Don Foster MP speaks out against homophobia in football

Don Foster, Lib Dem MP for Bath, has given an exclusive interview to the Gay Football Supporters Network where he discusses homophobia in football and his own love of the sport.

From the Gay Football Supporters Network website:

Why do you think that we have made so much progress in football regarding racism (Kick It Out etc) and yet homophobia remains prevalent in the sport? Why do you think there are currently no openly gay professional players?

I think that groups such as yours have a vital role to play in challenging prejudices. We need to see individual fans, supporters groups, sporting bodies and players speaking out against homophobia, and doing so across all sports – not just football. Then, I think, we’ll have an environment where players and fans will be able to express themselves without the fear of abuse or discrimination.

I’ve seen up close how effective this approach can be. A while ago I was at a Charlton Athletic match at The Valley, and one fan stood up and started to yell something racially abusive. But before he could even get to the end of his sentence, all of the supporters surrounding him had grabbed him and pulled him back to his seat. Thanks to organisations such as Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card, who work with top footballers in educating fans and the football community about racism, we’re now seeing both fans and teams standing up for black footballers. There may be lessons to learn from these projects when tackling homophobia.

Sport should be a way of bringing people together, not a place for divisive, hurtful opinions. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the biggest sporting events of all, are about promoting inclusiveness and a sense of community. This goes beyond geography, gender, race or sexual orientation. If our bid to host the 2018 World Cup is successful, I would hope that it would be used as an opportunity to spread the same inclusive message in football.

And on the possibility of a football match between MPs and members of the Gay Football Supporters Network, Don says:

Sounds like a good idea but be warned, MPs are no pushovers. In fact, we’re very competitive and known to play dirty. Also, the election was our equivalent of a transfer window; our once exhausted Parliamentary squad is now pumped full of fresh blood. Face us at your peril…

Read the full interview here.

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