in 1998.
Not all sportsmen have suffered the same treatment. Australian Rugby League star Ian Roberts came out in 1995. The reaction of the sporting world and the Australian media was one of support.
But the media is not always that supportive. The negative comments aimed towards female tennis as being a ‘gay sport’ is an example of this.
This is a difficult issue to tackle, as many sportsmen and women are understandably afraid to come out, fearing the consequences. If this is going to change it needs to come from society as a whole and we need to be more tolerant of differences, and as fans, to judge by ability not sexuality.
The lead taken by the RFL must be followed. Groups such as the Gay Football Supporters’ Network also have a part to play in making this positive change. The GFSN aim to “promote the support and participation of gay men and women in football”.
The RFL campaign begins this month and includes the setting up of a forum for gay players and staff. Posters and logos will be carrying a slogan, which we at Heckler HQ fully support, ‘some people are gay, get over it’!