Friday, 12 February 2010

Sweet FA!

So the FA paid a measly £10,000 to an ad company to make a 'Stamp out homophobia in football' ad. They paid probably 100 times this for their stamp out racism campaign. The final result was cheap, misdirected and ultimately withdrawn before its big release.

The video, in case you've not seen it, is here.

Many commentators are concerned with its level of abusive language. Others think it merely suggests homophobia is okay so long as you don't say. Others still think that by asking why homophobia is acceptable in the stadium, the advert is leaving the debate open for discussion. As if there might be a justification for homophobia on the pitch.

I think the real problem with the ad isn't that it asks a question open to debate; for me it's that the ad is asking us to look at the wrong questions. The real problem with homophobia in football isn't one to do with the fans. Fans will shout out anything when their teams are playing. The real problem is that no gay players are out in the premiership. It's institutional homophobia, not verbal homophobia, that is the core problem football needs to stamp out. It's a problem with the FA not the fans. The problem with the fans should be a secondary concern.

To illustrate: the FA has black and ethnic minority players in its teams already. So the related anti-racism campaign didn't need to demonstrate that fact. Instead it focussed on the attitude of fans, and tried to shame them into changing their chants by having prominent footballers of all ethnicities speak out on the subject. But whilst gay men are completely invisible in the sport, it would be pointless to try to highlight homophobic chanting as a problem. Who would be the prominent footballers of either orientation to stand up and speak out? There could only ever be straight or closeted footballers speaking up. What kind of message is that? 'Okay, don't you fans be homophobic; leave that to us players who are too ashamed and too worried of any stigma to come out.' Yeah, like that would work.

The problem is that we're asking the FA to change fans' perspectives without first changing their own. The measly £10K they threw at this campaign shows they've not changed at all. Asking an institutionally homophobic organisation to fix its own homophobia is like asking a blind person to fix their own blindness. It just won't work. What the FA needs is outside LGBT-driven organisations and charities to work with and educate their members at all levels. They need to encourage learning and understanding. Then we need to encourage more LGBT players to come out. I bet you anything, once a supporter finds out one of their team members is gay (like when a homophobe discovers his brother or best mate is gay), they will most likely turn round and support him. Most footballers I know would put their team spirit and their devotion to their kit colours before any childish chanting. I bet they'd learn to support their LGBT players too.

But unless the FA are actually forced to take a look at their own problems, and made accountable for this disaster themselves, I doubt there will be any changes any time soon.

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