Tag Archives: Football

On Thomas Hitzlsperger, the FA and homophobia in football

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Thomas Hitzlsperger, the former Germany International and Everton footballer has today announced that he is homosexual in an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit.

I have written before, most recently with diver Tom Daley as the case in point, about the importance of having men and women in the public eye being open and honest about their sexuality. I won’t rehash that article again here.

The point here is an additional one – the impact that Hitzlsperger’s decision may have on his former colleagues -including those in the FA.

In his interview Hitzlsperger stated that part of his reasoning of coming out was “to further the debate about homosexuality among sports professionals”. An admirable aim and a decision that I am sure will impact on players who are considering also coming out.

It is in this light that his decision will have immeasurable ripples – imagine if a current player no longer feels so isolated and decides to come out. Who knows how much of a game changer his decision might turn out to be.

The Premier League is watched and loved by millions all around the world, but it is still bereft of any openly gay footballer. To reiterate this – out of the 25 players in the 20 teams that play in the Premier League, not a single player is openly gay. 0 out of 500 players. This has held true (with varying squad sizes) for the entire history of top-flight football in the UK.

This then begs the question – why? Why has no playing professional ever been able to be open about their sexuality?

Hitzlsperger described the long “difficult process” of coming out. Something which the openly gay sports journalist Musa Okwonga talks more about here.

This process, even when surrounded by support, can be a challenging one. When surrounded by vitriol and hatred, the likes of which can too often be found in the stands, changing rooms and board rooms of British football, this process can transform into a goliath challenge.

It is interesting that Hitzlsperger specifically mentions in the interview that it is “it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays”. A comment which hopefully all players will take on board.

But this homophobic banter is not just found in the dressing rooms.

One the hardest hitting sections from Graeme Le Saux’s autobiography was not the childish homophobic taunts Robbie Fowler through at him, the crowds obsessive jeering or even the referee’s despicable reaction of booking Le Saux for time wasting, but the FA’s inability to spot the real issue in the situation – institutionalised homophobia.

It is with a touch of irony then that Hitzlsperger’s announcement comes in the aftermath of the FA’s latest embarrassment – their equality adviser, who on national TV called gays ‘detestable’, resigning from his role.

Michael Johnson, the former Birmingham city defender was appointed to his role, one assumes, because of his stellar track record of tackling racism. It is a damning indictment that no one in the FA looked into his views on other pressing equality issues such as homophobia.

John Amaechi, the first former NBA player to come out in public in 2007, hit the nail on the head when he commented:

“the reason that homophobia, antisemitism, racism and other misogyny continue to blight football is that the FA does not understand how to tackle it. You don’t put one person to handle racism and a gay person for homophobia, you pick people who understand that all bigotry is the same monster.”

Today, hopefully, Hitzlsperger will have highlighted to the FA the need to act and to stop letting homophobia be what he referred to as “an ignored issue” in football.

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“The long slog through the desert of pre-season football will soon be over and at last the rains of competitive football will once again fall”

This article was first published on Tattooed Football.

20130730-100825.jpgOn 1st August, at exactly 19:45 British Summer Time something truly remarkable will happen.

Football fans up and down the country will breathe a collective sigh of relief, for the long slog through the desert of pre-season football will be over and at last the rains of competitive football will once again fall.

The cruelty of crushing defeats, the deafening roars of previous victories, and the inevitable inaction of the transfer window can, at long last, be put behind us. Now, as the summer heats disappear almost as quickly as they came, so to can the suspense, the anticipation and anxiety of pre-season.

The time for reflection is over, now is the time to look ahead.

This annual cleansing, the leaving behind of the past, is an essential ritual for football fans. It allows us to be simultaneously enticed by the possibility of the up-coming season whilst also, holding on to a near eternal pessimism that borders on fatalism.

Take my team, the Robbins as an example. No not Bristol City and defiantly not (spits on the floor in pre-historic ritual) Swindon, but Cheltenham Town.

The last two seasons have been stained by the enticing near success of play-off failure. So close, and yet so far away.

The present, the now, the days before the new season however build on this turbulent past. The players who battled to last season’s triumphant failure have now been joined by fresh talent and some tested experience.

