Yet another MP calls for crackdown on homophobia in football, saying the sport is ‘intolerant of gay people’

Julian Knight: Yet another MP calls for crackdown on football homophobia

A senior Tory MP has joined calls for the government to broaden the law surrounding football offences in order to crack down on homophobia.

Julian Knight, the newly-appointed chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, is pushing for the Football Offences Act (1991) to be broadened to specifically outlaw homophobia.

Fans who engage in racist or indecent chanting can be arrested and ejected from the stadium, and Knight wants to see homophobic abuse tackled in the same way.

Speaking to The House, he highlighted the lack of openly gay players in the upper levels of the sport, saying that it was “incredible” that more haven’t come out.

“It’s incredible is it not, in a Premier League of several hundred players… that we don’t have an openly gay footballer,” he said. “Football is still homophobic, it’s intolerant of gay people.”

Julian Knight described himself as “passionate” about tackling the issue, which begins with a change to the existing legislation.

“[Amending the act] is something that has been mooted for a long time, but because of elections, it’s never happened,” he said. “We’ve got a good run now. Let’s go for that.”

Several other MPs have urged the government to take further action against homophobic abuse at football matches, including Damian Collins, who previously held Knight’s role.

In 2018 Collins launched a draft bill to amend the Football Offences Act, which was backed by the gay ex-Wales rugby captain, Gareth Thomas.

Julian Knight: Yet another MP calls for crackdown on football homophobia

Gareth Thomas has been vocal about the issue of homophobia in football (Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Gareth Thomas continued lobbying for a change to the Act, and last year he directly pleaded with Boris Johnson to address the “black hole in the law” around homophobia in sport.

Speaking about the issue on the Don’t Tell Me the Score podcast, Thomas said: “We will have an act of racism, it hits the headlines, everyone comes out reacting in the right way.

“Another two or three months later another racist act or homophobic act or transphobic act will occur and everyone will react in the right way – but when you look at it seven months down the line, nothing has happened because everyone has reacted enough.”