News has emerged today that the FA have withheld the release of an advertisement that tackles homophobia within football. Although being regarded as a temporary delay it seems in part due to the extreme content of the advert and also due to the lack of resolution that is offered in the conclusion of the clip.
Shock tactics used in smoking and drink driving adverts are similarly evident in the ad as a footballer supporter is seen hurling homophobic abuse at people who comes into contact in every day life and then the players he is watching from the stands. The scenes are both visually and verbally offensive as a result.
Yet in a sport where red blooded masculinity is the embodiment of the players, the fans and the epitome of the game it has been argued that such an advert will not tackle the issue correctly.
So could such an initiative actually make any of the intended improvements to the homophobic horrors that occur on match days?
The subject of abuse of any kind from the stands is always difficult to approach as it leads to controversial opinions and fierce arguments that evolve into little room for any sort of progression.
It is indeed a harsh reality that stereotypes exist. Sadly though some stereotypes are founded and exist because numerous people behave in the same way and are therefore used to define a certain type of person.
With football fans, regarded as the lowest denominator that the delayed adverts were aimed at, a stereotype of abusive fans often involves lower class males, with skin heads and an array of foul language and alcohol to accompany.
Although many people who fit this description, with the exception of the foul language and alcohol, go to games and enjoy them in a positive manner it is evident that there are those who exist and match the full stereotype. It is these who partake in the abuse attempted to be restricted and they are for the most part permitted to portray this behavior with little to deter them or force them to stop.
Typically this group of fans are hard to influence. They form such a small but detrimental fraction of the passionate spectrum of football supporters, yet they are stubborn in their behavior and will not allow an advert to change their patterned opinions.
As a result of this others are unable to stand up to them and can only but watch as their spectacle is spoiled by those who are obviously passionate about the game, but in completely the wrong way.
While racial abuse has been somewhat resolved the problem that homophobia faces is that of perception. To put it simply someone who is black cannot be said to be making a choice to be black. Yet someone who is gay has no visible back up for their sexuality. So those who are homophobic often use this as their claim to their opinion about the abnormality of homosexuality.
The issue we should be most focusing on in my opinion, is actually the upbringing of the children who are and will be influenced by the behaviour that they are subjected to when they attend football matches.
A child given a vision of foul mouthed, abusive and derogatory adults on an all to regular basis can learn nothing other than the behavior portrayed to them. If the language of football becomes one swear word after another and this is portrayed as the norm then the children will eventually follow suit.
It is these children therefore who can change the way that future generations behave towards the sport itself, and it is these children who we have the power to affect in a positive and controlled manner.
All that is required is for them to learn in schools, through their guardians and then through the media the morals and values that we should expect of football fans.
When we can teach children that a persons race, gender or sexuality is not a choice and should not be considered in a negative light, then we can progress into forming a new vision for the football stands that is void of any homophobic or racial abuse.
Sadly a huge barrier to achieving such tolerance in the earlier stages of life is that of the children's parents themselves. A parent who is passionately homophobic cannot be influenced as easily as we would like and it is to be expected that their views have a likely probability of passing onto their children.
So if an advert is produced in attempts to tackle homophobia then the creators need to decide upon how to alter the behaviour of those who have such an impact on the next generation.
There is a reason why not a single player in the premiership has come out since Justin Fashanu committed suicide. It is because those who want to feel that they cant, due to the pressure and abuse that they would expect to receive.
In such a masculine area of life there will always be those within the sport who also voice their discomfort at the possibility of someone the deem as abnormal being in the same changing room as them. This is essentially the view that they would feel threatened sexually if they were to share a locker room with someone who was gay. This evidently transgresses from schools, to youth teams, to the professional game and is an ongoing issue.
Sportsmen such as Rugby player Gareth Thomas have inspired many with their self outings and the lack of reaction to Thomas’s revelation showed a degree of progression that gives us hope to gradually wipe out the prejudice that exists within the sporting world.
If football fans could give the same ‘we don't care about a players sexuality, just the way they play’ attitude then we could see similar responses in the United Kingdom’s most cherished game.
An advert can be the start to a campaign as long as it is handled in a way that whilst tackling the issue head on, also allows us to reflect on those who are homophobic. We need to understand how their behavior can be deterred.
Sometimes I actually think that homophobic and racial abuse is actually not even born out of prejudice, but just used as an excuse to shout abuse at the players for not playing the way that their supporter wants or expected. I once watched a game where a supporter challenged every thing that every player on the team did and wondered whether he actually cared about the game or whether he just wanted to vent some anger.
This however is no excuse for any homophobic abuse.
It is in conclusion the development for those who are more able to be influenced that the time, money and effort needs to be concentrated on. It is these people that will edge the sport of football into further generations where we can and hopefully will stamp out the abuse given to players within the sport.