The present allows us to reach out to the future in anticipation. It entices, it allows all who habitually take to the stands to start dreaming of the coming season.

Yet, despite these fresh winds of possibility that surround us, despite sitting at work and toying with the ‘what ifs’ that rest somewhere in the back of all of our minds, we are all also confident in the certain failure of our team.

There is a part of us that is certain we will slip up against [insert local rival here].

This cocktail of aimless optimism combined with pessimism bordering on fatalism allows us, the football fan, to exist in a reality entirely devoid of reality. Both simultaneously imagining a cup run alongside battling for draws away against the (spit on the floor) [local rvials].

This safety net of pessimism allows us to dream of the impossible, to escape the traps of the possible.

Some might read this and think that this level of self-delusion is a worrying trait. For me, someone who has been through this ritual one too many times, it is a sign of the eternal beauty of this so aptly named beautiful game.

Every year we are born again in our collective hope, our collective dreams, and our collective ‘what ifs’. Past failures matter not, we are levelled, equal and looking ahead.

If you are reading this and worrying about me, about us, football fans, don’t.

We – the football fan – are not so different. Think of the obese that plod the pavements sweating in the winter sun of New Year’s Day dressed in lycra convinced that this year will be different to all the rest, that this year will yield results.

We are all delusional – football fans are just better at embracing it and having more fun.

Here’s to 2013/14 season. Remember, anything is possible!

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Mahmoud al-Sarsak – Palestinian footballer’s health is ‘deteriorating’

This article was written for the Tattooed Football blog.

As the football season draws to a close most of us are sitting back waiting for a summer of football to begin. With less than a month now until Euro 2012 kicks off, football fans across the globe are gearing up for the tournament, stocking up the fridge and pinning up the fixture list. Here in Israel and Palestine it is no exception. I have already sorted out front row seats for the England/France opener down the local (coffee shop)! There is however one exception, one guy who isn’t joining in this build up. His name is Mahmoud al-Sarsak who is, or at least I should say was, a member of the Palestinian football team.

Mahmoud is currently being held under Israel’s ‘Unlawful Combatant Law’ (a form of administrative detention – held without trial) and has been on hunger strike since the 22nd March 2012 in protest. Mohmoud’s detention is not up for renewal until 22nd August 2012. The insightful amongst you might well notice that this is well after the championships. The even more insightful amongst you might have counted up the days in your head and worked out that this guy might not even be alive come the championships. Amnesty International report that his health is “deteriorating”. The longest ever Palestinian hunger strike is 77 days – this is one record no one wants to see him break but he is coming pretty close. How much longer he can hold on for is debatable but I would count it in days not weeks.

You might well be thinking at this point “Bit of shitter, but there is f*** all I can do about it” (note the compulsory swear words proceeding any badly thought out point on the terraces). Well, I have good news for you. There are a few people over here that have the power to stop all this. One of them is a chap called Ehud Barak – he’s the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel and also the Defence Minister (in other words he holds a bit of sway).  What we are asking is pretty simple. We would like him to firstly ensure Mahmoud is given full and specialised medical care in a hospital suitable to provide such care. And secondly to ensure that Mahmoud is either released or charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and brought to trial in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards (jargon I know but it’s important – trust me). Not big asks. If you have a chance, get the quill out and put these point onto paper and send them to:

Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defence
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel

I am sure he would love to hear from you.

Mahmoud is not only a footballer, but a relative and a bloody human being. I find it disgusting that someone could be held for three years without charge or trial. All it will cost you is a few minutes (keep it short) and few pence down the post office.

If you are really keen you can find loads more information here. If you are really really keen send this blog onto your mates. It is mad to think, but you have the power to make a difference and maybe save a guys life.

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It is not banter, it is not just racism, its small minded bigotry

This article was originally published on the football blog ‘In Off the Bar’

This last week saw two allegations of racism come to light. Firstly, John Terry was accused by Anton Ferdinand of calling him a “black cunt”. Terry however claims that this pretty comprehensive video footage is him telling Ferdinand what he didn’t say (obviously)! This incident follows Luis Suárez allegedly ‘using a certain word’ 10 times to describe Patrick Evra.

