Sports Minister blasts FA boss as MPs call for end to homophobic ‘banter’

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The Sports Minister has refuted the FA chairman for saying footballers shouldn’t feel comfortable to come out.

Tracey Crouch MP called football boss Greg Clarke out on his disparaging comments: “Now could be as good a time as ever for somebody to come out, but the chairman’s saying that is the complete opposite of the kind of support that a player needs.

“I hope that that will be reflected upon. As others have said, we cannot let a small but vocal minority spoil the game for everyone else.”

Mr Clarke previously caused outrage when he said: “I would be amazed if we haven’t got gay players in the Premiere League, and I am personally ashamed that they don’t feel safe to come out.”

Conservative MP Stuart Andrew called the debate in a bid to tackle the continuing issue of homophobic slurs on the terraces.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Andrew added: “It is time that we make a renewed call for action on tackling homophobia in sport.

“Governing bodies, professional leagues and the most amateur, local associations can do so much to help tackle this issue.

“This is not only a problem for the players, whose mental health may suffer because of the abuse they endure, but for sport in general whose athletes will not be performing at their peak and for talent that leaves the game.”

A poll of 1,250 sports fans for LGBT charity Stonewall earlier this year suggested that 72% had heard homophobic abuse while watching football in the past five years.

Responses on Twitter to the rainbow laces campaign by Stonewall last weekend suggested it was a very real problem.

MPs including out gay Conservatives Stuart Andrew MP and Iain Stewart MP took part in the debate, along with a number of SNP MPs and Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan from Labour.

The debate comes in the same week as ex world champion darts player Eric Bristow was fired from a string of jobs after going on a Twitter rant in which he used the word “poof” to refer to alleged paedophiles.

Dr. Allin-Khan MP said: “All too often, we hear stories about sportspeople posting homophobic tweets.

“These players are role models to aspiring, young children; these role models are message carriers and children look up to them.

“If a child sees their favourite player using homophobic language, they will deem it acceptable and attitudes will just not change.”

The proposer of the debate, Stuart Andrew, said he hopes taking action on the issue will lead more LGBT people to feel comfortable in sport.

“The choice should not be between participating in sport and being open about who you are.

“If we are to foster talent and support our athletes, we need to take clear action to make sport inclusive and route out homophobia.

“There is lots of good work ongoing in this area – tying it all together with clear national priorities and achievable goals is the next step to make best practice widespread.”

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