Football Most “Anti-Gay” Sport in the U.K.
According to a recent online survey conducted by Stonewall, a U.K.-based gay-rights organization, football is the least gay-friendly sport in the U.K. One in four fans believe the sport is anti-gay, with three in five fans saying the abuse the players encounter on the pitch is a reason gay players have not come out.
After seeing these results many may wonder “Why football?” A few issues may play into fans’ worries. One factor is the physicality of the English Premier League. While football in general is a sport that involves a lot of contact, the EPL is notorious for being one of the most physical leagues in the world. However, rugby, another sport known its physicality, was said to be 29 percent gay-friendly, while football ranked at 6 percent. Most contact in the EPL occurs during play, but a good portion takes place during goal celebrations, usually involving hugging and close contact between players. While fans do not often complain about these celebrations, one unfortunate possibility is that fans would become uncomfortable with openly gay players after witnessing physical contact on the field.
Another issue is fans’ various definitions of masculinity. Many still falsely believe that homosexuality makes one less of a “man” and that homosexuality can rub off on their favourite straight players, or even make them worse.
According to the survey, tennis is the most gay-friendly sport. However, even tennis has its limitations. The majority of the openly gay tennis players are women, and very few male players have come out.
While this survey was only conducted in the U.K., this is certainly a global problem in the sports world at large. There is a lack of support for gay athletes in general. This is all very unsettling, but hopefully things will change and fans will respect players regardless of who they love.