Village Manchester Football Club midfielder, James Wilson believes a lot of gay footballers are staying away from the sport because of the backlash they receive.
There has been a lot of clamour for an end to homophobia and equal treatment for players with different sexual orientation but very little success has been achieved in that regard.
The English Premier League goes as far having players wear rainbow boot laces and rainbow armbands for club captains that show a sign of identification with people and players with contrasting sexual preferences.
Wilson explained a recent experience to Sky Sports where his side travelled Oldham to face their Chadderton Park FC equivalents. Both teams are chasing promotion from the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur Football League Division Three, the 12th tier of the national non-league pyramid.
He said, “We knew it was going to be a bit feisty. First half, there were a few choice challenges going in.” The teams were level at 1-1 at the break. After the restart, the atmosphere became – in McNaught’s words – “pretty toxic”.
“It was from players on the pitch and also from supporters on the sidelines. It quickly descended into lots of homophobic slurs and xenophobic comments too,” he explains. “We reported it to the referee as per the guidelines given to us, and he acknowledged it – but he didn’t follow protocol as we’d expect.
“I actually felt sorry for him. He was only a young ref and handled the game itself quite well. However, he didn’t act as we might have hoped in dealing with the abuse.”
Wilson says the insults were “constant” for the final half-hour of the match. “For example, one of our players got badly hurt in a tackle, and you’ve got a player standing over him saying ‘get up you fairy, get up you fairy’. And the referee’s standing close by.”
“Homophobia is keeping away a lot of players who are gay from playing football. Most of the time we’re winning games – that’s the best answer to a lot of it. But when it spills over into that kind of abuse, you can see why players who have just joined us are going to find it difficult, and also the referee who’s had a tough time trying to control that.”, he said.