Saturday 16 December 2017

Five talking points from Playing it Straight - a documentary looking at homophobia in football

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew and Stephen Byrne - credit: @lifestyleRTE
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew and Stephen Byrne - credit: @lifestyleRTE
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

There has been a lot of reaction to Playing It Straight tonight, a documentary that shines a light on football's attitude to homosexuality.

The hour-long look at the issue was fronted by Stephen Byrne, an openly gay TV and Radio personality with RTE, and the programme raised a number of interesting points about how homophobic football can be.

Here are five talking points from tonight's important documentary, screened on RTE 2.

Is all bigotry created equal?

The question is raised during the documentary of why football does plenty of work to combat racism but does little, in comparison, in terms of homophobia.

When one Crystal Palace fan is asked what is 'unacceptable on the terraces', he says 'anything racial' but doesn't think about mentioning somebody's sexuality.

There are countless high profile campaigns targeted at stamping out racism and it is well past time that the various governing bodies adopt a similar stance to homophobic abuse.

Le Saux trying to make a difference

Ex-Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux, who has a wife and children, was regularly taunted with homophobic abuse during his playing days. Now he works with the FA and part of his role is to help provide mandatory education to any players found guilty of engaging in homophobic abuse.

Le Saux feels that these measures, along with a five match ban for any player who uses homophobic language, is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.

The message should be staring football fans in the face

Byrne makes the point that when you open up the Football Manager game, the first thing you are greeted with is a big 'Kick Racism out of Football' ad. He wants something similar done with an anti-homophobia message.

It isn't enough to just start campaigns to stamp out the abuse, it must be loud and prominent so it becomes ingrained into the minds of fans.

The sound of silence

Byrne says he reached out to plenty of clubs in the top two English leagues but got little response from clubs. That reaction sums up why there is no openly gay Premier League footballers.

With so many teams reluctant to address the issue, why would any footballers feel comfortable coming out?

Pardew's viewpoint

The only manager who agrred to talk to Byrne was Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew and as the Premier League's most prominent homegrown manager, he offered an interesting perspective on the issue.

Pardew says he has never seen a homophobic culture in the dressing room as either a player or a manager besides a 'bit of banter'. The Eagles manager thinks it will take one player to come out to change the perception that football fans have about homosexuality.

He added that he can't think of a 'logical reason' for why no footballers have come out in the Premier League and that he would 'love' if one of his players came out so that his club could lead the change.

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