Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kieran Brady, an ex-footballer of Sunderland AFC. We met to chat about the way in which we could link the message of a Gay Pride event in Sunderland into football, and the inequality that has clearly been present for a number of years.
As a person who has never watched the 'beautiful game', there isn't much Kieran and I can chat about, and both understand, but, one thing we did agree on, was the fact that although racism within the 'beautiful game' is so obviously present, so is homophobia, and clearly not supported enough.
One idea we discussed was the reason why players identifying as gay choose to hide their sexuality from fans of theirs and also fellow team-mates is due to the lack of support shown from the FA, compared to the amount shown for racism.
We came to the conclusion that this was mainly due to fact there is a continued lack of support to homophobia from any angle within the game, shown through the lack of campaigns compared to the racism aspect present, and the taboo that sexuality seems to hold within the game.
Young players first entering the game enter with a great deal of learning to be done coinciding with being brought into a sub-culture of socialising, excesses and peer-pressure which stipulates that scoring on a Saturday night is as important as training for their careers. It is perhaps, these players that should be moulding the way in which homosexual players are looked at.
The recent breakthroughs in other sports, such as Gareth Thomas openly expressing his sexuality to fans, team-mates and more importantly, and perhaps even more worryingly, the media, in the game of rugby, and many other figures in a range of different sports, shows that football is leagues behind.
One of the main issues seen in the sport and to those that 'come out' is homophobia within the sport, yet recent cries from individuals across the UK, and from the gay lobbying charity Stonewall, regarding the issue have fallen on deaf ears at the Football Association, despite authoritative research demonstrates that anti-gay abuse in the sport has been witnessed by seven in ten fans.
Stonewall's Chief Executive, Ben Summerskill said the game is 'institutionally homophobia', and perhaps, based on the findings of Stonewall's 'Leagues Behind: Football's Failure to Tackle Anti-Gay Abuse'. Perhaps the 'beautiful game', isn't so beautiful after all?