Hate and the Beautiful Game

It took me a while, but I finally caught up with Gareth Thomas' TV documentary about homophobia in English football. And it is that specific - there's a prominent gay American soccer player who's happy to have come out there, but wouldn't have done so here. And Thomas' own experience in British rugby (backed up by referee Nigel Owens) indicates that that's a much more civilised world in this respect. So Thomas goes looking for answers. He trawls through trolling on line, and listens to the abuse in the stands. He sees how some clubs are much better geared than others to combat it - Cardiff, for instance, have a well-trained team who will identify, remove and then ban fans who abuse black players - but would they be as vigilant about homophobic chants? As with Thomas' own case, it needs prominent players with the nerve to come out - and once that happens, they'll get backing from sponsors (great positive story) and some of the press. But before that happens, the powers that be need to get their act together, produce and then enforce a common pattern of resistance to open homophobia. Thomas tries. He really does. He works out a possible code of practice, with a supportive lawyer. He tries, endlessly, to make an appointment with one top official. He talks to another, gets a load of platitudes and good intentions, and comes out shaking his head "I don't know whether to laugh or cry." As a record of intelligence and determination confronting stupidity and inertia this is a wonderful programme; as an indication of the state of football, it's deeply depressing.