- February 28, 2014
Sussex University Student’s Union hosted an LGBT 7-a-side football tournament to support Allsorts Charity. The event took place at the Falmer sports complex and was blessed with perhaps the first sun of 2014.
Allsorts is a Brighton based charity that support LGBTU people under 26 so from that age group it’s understandable Sussex SU took such an active and inclusive stance on the issue.
In amongst the teams vying to emerge victorious was a team made up of members of the Brighton Lesbian and Gay Sports Society (BLAGSS) and according Elliot Toms, sport needs more contemporary gay icons.
He stated: “people need a role model, that youngsters playing football at school can look up to out gay footballers and think there’s nothing abnormal.”
This is a view shared by University of Sussex’s Football Ambassador Megan Franklin, she organised the tournament and told Latest Sport that in order to accelerate the rate of change more high profile people need to come out. She said: “There’s a real need for someone to take that first step in the Premier League and say – this is who I am and it’s fine.”
A number of high profile sports stars have come out in the last twelve months – Olympic diver Tom Daley, former West Ham midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, Women’s England Captain Casey Stoney and former Leeds winger Robbie Rogers to name a few.
The issue of homophobia seems to have most bite and stigma in men’s football, possibly why players like Rogers and Hitzlsperger waited until they’d finished playing to save themselves from an onslaught of potential abuse from other players, but mostly fans.
Megan Franklin doesn’t think that would necessarily be the case. “If someone were to take the step and say ‘I’m gay’ in Premier League football, I think it would be much better received than people think it would be.”
On the other hand, the first openly gay player will have a large weight of responsibility stacked on their shoulders and will always be known for their sexuality first and their talent second.
This perspective was raised by Jess Di Simone who is the Trans representative for the LGBT Society, “the worry of the players might be that’s what they’re going to be known for instead of being a good player.”
The Sochi Winter Olympics have thrown LGBT rights firmly into the spotlight in 2014, particularly for Russia’s stance on “non-traditional sexual relationships.” History has proved that to ban something only makes it stronger, a view that Activities Officer for Sussex Uni Richard Mashiter agrees with:
“The Winter Olympics have helped because it’s raised a lot of awareness about what’s happening in Russia and brought it to a global scale.”
Organisations like Allsorts and BLAGSS are striving to get to a stage where an individual’s sexual orientation isn’t considered controversial news. But social evolution takes time, as Elliot Toms stated:
“It’s taken many decades to get where we have with racism in football, unfortunately it make take decades yet to do the same with homophobia.”