British Police have begun an investigation into alleged homophobic gestures by an English soccer player Tuesday.
Colin Kazim-Richards of Blackburn Rovers F.C. is believed to have made several anti-gay insults towards fans during an away game against Brighton and Hove Albion. The latter club’s fans are often the subject of homophobic abuse from opposition supporters given Brighton’s status as the UK’s gay capital.
The movement for LGBT inclusion and equality in sport has been dented in recent weeks, following comments from San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver that he would not accept a gay team mate. Fellow players Ahmad Brooks and Isaac Sopoaga’s refusal to back the team’s “It Gets Better” video in which they featured added fuel to the fire.
Though the issue of racism in soccer is given prominence by world governing body FIFA, policies to combat anti-gay discrimination in the sport are only in their infancy. The UK’s Football Association (FA) only drafted their “Opening Doors & Joining In” Action Plan for including LGBT people within soccer in 2012.
This is despite the fact that a British parliament publication from September 2012 focusing on soccer racism in the country identified bigotry against homosexuals as now being more of a problem than other forms of prejudice.
“Recent research found that 25% of fans think that football is homophobic while 10% think that football is racist. About 14% of recent match attendees also reported hearing homophobic abuse,” the report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee stated.
Sports bodies rely on other organizations and charities to aid the effort to eliminate homophobia from their game. The FA works with the ‘Justin Campaign’ on this issue. The operation raises awareness in the area of gay inclusion, being named after former player Justin Fashanu who tragically committed suicide in 1998 after a long-standing battle for acceptance, having come out years previously.
Established organizations are now spreading the message also. Previously being a body which campaigned solely against racism, ‘Kick It Out’ has a responsibility now extended to general discrimination in soccer.
“Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion campaign. Part of the organization’s remit is to educate groups and individuals within the game on the negative impact of homophobia, an issue that Kick It Out has seen increase in recent years. This has been manifested in high-profile incidents involving professional players and complaints from fans about widespread homophobic chanting in football grounds,” the organization states in “Opening Doors & Joining In” in conjunction with the FA.
However, there is recognition that a high-profile campaign is still needed to highlight the damaging effect of homophobia in soccer, given incidents such as those in Brighton.