The UK government hopes to amend the Football Offenses Act 1991 in order to make homophobic chants at soccer matches illegal.
The commitment comes in a report from the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS).
The report is about the impact of COVID-19 on sport. However, it also concludes that the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to ‘reset’ football – the UK’s most popular sport.
In its conclusion, the report says:
‘We also wish to record our dismay at the slow progress in kicking out homophobia from football.
‘The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to improve a number of areas within football, and to this end we will continue to pursue opportunities in this Parliament to introduce legislation outlawing homophobic chanting at matches.’
Soccer is worth billions but there’s little money for tackling hate
Homophobic chants are a huge problem in British football.
Indeed, they are so endemic they even marred a match last year between Liverpool and Chelsea to mark the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster – a human crush which killed 96 and injured 766 fans in 1989.
For years, the UK has identified homophobia as the biggest problem in the sport.
But responsibility for tackling it is not clear. Clubs, the Football Association and the DCMS have passed the buck between each other. Meanwhile international governing body FIFA gave its World Cup first to Russia and then Qatar.
Meanwhile, the sport has invested little hard cash in overcoming anti-LGBT+ hate, despite British soccer being awash with money. The Premier League alone generates £7.6billion to the UK economy.
As a result, despite any number of well-meaning but minor initiatives, no professional player in the UK has yet come out as gay or bisexual.
The DCMS parliamentary select committee asked Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters what he was doing about it.
He claimed, conditions are right for more footballers to come out. Moreover, he said the game would ‘embrace’ any gay player.
Meanwhile Eniola Aluko, ex-England women’s footballer, told the politicians the first out footballer would be ‘widely praised, applauded, lauded and respected’.
‘What barriers stand in the way of gay footballers?’
Now the DCMS report says:
‘It is essential that steps are taken to understand what barriers stand in the way of gay footballers, and how much of the responsibility lies with clubs and how much with fans.’
The report, from a cross-party group of 11 MPs, also raises questions about how racial equality in sport. And it concludes coronavirus has disproportionately harmed elite women’s sport.