This is nothing new in English football, but it is a sad reminder that we haven’t perhaps travelled as far as we would like to think from our overtly racist past. Admittedly, gone are the days of Bananas being thrown on the pitch, but it was only a few years ago that we had Ron Atkinson describe (live on air) Marcel Desailly as a ‘lazy fucking thick nigger’. Indeed, even in the last few days Stan Collymore has had to endure a torrent of abuse on twitter with comments such as “at least my mother never slept with a coon” after he raised the issue of racism on his talk sport show.

Perhaps the most telling of tweets Collymore was sent simply said, “Have you heard of banter?”. This is incredibly telling as it is the fallback position of decent people up and down the country for not tackling the small minded bigotry that plagues the modern game. Indeed this was the excuse given by the casually racist Jimmy Hill in defence of Atkinson’s horrific comments. It was just a bit of “fun”.

Many people’s lives are seriously affected by racism and discrimination every day and not just because of verbal or physical abuse. Many people from minority ethnic backgrounds are not getting the same opportunities as others whether it is in jobs, education or access to health services, or affordable housing. Even those who are meant to be working to stop this are not exempt. Police stop and search figures show that black people are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched as white people. This is shocking.

The complete zero tolerance of racism in football is quite right. Yet there seems to be a gulf between how we treat racists and how we deal with other forms of small minded bigotry. Quite rightly, racist chanting has all but been eliminated from the terraces, but it is still quite acceptable to abuse a player’s, appearance, hair length, family relationship or sexuality.

There is a deep rooted misogynistic culture around football that should not be tolerated. We are in a position where it is common place to chant about abusing a player’s wife. It is common place to call a player a “fucking faggot” if he falls over. Indeed, there are few moral depths that the football fan will not sink to if they think they can get away with it. The deplorable comments that Emmanuel Adebayor was subjected to illustrates this point. At what point did tens of thousands of Arsenal fans think it was OK to sing “It should have been you, it should have been you, who was shot in Angola, it should have been you” in reference to the terrorist attack his team suffered, in which a friend of his died?

So why is there such a gulf between attitudes both within the FA and on the terraces between how we should tackle racism and how we should tackle other forms of discrimination and hatred? Imagine if you and your girlfriend approached a steward on a match day and complained that someone has just commented “I see you let your wife out of the kitchen then…(belly laugh)… that blonde bitch probably had the map upside down and was looking for the shops”. What do you honestly think would happen? Nothing! Change this scenario to any other form of discrimination other than racism, a gay couple being called faggots or a guy with long hair being called ‘gypo’ and the outcome would be the same. No action. Now insert a racist slur and you would witness an eviction, an arrest or if this did not happen a fast moving club to make it look like they were acting on this complaint.

To begin to stamp out the sort of reoccurring prejudice that we see in football we need to break down some basic barriers. We need to proudly say that racism is wrong because it judges a person and their capabilities based on a very limited set of categories, such as religion, nationality or skin colour. Equally however, we have to be able to say that judging a person on what or who they are sexually attracted to is equally as narrow minded.

The suggestion that women don’t have the mental capacity to understand the offside rule is almost as insulting as Jimmy Hill back in the 80’s suggesting that those “black aces” don’t have the mental capacity to understand the game but could be used because boy can they run fast.

Football continues to reflect the most outdated and unacceptable sides of our society. This is deeply frustrating as it has such potential to be a positive catalyst for change. We have understood this in terms of racism. Why can we not see that football has a responsibility to tackle these other forms of bigotry that still blight this beautiful game?

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We are football fans, let us introduce ourselves

There is an out-dated self-fulfilling stereotype that is blighting the beautiful game.  It is the sort of stereotype that is so damaging that in other walks of life it would have been tagged “discriminatory” and yet is accepted for football fans.  This stereotype is that football fans are racist, homophobic, violent and irrational.  Take a step back and think about just how short-sighted this is.

