›› Inside Sport Special - The Last Taboo ‹‹

a documentary by Stephen Lyle and Tim Boyd.

2010 | 30 mins | UK.

the stark reality about coming out in the so-called Beautiful Game.

Dave says:

Focusing on the stark reality about coming out in professional football, here BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman dared to ask the question that many would have preferred him not to. Namely why is it that in this day and age, seemingly every other sport welcomes openly gay players and yet the so-called Beautiful Game does not? And therein lies for many the root of the problem, given Premier League football is not a beautiful game. Rather it's big business with players elevated to celebrity status, some able to command more money off the pitch, than on. Only and as this thought-provoking documentary made absolutely clear, other sports have little problem with homosexuality within the ranks, as such major names as former NBA basketball star John Amaechi, All-Ireland ace hurler Donal Og Cusack and former Wales rugby union international and now rugby league player Gareth Thomas are testament to.

Football however remains THE exception. That said, coming out to yourself and to those around you, let alone in the full glare of the media is rightly a personal choice. But surely if your decision is to finally shed the mask of playing it straight, then and as Chapman so well said: "there is a need for the national game to be in a position to make it possible for a footballer to come out, if they so wish." None however are seemingly willing or able to do so, ever living in fear of the consequences that coming out could have on their commercial appeal and market value. Only and as tennis legend Martina Navratilova acutely observed: "how many athletes really get endorsements ... very few."

That homophobia sadly still lingers in all walks of life, not least in sport, certainly does not help the situation, with Navratilova poignantly adding that "homophobia doesn't just hurt the gay athletes, it hurts the straight athletes too, because there's a lot of girls I know about in the States that don't get involved in sports, because they know that they would be called dykes." Indeed and as Ed Connell, Manager of gay friendly London Titans FC commented: "the problem is that people here have played for (semi-pro) straight teams in the past and its been an issue; they either couldn't be honest about their sexuality or if they did, then they made things very difficult for them."

Devoid by no surprise of the appearance of an official representative from the Football Association, this informative work in trying to get to the bottom line of how long it will be before a major name steps forward to finally break sport's last taboo raised a series of emotive issues, including the shocking reality check of homophobic abuse hurled to this day at openly gay sportsmen and women. That a thin line exists between banter and abuse, cuts to the crux of the matter, with John Amaechi adamant that "footballs' has had its chance to prove it would do the right thing." That it failed in the case of Justin Fashanu, is not in doubt. Yet as Fashanu himself said back in 1992: "it's something that needs to be spoken about ... we have to deal with it." And in the minds of many, Burnley FC centre-back Clarke Carlisle included and notably the only League footballer willing to be interviewed on camera, that day is coming. But from watching this sobering work, that day will only be possible if the team, the club, their supporters, the merchandising companies and the media itself stand by their man and say "it's okay to be gay."

Footnote: since writing this review, in October 2021, Australian professional association footballer and currently Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo come out as gay, with the full support of his club and teammates, having been tired of living a double life. As too, Blackpool forward Jake Daniels in May 2022 come out of the sporting closet, becoming the UK's first male professional footballer to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990. By doing so, each out 'n' proud athlete continues to show the world that being gay in sport is not an oxymoron; rather a wondrous part of the diversity of the game itself.

›› a BBC1 premiere: Monday, 24th May, 2010.
Presented by Mark Chapman, with contributions from:
John Amaechi / NBA Basketball Star, Clarke Carlisle / Centre-Back Burnley FC,
Ed Connell / Manager, gay friendly London Titans FC, Donal Og Cusack / All-Ireland Ace Hurler,
Tim Luckett / MD, Hill & Knowlton, PR & Brand Management, Chris Maughan / Coach, gay-friendly London Titans FC,
Martina Navratilova / The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time, Brian Noble / Head Coach, Crusaders Rugby League,
Piara Powar / Director Kick It Out, Gareth Thomas / Rugby League Ace and with archive footage of Justin and John Fashanu / BBC News May 1998.
›› revised: Tuesday, 17th May, 2022.
›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
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