Professional Footballers’ Association issues advice to players on homophobic language

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Every single footballer in the Premier League and Football League will be requested to attend a session this season to receive guidance on homophobic and racist language and where banter oversteps the mark.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is organising the sessions, called the “The Senior Player Programme on Diversity and Equality” and the union has written to the managers of all 92 clubs asking them to make sure players attend.

The sessions will highlight what sort of language is unacceptable – even as banter in the dressing room – and encourage players to report incidents if they are either victims or witnesses of abuse.

Players will also be warned that new contracts will carry clauses making discriminatory abuse a gross misconduct offence and that it could lead to immediate dismissal by a club.

A letter about the programme from PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor has gone out to every manager.

Mr Taylor told Press Association Sport: “We are rolling out these courses on equality and the nature of law in this country so there is no excuse for not abiding by those laws. Letters have gone out to clubs and we need to avoid any such embarrassment again after the recent cases.”

The letter from the PFA to the managers states: “The programme has been put in place to tie in with the increased sanctions around discrimination which will take effect from the start of the new season, [and] will reinforce the importance of equality and diversity issues, particularly in relation to the use of language and to prevent players falling foul of regulations and incurring bans and undue media attention.

“We are looking to arrange this session in the near future and would appreciate you ensuring players attend as a matter of priority.”

The programme has been developed by the PFA in conjunction with the FA, the League Managers’ Association and the Premier League. Each session will last for 45 minutes and will be delivered by two tutors, one of whom will be a former professional player.

In the sessions, players will be given scenarios where abuse occurs – either from fans or from other players – and guided as to their correct response. They will also be asked to judge what they regard as dressing room banter and told whether their views are appropriate.

Players will be given a list of unacceptable words. “The training is not aimed at trying to reduce banter in the dressing room, but to get players to think about what they use as the basis for their jokes and banter and to avoid using discriminatory language,” the PFA state in their notes to managers on the programme.

The FA’s anti-discrimination group Kick It Out launched a new campaign to tackle homophobia and other discrimination in July.

As well as the new campaign, the group launched a mobile app which allows players and fans to anonymously report racist or homophobic abuse. 

In April, gay retired basketball star John Amaechi said British football still has a long way to go in accepting gay players.

He accused the Football Association of allowing “dinosaurs” to dominate its management.