Let’s be clear, some football fans are disproportionately racist, homophobic and violent in relation to the wider British population; although this is a dying phenomenon.  Some football fans still do cause violence, shout abuse at each other and vandalise their surroundings. This is very different however, from saying that football fans are these things.  This prejudice materialises in a number of ways.  For example it is not just an internal prejudice that people hold, it affects our everyday lives.  If you are wearing football colours it is common to be banned from pubs.  Banned! Literally not allowed to enter because you support a game! Let’s now make a massively controversial and yet interesting comparison.

Black men, are disproportionately responsible for violent crime (two-thirds of shooting, over half of armed robberies) and yet, no civilised human being would still think that Black people are violent.  There is no bar manager who would deny a Black man entry to a bar purely because of what he looks like. Sadly, I believe that people still hold irrational fears based on inbuilt racism, but it has become socially unacceptable for anyone to express these prejudices. This public consciousness is not so apparent when it comes to football fans. Not only do people believe football fans are all these things but it is OK to be openly prejudice against them.

Football fans in the UK are a very different phenomenon to the firm violence of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  There is still football hooliganism.  The difference is that they no longer hold wide-spread support amongst football supporters.  The violence is no longer seen as a source of pride.  If you hear racist abuse in the stands today it is looked down on.  Indeed, this is slowly becoming true around homophobic chanting as well.  The sad thing here, is that football followed society rather than led it.

I find it really disappointing when supporter groups like the Bristol City Supporters Trust have to put out video’s like the one at the start of this blog to point out the obvious.  Football supporters are cross generational, cross class, cross ethnicity and overwhelmingly peaceful.  There is only a minority that are interested in violence. 

When a football club proposes to build a stadium on your doorstep, you are right to be worried.  It will strain your transport infrastructure every other Saturday, noise levels will rise for a couple of hours a every other Saturday and you might (if you are unlucky) experience football related to violence.  These problems however are often over stated, and the benefits football can bring to the community, local business and to individuals are often underplayed. 

To mention a few potential benefits (the list is too long for this post but please do read this report by “Supporters Direct”):

  • Community outreach – Clubs nearly always have staff and money to invest into local schools and community centres.
  • Community cohesion – when you are on a football pitch or in the stand, normal societal divisions loose their significance (as I said football is cross class, cross ethnicity and cross culture).
  • Facilities – Often the facilities of clubs can be used by local teams, the rooms for evening education classes or the restaurant bar area for events.
  • Business opportunities – having a successful football club acts as an economic magnet for further investment in the area, from restaurants and pubs through to schools and transport.
  • “Soft benefits” – these are ones you cannot quantify, the friendships, the civic pride, the social cohesion that football can have. 

These benefits are not a given.  Not all clubs benefit their communities as much as others.  The Supporters direct report makes recommendations on how to bring about the best practice to increase the “social benefit” of football clubs.  A case lesson to learn is that it needs community involvement.  That means me and you going along and getting involved!

I still maintain that there is no force in the world more powerful than football to bring about change.  If we marginalise football (we don’t want a stadium near us), if we give only bad press, and if we continue to paint fans in out-dated firm colours then we will continue to leave this force to be moulded by regressive social movements.  It appears that the BNP understand the significance, but sadly other political movements seem to shy away from engaging.  It is up to us, as citizens to engage with our local clubs to bring about the sort of relationship we want to see.

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The World Cup – can it unite a divided nation?

Racial divisions within South Africa blight the country’s history.  Today however, racial apartheid is no longer the major divide within the country, its economic division.  A recent OECD report has stated that SA is on path to become one of the most unequal societies in the world. There is a section of the black population that is becoming increasingly wealthy, exaggerating the inequality statistics. 

While inequality between different ethnicities may be falling (slowly), the “intra-race” inequality within the black community is actually growing.  This, the report states, “is preventing the aggregate [inequality] measures from declining”. 

With the fall of racial apartheid in 1994, the ANC introduced a Black Economic Empowerment programme aimed at reversing the economic hierarchy.  This policy has had many critics.  White (especially working class white people) has found it very hard to get a job in a country that currently has an unemployment rate of about 25 %! Equally, it is widely acknowledged not to have benefited the majority of black South Africans. It is clear that a small minority of blacks have disproportionately benefited from the BEE policy.  It has not succeeded in its aim of re-balancing inequality. 

