Joey Barton tells students: Football is making ‘so much progress’ against homophobia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Football star Joey Barton says the game has made “so much progress” on tackling homophobia.

Speaking to a group of students at the Oxford Union on Thursday, the Queens Park Rangers player discussed his involvement in last year’s rainbow laces campaign by Stonewall and Paddy Power.

The two organisations encouraged league players to wear rainbow laces in a show of support for gay players during one weekend.

Barton: “I had an uncle who was gay, who I grew up idealising and adoring. So it was something that was close to me… I always try and flip it and say ‘imagine he was in my position and I was in his position’. How would I adjust? – and I thought ‘yeah this has to be spoken about’.”

The player continued: “We’ve made so much progress and we don’t even know we’ve made that progress. But the issue is not to stop and go ‘great, we’ve made progress’. The issue is to keep pushing. I keep thinking to myself: it’s 2014 – we’re liberal in lots of ways and yet this is still an issue.

“It shouldn’t even be newsworthy, it shouldn’t even be an issue – because what business is it of mine or anybody else’s what someone’s else’s sexuality is? They should be judged solely on what they are as a person. If they’re a good footballer and a good person, who cares what they are, it doesn’t bother me, why should it bother anybody else, it’s equally nobody else’s business.”

Barton added: “The fact that we’re still having these conversations and these debates and we have to do stuff like the [rainbow laces] campaign says that there’s something wrong with society and something wrong with our game, predominantly, within society.”

Earlier this month, a Channel 4 documentary showed that homophobic chanting by fans remains a key problem for clubs across the country.