Sports minister Hugh Robertson pushes football clubs to ‘stamp out’ homophobia

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson, has urged professional football clubs to do more to tackle homophobia in sport, including taking on an anti-homophobia initiative, which a third of clubs have signed up to so far.

Mr Robertson urged teams to take on the Football v Homophobia campaign, which launched in February, and which aims to combat homophobia.

According to the BBC, only 29 out of 92 clubs are signed up to the campaign. Campaigners hope that half of the clubs will sign up by the end of March.

“The toolkit from the FA is a good initiative and I urge more clubs to use it,” said Mr Robertson.

“Discrimination of any kind must be stamped out. I want to see the football authorities increase their efforts to tackle homophobia.

“I was encouraged that their joint anti-discrimination strategy, published in December, includes action in this area as more needs to be done.”

The Football v Homophobia campaign issued a toolkit to clubs on 25 February, which guides them in how to combat homophobia and reach out to LGBT fans and players. The move was backed by the England manager and West Ham team.

It gives ideas of how clubs can express their stance against homophobia on match days, using announcements, or messages in the club programme.

Back in 2012, all 92 professional clubs signed a voluntary Sports Charter from the government against homophobia and transphobia in sport. The Chairman of the FA, David Bernstein, said that no football player should fear coming out of the closet

The campaign’s spokeswoman Megan Worthing-Davies, said there was a fear that clubs would sign up, without taking action, but did acknowledge that improvements had been made.

“The charter on transphobia and homophobia in sport was very much a sign-up initiative,” she told BBC Sport. “Now they need to do something to tackle this issue at their clubs”, she said.

“When the Justin Campaign first launched in 2010, we had about three clubs who were actively involved, and no Premier League clubs.

“Last year we had 24 involved, with seven from the Premier League so there is progress. We would like to see more clubs getting involved, and our hope is to have 50% of the 92 taking action.”

Eight out of twenty Premier League teams have signed up to the scheme, and 21 out of 72 Football League clubs have also joined.

Football v Homophobia is hoping that 150 professional and amateur clubs will join the campaign.

It was set up by the Justin Campaign, which is named after Justin Fashanu, the only professional footballer in the UK to have come out as gay while an active player.

The campaign follows Robbie Rogers, winger for Leeds United and the US national team, coming out as gay after retiring in January.

In February, speaking at a StandUp Foundation event organised by parliOUT, Parliament’s LGBT staff network, Hugh Robertson, said that he was “slightly appalled” by the fact that so few sports people feel able to come out whilst still competing.

In January West Ham player Matt Jarvis said gay footballers should come out, that they would be supported, and that they might even play better if they did.