Britain’s Gay Footballers

I watched most of the BBC’s documentary, ‘Britain’s Gay Footballers’ on Monday night, and while I’m not going to go into great depth, here are a few thoughts I had during and after watching the programme.

  • John McGovern didn’t cover himself in glory with his interview. He deserves a certain amount of credit for agreeing to appear in the documentary, but he was clearly uncomfortable towards the end of the short piece, and his claim that he was unaware of the meaning of “poof” is ridiculous. I felt that the presenter was being slightly unfair in that she was implying that McGovern and his team-mates had discriminated against Justin Fashanu and/or bullied him for being gay even though the events took place ten years before Fashanu came out publicly (though his team-mates could have been aware of his sexuality long before that). Maybe I’m just getting defensive though because it’s Forest and a Forest legend under scrutiny.
  • Forest perhaps slightly let themselves down in that Amal Fashanu went all the way to Nottingham, and had been asking professionals for interviews, and yet nobody seemed keen to kill two birds with one stone.
  • Millwall did a little better, with three of their players talking briefly about the issue. However, given the sequence before, in which the players were clearly reluctant to talk to her, I wonder if the club agreed to the interviews, the players shied away, and  – off camera – a few of the more senior (and hopefully more mature) players were pushed into doing the interviews so as not to let the club down.
  • When discussing Gareth Thomas’ coming out, she didn’t address the issue of the different fan cultures in football and rugby. Given that most of the people she had spoken to so far had said that they didn’t think the hypothetical gay player’s team-mates would have a problem, and she had also seen the homophobic chanting of the fans, it seemed a little odd that she didn’t explore this avenue, as logic would suggest to me that if a gay player wasn’t worried about coming out to the dressing room, then the fans must be a major part of what holds anyone gay back from coming out.
  • Finally, she seemed very keen to find a gay player. While I can understand that she might want to ask why no-one has come out in the last two decades, she doesn’t seem to consider the fact that maybe the gay players around want to keep their private lives private simply so that they remain private rather than because they fear the public’s reaction.
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