Top footballers ‘refused to appear in anti-homophobia film’

Top-ranking footballers turned down requests to appear in the FA’s anti-homophobia film because they feared being ridiculed on the pitch, it has been reported.

The FA revealed last week that the film’s premiere had been cancelled because they needed more time to work on it. It had been criticised for not giving out the right message and not doing enough to tackle the problem.

According to the Independent, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) approached big-name players and their agents to ask them to support the film but all declined.

Some footballers, such as Sol Campbell and Graeme Le Saux, have suffered homophobic abuse from the terraces. Le Saux wrote in his autobiography that he began to dread going to matches.

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the PFA, told the newspaper last night: “Everybody assumes footballers are full of confidence, but it is not easy on issues like this.

“Remember there was a time when even black players did not feel they could talk about race.”

Peter Clayton, the chair of the FA’s Homophobia in Football advisory group and the FA’s only openly gay councillor, added: “I suspect agents and clubs shied away from it,” he said. “A player coming forward to appear in it would feel he might ignite more vitriol.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told last week that he wanted a video which would include high-profile players and give a positive message about gay footballers and fans.

Former NBA player John Amaechi also criticised the video, saying it was “incendiary” and “vulgar”.

The FA is now reviewing its strategy on tackling homophobia in the game.

A Stonewall report last year found that the majority of gay football fans had heard homophobic abuse hurled at players during matches.

Although Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas plucked up the courage to come out in December, there are currently no openly gay top level footballers.

Justin Fashanu came out in the 1980s but suffered bullying and was given little support. He later committed suicide.