Tackling discrimination in footballFebruary is the international campaign month of ‘Football v Homophobia’ (FvH) and Reading Football Club is supporting the initiative.
FvH is a campaign uniting fans, players, communities, grassroots teams, professional clubs and the Football Authorities in opposing homophobia and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in football.
Year round, FvH enables people to take action against prejudice and discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity in football, and to celebrate and welcome diversity in the game. This culminates in an international show of support in February to raise awareness of the issue and to join together in making a visible stand against prejudice and for inclusion.
The campaign was launched in 2010 and manages to generate global attention. In the UK there has been a massive show of support and many professional clubs take action every year. At Reading, we are pleased to be supporting the campaign again this season.
Homophobia and LGBT discrimination has long been an issue in football. In 1990 the first professional football player in the UK to come out as gay, Justin Fashanu, had an intense struggle with his sexuality and how it was received in the game. More recently we have seen Robbie Rogers come out. Robbie retired briefly when he made the announcement about his sexuality. But now, following massive support from players and fans alike, he plays in the US for LA Galaxy. In 2014 former Premier League player Thomas Hitzlsperger also came out as gay. Both of these players have talked about the challenge of being gay and working as professional footballers, and the impact that anti-gay jokes and language can have on confidence and self-esteem.
Casey Stoney, former England Women’s captain, has also spoken out about her sexuality. Whilst she felt accepted within football circles, she has also spoken of her fears of stereotypes and of being judged by the ‘outside world’ for being gay.
More than 20 years after our first professional player came out, football is starting to show progress on the issue of homophobia in the game. However we still have some way to go. Even heterosexual players and supporters can suffer homophobic abuse, when fans and teammates think it is okay to call someone ‘gay’ as a term of abuse or make jokes about someone’s sexuality because they don’t fit in with the team or simply because they’re not having a very good game.
Change always starts with education and we recognise that Reading FC has a role to play in leading the way on raising awareness of homophobia and LGBT discrimination within the club and its community. We will continue to work to create a safe and inclusive football environment for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity – football is no place for hate or bigotry.
Supporters can find out more about the Football v Homophobia campaign by visiting www.footballvhomophobia.com or visiting their Facebook or Twitter pages.