Although, inequality, in racial terms still underpins many of the official statistics; it is economic inequality that now blights the rainbow nation. 

The World Cup 2010 to be held across SA, is being widely held up as a unifying force for a divided nation.  The CEO of the South Africa World Cup, Danny Jordaan, has said that this tournament will represent the “most unifying moment in the country’s history” (a big claim).  Football is a universal language that does indeed bring together people from all backgrounds.  But do these claims about the “unifying” potential of the World Cup hold up to examination?

Firstly, in relation to race; it has to be noted that Football is still predominantly a black past time in SA.  Will the 5 million whites in South Africa (or the millions of other ethnicities) embrace the world cup, or will they see it as predominantly black affair? If they do embrace it, will they relate it to race relations or as a completely separate event?

Secondly, will the world cup help to reduce economic inequality? It has created a number of programmes aimed at bringing football, health and education to the wider population.  The majority of money however has been spent on new football stadiums, glitzy VIP boxes and improved infrastructure.  What percentage has been spent on the health, social development and education that were promised in the country’s bid?

SA’s only famous White Football player, Mathew Booth, warns not to put too much emphasis on sport’s ability to heal divisions.  This, he said can be only done through tackling economic inequality.

I think the World Cup will bring SA together.  Rich and poor, black and white will find great pride in their Nations successful staging of the World Cup.  Will the unity however, last longer than 90 minuets? Will the World Cup help to tackle the underlying causes of inequality within SA? I doubt it.

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Manchester United MUST change.

I have long supported the work and development of “Supporters direct“, a non-for profit organization that aims to bring about responsible democratic governance of football clubs through the development of supporter trusts.  Thanks largely to their efforts over 160 clubs now have supporter trusts.  Clubs that are now owned by their supporters include:

AFC Telford United, AFC Wimbledon, Bramley Buffaloes (RL), Brentford, Cambridge City, Clydebank (Scotland), Enfield Town, Exeter City, FC United of Manchester, Gretna (Scotland), Merthyr Tydfil, Newport (IW) FC, Rochdale Hornets (RL), Runcorn Linnets, Scarborough Athletic.

You will notice the distinct lack of the footballing giants in that list.  I was very excited therefore to see the recent developments at Old Trafford.  After David Beckhams public display of support for the MUST campaign (Manchester United Supporters Trust) by wearing the green and gold scarf (the original colours of Manchester United) their membership has rocketed to over 134,000! This is an organisation, which aims to remove the glacier family, and ensure a future where the supporters of Manchester United FC take a meaningful ownership stake in the club.  Lets not beat around the bush here – this is massive.

Although I support the lads down at AFC Wimbledon and what they are doing there, this is something much different.  Manchester United’s annual turnover was £257.1m in the 07-08 season (I guess it has grown since).  What’s happening right now is 134,000 (and watch this figure grow) fans directly challenging the crazy financial norms of our times.  This is 134,000 fans shouting loud and clear that there is more to football than money.  This is a grass-roots mobilization like the sorts never seen before in football. Manchester United rely on their support base through match day tickets and in stadium sales to produce 40% of their revenue.  It’s about time; the fans took control of what was theirs.  Manchester United MUST change.

The Guardians sport section today confirmed that the Glazier’s are worried about this campaign by revealing that Manchester United players have been gagged from talking about the campaign.  MUTV has banned the colours of green and gold (this was enforced by a supporter being ejected from the audience for wearing the scarf and a long serving steward a t the ground has been sacked for returning a confiscated anti-glazier banner. All of this is a sure sign that something is working.

If there is anyone reading this that cares about Manchester United, join the campaign. If you support any other club, contact MUST immediately to find out about what you can do at your club.

I have said it before and I will say it again.  There is no global force more powerful than football to bring about societal change.

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The FA still failing to tackle homophobia

Peter Tatchell, campaigner for OutRage, described the cancellation as "a real disappointment". Photo thanks to BinaryApe (flickr)

The Football Association (FA), as part of its commitment to tackle homophobia had planned to launch a new film in conjunction with “Kick it Out” and “OutRage” this Thursday.  The launch was going to be held in Wembley stadium.  It appears however, after a last-minute cancellation that once again the FA has climbed down on its commitments to tackle homophobia.  This strategy and launch was planned nearly two years ago, and yet no real explanation for cancellation was given.

