Arsenal are one of only 16 clubs out of 160 in England’s top seven divisions who have responded positively having been asked to promote a campaign to stamp out homophobia.
Contacted to take an active part in the Football v Homophobia campaign, the Gunners have quite rightly indicated they are willing to publicise the drive; a state of affairs which is in marked contrast to fourteen other Premier League clubs who have avoided any such commitment.
Nevertheless, despite being onside with moves to tackle football’s ‘last taboo’ it has been suggested, in an article by The Independent, that the Gunners (along with five other top flight clubs) dragged their feet when asked to help organise a photo shoot to promote the Government’s Sports Charter to combat homophobia and transphobia in sport.
Speaking ahead of the Blackburn game, designated to celebrate Arsenal for Everyone, chief executive Ivan Gazidis, put forward his reasons as to why the club had signed the Charter:
“Signing the Government’s Charter for Action builds upon Arsenal’s commitment to drive an inclusive atmosphere and calls everyone to unite against homophobia in sport,” he told Arsenal.com.
“Football has the power to bring people together in a unique way and we believe there should be no barriers to feeling a sense of belonging to Arsenal Football Club.
“This is something we will continually drive – particularly through our Arsenal for Everyone initiative – which aims to create an inclusive atmosphere for our fans, staff, players and followers – whoever they are and wherever they’re from.”
Justin Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1998, remains the only UK professional player to come out while still contracted to a club, while Sweden’s Anton Hysen is the only openly gay player currently playing in world football.
It’s a wholly regrettable situation, but perhaps not surprising given the complete lack of leadership on the issue from FIFA president Sepp Blatter – a man who recently suggested that gay supporters travelling to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar ‘should refrain from sexual activity’ because homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf State.
Speaking to The Independent, Megan Worthing-Davies, director of Football v Homophobia, said: “We heard back from many clubs who said, ‘We’ve signed up to the charter so we’re not going to be involved with Football v Homophobia’.”
Andy Wasley, from Stonewall (the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Charity), said: “Actions speak louder than words, and it’s one thing to sign a charter, it’s quite another then to actually do the hard stuff like training officials and stewards to make sure they challenge homophobia when they see it.”
The 16 teams signed up to Football v Homophobia so far are: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Fulham, Liverpool, Newcastle Utd, Norwich City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Derby County, Ipswich Town, Millwall, Huddersfield Town, MK Dons, Wycombe Wanderers, Exeter City, Port Vale and Hyde FC.
Arseblog News commends Arsenal’s willingness to tackle homophobia and hopes that the club does its utmost to promote the campaign in the near future. Just because we’re not winning trophies doesn’t mean that we can’t earn the respect of the football fraternity and wider community in other ways.
The Football v Homophobia campaign runs between 18th -26th February. To learn more visit www.footballvhomophobia.com.