A recent survey of football fans in Hertfordshire has revealed homophobia still exists in the game.
In the run-up to the 2018 World Cup, Hertfordshire Constabulary and the Hertfordshire Football Association teamed up to survey more than 400 of the county’s football fans on their attitudes to gay and lesbian players and their experiences of homophobia in the game. The results of the survey were revealed yesterday (Monday June 11) at an event held at Vicarage Road.
Sam Gillings, Lead Equality Officer for Watford Football Club, said: “We are delighted to not only be the host venue for this campaign but also to work with campaigners and organisations promoting inclusion within the Watford family and local community, with the aim of helping to continue the fight against homophobia within football.”
Representatives from The FA, LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall, Watford FC, their Community Sports and Education Trust, Watford Ladies and Proud Hornets attended the event. Two of the Constabulary’s Hate Crime Officers and LGBT+ Liaison Officers attended, along with representatives from Royston Town FC, Stevenage FC, Hitchin Town FC, Hemel Hempstead Town FC, St Albans City FC, and Kings Langley FC.
Whilst the survey revealed 86% of respondents agreed they would feel very comfortable if their favourite club signed a new gay player and 81% disagreed that homophobic chanting at a match is acceptable, 45% had heard homophobic abuse at a football match within the last three years.
10% felt having a gay player would make other team members feel uncomfortable and another 10% believed that gay professional footballers should keep their sexuality to themselves. In addition to this 19% disagreed that gay football players should come out to help others do the same. The survey also revealed that whilst 58% of fans would feel comfortable if their favourite club signed a new player that was transgender, 14% would feel uncomfortable.
In terms of how football clubs and police should respond to homophobia in the game and the reporting of offences, 61% of fans agreed football clubs should do more to educate fans about homophobia and 20% stated they would not feel comfortable to report the offence if they became a victim at a match. 94% also felt that football clubs and police should take action to tackle homophobic abuse by either arresting offenders, removing and banning them from grounds, giving them strong words of words of advice and referring them to the police.
As a result of the survey findings, Hertfordshire Constabulary and the Hertfordshire FA have pledged to work together to take a permanent stance against homophobia in the game and permanently make it a thing of the past. The organisations will now work together to create Third Party Reporting Centres in each of the football clubs in the county. These centres will enable victims of any form of hate crime, including homophobia, to report offences immediately without having to talk directly to police if they don’t feel comfortable.
Reporting Hate Crime
Victims and witnesses can report incidents to police without fear via the non-emergency number 101, online at www.herts.police.uk/Report or by calling 999 if a crime is on-going.
Hate crime is any criminal offence perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate, based on a person’s sexual orientation, transgender identity, race, religion, or disability. Hate crime victims may experience physical assault, people swearing or making abusive remarks, spitting, insulting gestures or people doing things that frighten, intimidate and cause distress.
Watford Football Club would also like to reiterate our zero-tolerance policy on all forms of discrimination.