Where are all the Gay footballers? Statistically speaking, if there are 65,000 professional footballers and two per cent of men self report themselves as gay — this is excluding bisexual men for the sake of argument — then there should be about 1,300 openly gay footballers. The world would be a better place for it.
This suggests that football is not the ‘world’s sport’ that it claims to be. Homophobia in football is still an issue, even after the tragic suicide of Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay footballer, in 1998. Homophobic slurs can still be heard echoing across grounds from Sunday League to the Premier League.
Not only would an openly gay footballer have to play through the inevitable heckles and slurs, but also intrusion from the media. Societies’ desperation to celebrate an attribute that the player had no decision in, attention drawn by something that is purely a faucet of who they are, not a skill that they have spent years honing and perfecting. Like the perfect stepover. Any modern openly gay footballer risks their career being overshadowed by largely, an unimportant aspect of themselves. Perhaps, this is why our pitches are crowded by exaggerated masculinity and meat-headedness.
This is where we turn to grassroots, pure, amateur football. Stonewall FC are an LGBTQ+ football club based in the heart of the east end of London. Established in 1991 when one of the founding members placed an advert in a gay magazine, asking for likeminded athletes to join him for a kickabout. Since then, the franchise has hit top bins. Twenty-seven years on from their first season in Sunday league, the true representation of British football and the club has three competitive eleven-a-side teams and offers weekly training. The message? Inclusivity in sports.
Adidas has recently collaborated with the minor sports team because of their major message. The kits are beautiful. The classic-meets-modern Home and Away kits are reminiscent of a vintage Rangers piece. Before all the bankruptcy that is. Whilst the glamorous Third is an adaptation of Manchester United’s zebra kit that they don this season, but with a medley of bright blues and pinks.
I think they’re great. The large EA Sports sponsorship across the chest enforces another important co-sign for LGBTQ+ representation in football. This collaboration also coincides with Stonewall FC’s rainbow laces project. On 4 to the 13 of December, each Premier League club will adorn rainbow laces on their boots in a message of unity against homophobia in football.
Walking out onto half-mown, muddy pitches on a wet Sunday morning is just one half of the passion that Stonewall FC bring to the sport. Each time they walk onto that pitch, they prove that communities are stronger when sexual orientation or gender identification are celebrated. Furthermore, they also prove that ultimately attributes such as these shouldn’t be important in sport, and it’s a shared love of football that is crucial. It’s unheard of to see global brands work with such small teams, but the purpose of their collaboration is paramount. At the moment, football is far from being prejudice-free. However, it is admirable that huge brands are starting to promote LGBTQR+ communities. Stonewall is making a needed change in football. And they look great whilst they’re doing it.