Homosexuality in football has always held a seemingly unwavering stance that it quite simply, does not exist. It seems that, despite England legalizing homosexuality in 1967, the pace of acceptance within the sporting sphere has progressed at a glacial pace. The long held, and equally unsubstantiated, notion that a footballer’s masculinity is relative to sexuality, in addition to other factors, has forced the subject to be continually regarded as taboo.
The emergence of gay players within top flight football has been very slow coming, and understandably so. Historically, the reaction of the media, players and the wider footballing community has been less than hospitable to any sexual orientation that falls outside the Christian norm.
While the common belief that “coming out” may compromise the commercial value of a player and/or team’s brand, this is largely debatable when applied in other areas of society – gay politicians and entertainers, celebrities and musicians have been managing in a relatively liberal and comparably commercial environment for a long time. Despite this, it would appear that football is still largely archaic in its approach to sexual preferences.
…a disappointing but plausible decision…
Former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger has only just revealed he is gay but strategically made his announcement at the end of his playing career, a disappointing but plausible decision in what he described as a “macho environment”. Former Leeds player Robbie Rogers came out in February and retired almost immediately. Despite returning to football a few months later, Rogers claimed he always heard homophobic things in locker rooms that scarred him.
So is football making any in-roads in creating an environment where gay players can play without fear of repercussions? Perhaps not. While homosexuality is featuring prominently in the media following the recent wave of gay marriage legalization in various countries, and strong displays of resistance to anti-gay movements, football is hardly jumping on the bandwagon. At current there are no openly gay players in the top European League, something Hitzlsperger acknowledges as “a bit bizarre”.
…tough sanctions on those found guilty of homophobia…
The FA has guaranteed their support for any Barclays Premier League player in openly admitting to being gay and has assured tough sanctions on those found guilty of homophobia. This is a small step, but one in the right direction and it is with crossed fingers that we can realize Hitzlsperger’s vision of moving the “discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards” at a pace that keeps with the rest of the modern world.