Top Fan Study Finds 80 Percent of Fans are Not Homophobic
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.”
– Leanne Elston