Homophobia in football: This is what it’s like to be a gay fan and hear chants of ‘f****t’

"The absence of a gay male player in the premiership means that there is something wrong" Darryl Telles.

Reports of homophobia in football have risen by 9%, according to the most recent study by Kick It Out.

Darryl Telles, author of We’re Queer and We Should Be Here, has experienced homophobia in football over the last 40 years of being a loyal openly gay Tottenham Hotspur supporter.

Coming out in the 70s, Telles believed he was “the only gay man that was into football”, but his “life changed forever”.

According to Telles, stadiums have become a friendlier place for queer fans since the legislation of The Football Offences Act 1991, which outlaws racist or indecent chanting during matches.

However, Telles is sceptical whether this proves that attitudes have actually changed or whether “it’s an issue of toleration now where it was one of complete avoidance and hatred”.

Watch the video below to see the full interview with Darryl Telles:

Discrimination in football: Homophobia and racism.

Darryl Telles believes that “football still has a taboo when it comes to sexuality”, which is evident in the “offensive remarks, chanting and sometimes violence” he has witnessed at games towards the LGBT+ community.

He tells PinkNews about hearing “faggot” and “puff” used as homophobic slurs to football players and fans, Telles says, “it makes us feel unwelcome”.

Robbie de Santos, director of sport at Stonewall, addressed the issue in a comment to PinkNews, he said: “Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic chanting and abuse still sadly happen on football terraces and across all levels of sport.

“Our research shows there’s a huge appetite among people to kick discrimination out of sports at all levels. That’s why our Rainbow Laces campaign is about giving people the confidence to tackle this abuse and show their visible support for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, on and off the field.

“We are working closely with the Premier League, the FA and many others to make sport truly inclusive for LGBT people. Our research shows there’s a huge appetite among people to kick discrimination out of sports at all levels,” he told PinkNews.

Telling PinkNews: “We want more players, fans, clubs and organisations from across sport to join in and understand how they can play a part in changing attitudes and standing up for LGBT equality. Our work won’t be finished until every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person, from fans to players, are accepted without exception.”

Telles believes that men’s football will only become a queer-inclusive sport when a top-flight player or manager come out, as currently there are no openly LGBT+ football players in the male Premier League.

Telles says that racism is still prevalent within football. He said it was terrifying to hear the racist and homophobic chants that Tottenham football fans would abuse Sol Campbell with.

When asked what Tottenham Hotspur are doing to tackle racism and homophobia in football and their club, a spokesperson said: “Ahead of every home match, all attendees are given details of an anonymous text messaging service where any abuse, homophobic or otherwise, can be reported to our team, who work with the police to act swiftly and appropriately.

“Any kind of discriminatory or anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated by the club. We have a strict, zero-tolerance attitude in this regard and shall take action against anyone behaving or using language that is abusive, offensive or obscene.

“The club continues to work closely with Proud Lilywhites, our official LGBT+ supporters’ group, who we liaise with on all issues surrounding equality and inclusion.

“This year, Proud Lilywhites have worked with Tottenham Hotspur Foundation to recruit a dedicated LGBT+ officer – a first in football.

“The Club is an annual supporter of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign and previous activations on this subject include lighting the Wembley arch in rainbow colours in the past two seasons and having representation at the Pride in London festival.”

The most recent figures by Kick It Out report that racism in the sport has increased by 22% from 2017 to 2018.

Telles says: “I’d like to think that my experience is better over the last 25 years but at times I do feel like all of the gains that we’ve made in terms of homophobia and racism, could be taken away.”

He adds: “At the moment it feels more like toleration, we’re tolerated.”

Darryl wants football to become a place where he is able to “put [his] hands around a partner and take them to a football ground and walk hand in hand with another man”.

Pride: In your football team and sexuality.

As a gay man in the 70s, Telles believed that coming out meant he would have to hang up his Spurs scarf for good.

“You stood out of the crowd if you were going to be black and wanted to be open and out about your sexuality,” he says.

His “life changed forever” after finding other queer Tottenham fans at the Gay Footballers Supporters’ Network.

But for Darryl Telles, he has found confidence in numbers and is able to have pride in his race and sexuality at matches.

Looking back at when Section 28 was in motion, Telles and his friends at the Gay Footballers Supports’ Network would campaign for equality within sport. Today Telles still understands his presence as an openly gay man in a “heterosexual environment” as political.

Darryl wanted to share his intersectional experiences of being a loyal and proud football fan and wrote We’re Queer And We Should Be Here: The Perils and Pleasures of Being a Gay Football Fan on the 25th year anniversary of the Gay Footballers Supporters’ Network.

He stresses that for members of the LGBT+ community that want to celebrate football, they can find support at Gay Football Supporters’ Network.

Telles says: “I don’t want the passion to go, we can still be passionate, we can still be tribal, we can still support our club but let’s just get rid of the offensiveness and remember that football at it’s best is for everyone.”