Premier League joins with Stonewall to fight homophobia

Daniel Storey

The Premier League has agreed a three-year partnership with Stonewall to help promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) fans, officials, players and staff.

Stonewall is Britain’s leading charity for LGBT issues and the Premier League will now join its global diversity champions programme, which works to improve diversity and equality here and abroad.

The league will also up its efforts to tackle homophobic abuse, whether in stadiums or online, and will focus on improving its reporting measures and training staff at clubs to better address homophobia.

In a statement, Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: “Premier League football is for everyone, everywhere and our clubs are committed to equality and diversity at all levels of the sport.

“We view the LGBT community as an integral part of our community and, working with Stonewall, we want this partnership to improve the experience of LGBT people already playing football, and supporting clubs, and to signal to others who might be interested in getting involved, that they are welcome to do so.”

Last season, the Premier League, English Football League and FA took part in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces week, the biggest show of support for LGBT equality in sport to date.

The campaign will be repeated this year, between November 24 and December 3, with plans for a show of support across a round of matches announced next week.

The continuing reluctance of gay players to come out during their careers remains a significant issue for men’s football, particularly when it is compared to the women’s game or even other men’s sports such as cricket and rugby.

FA chairman Greg Clarke memorably told a panel of MPs last year that he would not encourage a player to come out at the present time because he was worried about the reception they would receive from the terraces and on social media.

Clarke added at the time he was “ashamed” that a player had yet to feel confident enough to do so.

Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt, however, is optimistic that football is becoming more tolerant.

“The Premier League have stepped up and demonstrated how committed they are to helping make football inclusive and welcoming of LGBT people,” said Hunt.

“The reasons for the lack of LGBT inclusion in sport are complex. There’s no 10-point charter, or pledge that will prevent someone for shouting homophobic abuse. It needs concentrated work, careful attention and a thought-through strategy to ensure no-one is left behind.

“We look forward to working together with the Premier League to create a game where everyone is able to be themselves.”