Johnny And Al's Gay Footballers On TV

We've been waiting for a long time for a TV programme about gay footballers, but when it comes, Johnny and Al aren't impressed. The issue needs much better than this...

Last Updated: 27/01/12 at 12:40 Post Comment

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What's that you say? You'd like to watch a programme about why there are no openly gay footballers? Well, you're in luck, because there's one on Monday made by the niece of Justin Fashanu.

Perhaps this is an issue not much discussed in the mainstream, but we've certainly talked about it a lot on F365 over the years, and in some detail too. None of the points made in this hour were profound or eye-opening. It's all pretty basic stuff.

Pretending you know less than you actually do is one way of getting people to tell you more than they really want to. Sadly, it does not really work for Amal Fashanu, the daughter of John. Not to be nasty, but she comes across as being extremely naïve, even for a 22-year-old model with rich parents.

Observations like: "it grew into a very heated match with both sets of fans singing and shouting all way through," do not suggest someone who is exactly immersed in the culture of the sport. That wouldn't necessarily matter if she had better direction and guidance from the producers.

Her first interviewees about the old "where are all the gay footballers?" chestnut are her pals in fashion, including one unintentionally comical camp man in a tall pointy hat who says "football is the gayest of all sports" what with those baths and showers etc. Uh-huh.

Next interview for our intrepid reporter is, erm, her dad. John Fash-the-Bash (which does sound like one of those 19th century euphemisms for a gay sexual act) says there's more chance of the next Pope being black than of a footballer coming out as gay. We'd take that bet actually. Still, you can't argue with the access! Amal even interviews her own mum, and her friend Finky or Slufie or something - who has nothing whatsoever to do with football - when they go shopping for shoes. Like, this is so totally like literally BBC3 that you know like you might want to like literally punch yourself in the face.

It's all fairly superficial stuff. You know the basics. You can't come out because crowds would slag you off, players would loathe you, managers would try to bum you after drinking brandy.

There are definitely some moments of excellent accidental comedy, for instance in her interview with John McGovern, whose response at being challenged to be appalled that Brian Clough referred to Justin Fashanu as "a puff" is to laugh out loud. Now, there's nothing funny about bullying or bigotry or belittling someone because of their sexuality but...well...the McGovern thing is pretty funny. Sorry if that makes us appalling human beings.

What is not considered here is that maybe there are almost no gay footballers. Maybe they're put off early or don't fancy it. The old canard about "one in ten people being gay" is trotted out, but is there really any reason to suppose that any profession should have a representative proportion of gay participants?

Such programmes usually have Max Clifford on and this is no exception. He says he's known of five or six gay or bisexual footballers over the last 15-20 years, which is supposed to support the programme's line that there are all these tortured souls in the dressing room closet, but does it not in fact rather prove that your gay footballer is a very, very rare creature?

Amal goes to Brighton and is shocked by Leeds fans' 'gay' chanting at Brighton supporters. She says it's hostile. Matt Lucas refuses to agree that "we can see you holding hands" is a hideous crime against humanity. As for "does your boyfriend know you're here?", well, there are probably worst things being done by humans to other humans this week. Leeds fans are almost certainly doing worse things to somebody right now.

As this goes out on BBC3, the home of such sophisticated fare as 'F*** Off I'm Fat', we imagine there is a stipulation that at some point someone has to cry. Crying proves you mean it. Tears here come when Amal sees a documentary of her father about his difficult relationship with his brother. All fine and dandy but not really helping in discussing why gay footballers can't come out, if revealing of other issues. Like, private issues? To be dealt with in private? Ach, maybe we're just too old for this TV thing.

In the end there's an interview with the FA's 'Equality Manager', who said they had a four-year plan to portray gay people positively. What would they do if a gay footballer was a total bastard though? Don't ask that. All gay people are lovely. It all sounded like the sort of corporate-speak that is all too typical from a big organisation who know Something Must Be Done but doesn't know what.

Joey Barton pops up and does his "beat poet of the people shtick" and is rewarded by being called "a genuine big-name footballer". He's got a gay uncle and he loves him. Aw great. We like Joey, at least as an artistic construct, a cipher, a shaman. We doubt there is anything he would not be prepared to talk about on camera, up to an including How To Mend a Mellotron.

For this programme, being gay meant being male. The gay female footballer was a foreign country not even acknowledged. Women play professional football and are gay. This programme should have acknowledged that.

It strikes us that if you are gay, you might get fed up with people always telling you how to live. Telling you that you should be out, or in, or whatever. Everyone has an agenda it sometimes seems. It must be bloody annoying.

We're sure there are a small amount of gay players and that there are plenty of idiots who would give them grief about it if they came out. However, Matt Lucas made perhaps the most cogent point, saying that a popular gay player would be defended by his own fans against negative chanting and eventually his gayness would become boring and be eventually forgotten. Although there's no doubt that someone would be making a rather witless documentary about it...

Britain's Gay Footballers, Monday, 9pm, BBC3


John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

Johnny's written a new book - it's called 'The Meat Fix: How A Lifetime Of Healthy Eating Nearly Killed Me', and you can pre-order it here.

And you can still get his other book, 'We Ate All The Pies'.

Or check out Alan's 'CrickiLeaks: The Secret Ashes Diaries'.

Follow Alan on Twitter here or Johnny here.

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