Football has transformed immeasurably in the past 20 years. As with most sports, the majority of discrimination has been identified and ejected from the game. However, fragments of prejudice still linger among football’s structure, not least homophobia, which is a subject that has been placed second among many other issues of discrimination, maybe due to the misconception that it is of less importance than other more pressing issues.
It has been 14 years since Justin Fashanu’s untimely death opened the investigation into how homophobia is treated in football. Persecuted for years for his honesty, the centre forward was on an assisted downward spiral that eventually forced him to take his own life. Jeers directed toward the Englishman were not only in regard to his homosexuality but also his race. Fortunately, a major push by Football’s most powerful governing bodies have started to erase racial discrimination in the game. However, it is only now that a globally renowned club have supported an event that looks to halt discrimination toward homosexuality.
For the first time since its conception, a Premier League club will be supporting an LGBT Pride event. Liverpool will stand alongside members of the gay rights group in a march across their city, to represent the support that the club has to rid football of discrimination on and off the pitch. After such uproar surrounded Anfield last season after Luis Suarez was persecuted for his discriminating comments toward Patrice Evra, this decision shows a concerted effort by the club to distance themselves from any form of prejudicial behaviour.
In a statement made by Managing Director of the club, Ian Ayre, he stated,
“Here at LFC, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that equality and principles of inclusion are embedded into all areas of Liverpool Football Club”.
He added, “The event (LGBT) is certainly a positive talking point around Liverpool and it’s an excellent platform to attract local communities and people from across the country to experience the diverse culture of our fantastic city.”
It is a refreshing show of support from Liverpool, who have been closely watched by many anti-discrimination groups after much of the squad showed support for Luis Suarez in the aforementioned racism debacle toward the end of last year.
Although a major player in Gay rights activism in football for a number of years, Liverpool may have chosen to join the LGBT Pride event due to request from owners Fenway Sports Group. Last Summer FSG owned Boston Red Sox were on of the first Major League Baseball teams to support and create an anti-bullying video that supported gay rights. The franchise was praised for its involvement and this positive response may have been a key factor for the Reds endorsing and participating in the LGBT march in Liverpool.
Whilst it may be a number of years before discrimination is totally wiped out of football, the LGBT campaign that Liverpool are supporting so passionately is a starting block for other Premier League clubs to become active in their respective communities and speak out about a subject that is relatively unreported in comparison to other forms of discrimination.