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Top Fan Study Finds 80 Percent of Fans are Not Homophobic

October 5, 2010

The Guardian reported Tuesday, 21 September, that new research from Staffordshire University indicates that 80 percent of football fans are not homophobic, and would in fact “welcome more honesty from players about their sexuality.”

Staffordshire professors Ellis Cashmore and Dr. Jamie Cleland conducted the study, which involved 3,000 football fans, professional players, referees, and managers. The majority of comments show fans are primarily interested in a player’s skills on the pitch, rather than his life off it. However, there were still comments that were indeed homophobic, and expressed such sentiments as, “Gays can’t play football – fact.” Cashmore explains that football fans seem to consider verbal homophobic abuse of players as accepted ways to taunt the opposition.

The study additionally found that 27 percent of the professional players who participated in the survey said they personally knew of current gay players. Cashmore observes that the problem may not be with the fans’ perceptions of players, but rather with players’ clubs and agents. “Clubs do not like players who court controversy and command more interest than the clubs themselves,” Cashmore observes, citing the recent allegations about Manchester United star Wayne Rooney’s private life and his subsequent omission from the team sheet.

Finally, Cashmore draws parallels between the present homophobia in football and the racism of the 1970s and 1980s. He notes that such racism eventually disappeared from football with the popularity of players like Ruud Gullit, Tony Yeboah, and Patrick Vieira, but says that if players continue to hide their sexuality, “it could turn poisonous.”

To contribute your opinion to the study, please visit You can also follow the Top Fan Project on Twitter.

[The Guardian]

– Leanne Elston

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ish permalink
    October 6, 2010 12:53 am

    An interesting read, this. Clubs and agents need to realise that the attention-courting nature of homosexuality in football wouldn’t be so prominent if more players came out, which requires those clubs and agents to support them. It’s like a vicious circle in which clubs/agents fear controversy and thus avoid the subject, making the subject more of a ‘rarity’ and thus drawing said controversy.

  2. Zinaid permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:30 pm

    It’s really sad that people think that insulting the opposing team by using homophobic comments is acceptable in any sport, and your sexuality does not define your talents on the pitch.

  3. Christine permalink
    October 8, 2010 3:22 am

    What these statistics tell me is, yet again, there is a silent moderate minority that cares about the footie more than the personal lives. As it’s true that all manner of elements from personal lives are used as jeers from opposing fans, homosexuality has to become like racism wherein it is just not accepted to yell in public for any reason. Until clubs/players take the initiative the fans will only be able to do so much. Because apparently, the fans are ready.

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