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Dutch TV Program Nieuwsuur Talks About Homophobia in Football

February 23, 2011

Dutch television program Nieuwsuur (Newshour) recently broadcast an interesting news item about homosexuality still being taboo in the world of football, and discussed possible reasons for this.  The video featured Huub ter Haar from the John Blankenstein Foundation, Dutch football captain Mark van Bommel, Ellis Cashmore of Staffordshire University, and Michael van Praag chairman of the KNVB.

The video is in Dutch and can be viewed here.

One of the fantastic members of Red Card Homophobia has been kind enough to translate the video into English for us:

Fans: All farmers are gay! All farmers are gay!

Huub ter Haar (John Blankenstein Foundation): I know two players who are scared to death it might come out. They literally say; ‘If it’s announced tomorrow, I will be lynched.’

Mark van Bommel (captain of the Dutch squad): Well, I can imagine you are scared to come out with it, because you sort of know what the reactions will be, especially with the opposite team.

”The hostile chants of the football fans would be the reason why players do not dare to come out of the closet. But English professor Ellis Cashmore of the University of Staffordshire claims that the homophobia in the stands could be a lot worse. He recently conducted a research with 3500 football fans, and it shows that 91% of them has no problems at all with a homosexual player.

Ellis Cashmore: What they’re interested in is how he plays. One fan put it to me very succinctly. He said: ‘I would rather have a gay player who can play, than a straight player who can’t.’

”Another outcome. Of the 70 professional football players that participated in the study, 30% says they know a colleague who is homosexual. It gives the impression that football players have accepted homosexuality among themselves. But why are people so secretive about it?”

Ellis Cashmore: Well, we asked the fans, we said ‘why do you think they are staying in the closet?’ and they said ‘it’s not because of us. It’s not the fans that are-‘
Voice: Do you believe that?
Ellis Cashmore: I do. I am convinced. I think that they gave us plausible answers. Let me outline what those answers were. They said: ‘We believe that the clubs themselves are the main impediment. The clubs are persuading players who are gay not to come out, because they feel it may damage the brand of the club. In other words, no club wants to be known as the first club to have an openly gay player. Not because they’re necessarily homophobic, although I would say that they probably are. But because they are conservative.

”Huub ter Haar also noticed that, who talks to Dutch professional clubs on behave of the John Blankenstein Foundation to create a more gay friendly environment.”

Huub ter Haar: We are talking with various football organizations. And what we have seen, is that they all do not want to be the only nor the first to get started on this. There is a lot of uncertainty. There is also a lot of ignorance and a lack of knowledge about this topic. And it’s a sort of slide, people don’t know what they are about to enter and what the outcome will be. And you can trip and then you can make big mistakes and lose a lot of money. And the clubs who think in accounting terms, they keep off the subject the most. And the clubs who think in binding, those slowly dare to look if they dare to pick up the topic with one or two others.
Voice: And which clubs are you talking about?
Huub ter Haar: Unfortunately I can’t say anything about that yet, because that’s how sensitive it still is. But the conversations are ongoing and we hope to provide openness during this year.

Ellis Cashmore: Another set of fans said: ‘It may be the clubs, but we suspect the agents.’ Other people, who are saying to players: ”Not just yet. Leave it a while, maybe wait till you retire.” Because, for example, if I have advertising contracts worth 4 million euros for you, I don’t know whether those advertisers would be interested in having a gay football player indorse their products.

Voice: So homosexuals are worth less in football?
Huub ter Haar: Yes I understand that mechanism, because if you want to sell a player to a foreign club, where there is possibly even less room for gays, an agent will say, based on a simple calculation: ‘Boy just keep it quiet, otherwise it might differ three or four million, and that’s not good for my fee, so it’s best if we keep this a secret for a while.’

Michael van Praag (chairman KNVB): If that’s true I consider it to be a disgrace. No I don’t even want to talk about it, that would be so depraved. No, I throw that far away from me.
Voice: Have you ever-?
Michael van Praag: Never. No. I don’t believe, no, no really not.
Voice: Serious research.
Michael van Praag: Yes well. It’s quite possible that it’s serious, I find it scandalous.

”The KNVB has 1,2 million members. Seeing that about 6% of the Dutch population is homosexual, one can assume that thousands of non-straight people are playing football. Even so, there are only two professional players who openly came out about their homosexuality. Albeit after their career. Wensley Ton of Helmond Sport and futsal international John de Bever. So far the KNVB has not interfered with this topic. Chairman Michael van Praag wants to change that.”

Michael van Praag: When I recently became chairman I had talks, on my own initiative, with representatives of the John Blankenstein Foundation and also with the director of the COC. Because I really wanted to know; how does it work? What are the fears of gay athletes or gay people to come out of the closet?

Fans: Luca Toni is gay! Luca Toni is gay!

”The Football Association wants to undertake action for gay acceptance this year. But first they await the results of a research concerning homosexuality in sports that is being conducted by NOC*NSF at the moment.”

Michael van Praag: It seems sensible to me to join forces. And if we, together with the KNVB, together with the clubs, together with the amateur clubs, together with the referees, together with the foundation and the COC, look how we’re going to do it. Because then it has effect. If everyone randomly goes and does things, that’s exactly the reason why we aren’t doing anything yet, if everyone randomly does something then it won’t have the desired effect.

Mark van Bommel: Of course it’s a very difficult topic in football. Because actually it’s still a bit… yeah I don’t want to say macho but… everyone still wants to come across as tough.

Huub ter Haar: They aren’t sissies. They aren’t boys with pink bows and panties. They are also real men who can play football. And if they are at ease with themselves they can perform. And I think it will benefit football if we make work of that. Because, look for example to appearance, soften that climate and make it more hospitable. Then you will see that more families and people with a higher education will come to the stadiums. There are advertisers that will want to join, but also multinationals who want to focus on their diversity-policy. They also participate in the gay parade. They will show themselves more as sponsors.

Ellis Cashmore: Remember, there are a lot of straight players out there at the moment, who are iconic figures among gay people. Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham for example. Freddy Ljunberg. These are icons in the gay community and so if the first genuinely gay player came out I think it would be hugely profitable. In the same way as a great many showbiz personalities have come out, thinking that this would damage their careers, in fact it has brought them a new fan base, so they have profited by it. I think the first gay player would profit by it.


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