I have been fighting discrimination and homophobia in football since 2011, bringing it to the forefront of the British public’s mind with my 2012 documentary ‘Britain’s Gay Footballers’. I wanted to know why there were no openly gay footballers in proffessional football, and was faced with an industry thriving on secrets and keeping player’s sexuality a secret. Discrimination from clubs, fans and society’s attitude in general contributed to no footballer being openly gay since my uncle Justin Fashanu. At the time, I hoped that in the years to come, players would become more open and feel comfortable to speak about sexuality but so far there has been no change. I set up the Justin Fashanu Foundation to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ equality in football and to tackle discrimination at grassroots level, and I do hope that we can see some change in sport soon.
It looks like that might already be happening. Last week, a twitter account named The Gay Footballer claimed to be a Championship League player who is going to come out as gay in the next fortnight.
If this is genuine, it could be an absolute game-changer (no pun intended!) for LGBTQ equality in football. Even having just one gay player on the pitch who is open about his sexuality will pave the way for a reduction in discrimination and raise awareness about LGBTQ issues.
However, it has not yet been possible to verify this user’s claims. He insists he is ‘genuine’, but until his true identity is revealed, we can’t be sure. If this is all a hoax, it won’t be funny. Homophobia is no joke – and making humour out of such things will be hugely detrimental in our efforts to raise awareness about equality. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope that this ends up as a positive news story and not a disgusting hoax making a joke about a really serious matter.