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Homophobia in Sport

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

There is absolutely no place for homophobia in sport or anywhere in society. In the sports strategy, we asked Sport England to

“place equal emphasis on the support for LGB&T people in sport as it does for other characteristics”

that are protected. Some research has been commissioned, and Sport England is currently considering its findings.

When the chairman of the English Football Association said that it was not the time for gay footballers to come out in the male Premier League he shamed himself and he shamed football. Does the Minister agree that those comments are wholly unacceptable, and that the FA and Premier League clubs in England should follow the example of Scotland, which, with the Equality Network, has developed an LGBT sports charter? Will she work with me and others to take that forward?

The reported comments are indeed unhelpful and we should encourage and support people in all sports who wish to come out. We need to ensure that we use existing legislation to stop homophobic chanting and language during sporting events. I know that the Football Association is working hard trying to support people in the game and that progress has been made in tackling homophobia, but we need to consider other means of doing that as well. Supporting players is absolutely essential.

I thank the Minister for her comments. I found the comment in the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) that the FA was unable to offer protection in the event of a player coming out to be the most damning. Does the Minister agree that we require real leadership on this issue and that the Government, the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League must now come together to create a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex-focused Kick it Out campaign, as the quicker that we can rid society of these appalling views the better off we will all be?

Advances have been made in fighting discrimination in football over recent years, and the FA is putting its support behind the European Football v. Homophobia campaign, and it is trying to ensure that everybody understands homophobia and transphobia. Stonewall’s recently relaunched Rainbow Laces campaign helps. With regard to the Kick it Out campaign, it is a fantastic app that enables people to report any kind of abuse as it happens, and we should do more to encourage people to do that when it is related to homophobia.

Since Justin Fashanu took his own life, no professional footballer has come out in England. The FA chair has recently admitted that the FA is still not doing enough to tackle homophobic abuse. Homophobia is rife, and has been for far too long. How are the Minister and the Government working with the FA to tackle homophobia at every level, from Sunday league to Premier League?

First, may I welcome the hon. Lady to the Despatch Box? I look forward to sparring with her over the course—[Interruption.] It’s okay. I can hold my own, don’t you worry. There has been progress in the Football Association, but there is always more to be done. It is important that the FA remembers that it is there as the national governing body to support footballers. Our own strategy sets out a cross-Government vision for sport and will encourage more tolerance at every single level of all sports, including grassroots and Premier League football.