Brighton & Hove Pride Festival 2018 will see an empty "float" in the parade tomorrow in the shape of a double-decker bus sponsored by the bookmaker Paddy Power. The bus is festooned with slogans and calls to action to the currently anonymous gay Premiership footballers. The bus is designated to carry all the openly gay Premier League football players in the parade. Needless to say, the bus will be empty.
The tongue-in-cheek gesture is aimed at highlighting the unreceptive atmosphere towards the LGBT community within the upper levels of professional football, notwithstanding the recent attempts by the Football Association to show inclusion by means of the FA's Inclusion Advisory Board giving a seat to Chris Paoruos of the Proud Lilywhites, the gay Spurs Supporters' Association. Paddy Power has also taken full page adverts in the Metro newspaper to underline the fact that statistically, it is reasonable to expect the Premier League to reflect the same proportion of individuals who identify as LGBT found in society, however, the reality is that not one of the hundreds of Premier League footballers is openly gay.
Gareth Thomas, the former international rugby player, has made enormous headway in his attempts to address homophobia in football and has spearheaded the campaign to add homophobia to the Football Offences Act with the introduction of a Private Members' Bill which is currently on its way through parliament. Gareth interviewed Gabriele Giambrone for his documentary, Hate in the Beautiful Game, and Giambrone drafted the Code of Conduct outlining how homophobia should be dealt with when encountered both within the club itself and within the fan base. It is hoped that the Code of Conduct will be adopted by football clubs in the future.
Greg Clarke states that he is ashamed that no gay Premiership footballer feels he is able to come out, unfortunately, his past comments and attitude to discrimination of all kinds is not especially encouraging. As one MP stated when he appeared in front of a parliamentary committee investigating allegations of discrimination and referred to institutional racism, institutional bullying as fluff, "speaks volumes about his attitude".
In a survey carried out for BBC Radio 5 live to assess the views of football fans, it revealed that whilst the majority of respondents did not see a problem with gay players, a significant 8% of respondents said that they would no longer support their club if there was a gay player. It seems that football clubs take a commercial decision not to field gay players to protect their bottom line. Until the senior figures in both the clubs and the Football Association genuinely get behind a campaign to rid the sport of its prejudices and discriminatory attitudes and show a zero tolerance to homophobia on the terraces the players will not reveal themselves publicly, either as a group or individually. All the time there is a hostile unsupportive attitude towards LGBT football players the Premier League football players will not even consider coming out.
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