I have blogged before about the need to tackle homophobia in British football, with still no openly gay footballers and players lives often being made hell by ignorant fans.  Stonewall recently commented that 7 out of 10 fans interviewed in a survey had witnessed homophobic abuse.  Anyone who has ever been to more than the occasional match knows that this is not exaggerated. 

I remain convinced about football’s potential power to make real change in society (for the better).  Equally, I remain frustrated with the FA’s dragging of feet whenever anything progressive is mentioned.  I am sure Rio (critically acclaimed England Captain) will be looking to bolster his image, especially considering his slip on live radio when he called Chris Moyles a “faggot”.  Why not get him involved (assuming he doesn’t do more harm than good)?

Tomorrow will be just another day, when the FA sits on their arses refusing to make any substantial change in “their sport”.  We (the supporters) need to give them the kick that they need to truly “Kick homophobia out of football”.  By cancelling this film, they have sent out all the wrong messages.  We need to stand up and tell them that this is unacceptable!

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The only gay in the premiership

Gareth Thomas, the Rugby Union legend, has possibly taken the bravest step of his career.  He has “come out” that he is gay.  So what I hear people sigh!

This is a big issue for a number of reasons.

Gareth Thomas (Munster Vs Cardiff Blues) - Thanks to Clare Courier (flickr)

Firstly, Gareth is Wales most capped player, and perhaps more importantly he is still playing professional Rugby (for the Cardiff Blues). It is unprecedented for a Rugby Union star to come out whilst still a playing professional.  For a player of Gareth’s stature to come out it is incredible.  Players often shy away from this issue for fear of fans reactions, loss of sponsorship and lack of support from their clubs! For Gareth to face all this down and come out should be supported and acknowledged to be a truly brave act.  How the public reacts is incredibly important as it will set a precedent for all other gay sport stars who are thinking about coming out (at the moment in Rugby Union there is an openly gay referee but no player that I am aware of). 

Secondly, this is not just important for Rugby but sets a precedent for all other major sports.  At the moment, out of the 500 professional footballers in the UK, there are no openly gay footballers.  It is highly unlikely that this reflects the reality of footballer’s actual sexuality.  Footballers are role models for millions of people around the world.  To show that sexuality has nothing to do with your professional capabilities (or your ability to lead an ordinary life) would be incredibly positive.  Whether we like it or not, footballers are elevated onto pedestals by fans.  The only problem is they know more than anyone how easy it is to fall off that pedestal. Footballing history has not been kind to those who have not followed the script.

Justin Fashanu, the first million pound black footballer, came out and was hounded by fans and the public to such an extent that the coroner said it contributed to him committing suicide. We all remember the taunts that Grahame Le Saux received …all these chants seemed to be based on nothing other than the fact he read the Guardian and has a university education.  Le Saux was married…but he did collect Antiques!  Sadly, it was not just fans who taunted Le Saux, do you remember Robbie Fowlers taunts? http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/article2419068.ece

Then there was the whole incident that involved heterosexual left back Ashley Cole.  The News of the World, wrongly, accused a premiership footballer of taking part in a Gay orgy.  This was not the interesting bit of the story.  What was interesting for me was despite not being named in the story; Cole went to extraordinary lengths to dispute the accusations even taking the paper to court.  Check out – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-378786/Cole-sue-gay-footballer-orgy-claims.html

I have said before and I will say again.  There is no social force in this world more powerful than football.  If you want to change anything in this world, start with football.  Sadly, for improving the lives of millions of people around the world affected by homophobia this looks like a slow process.  The Football Association (FA) has introduced a ruling that puts homophobic chanting on a similar scale to racist chanting.  There has been scattered reinforcement of this ruling (especially at the Seagulls ground who suffer disproportionate abuse).  To say that the FA is a slow moving conservative body would be an understatement.  This ruling however, at least sets a target to aim. 

Hopefully, footballers will follow in Gareth’s brave example.  Having openly gay footballers will be one of the biggest steps towards a more equal society that we could take.  All secretly gay sports stars though will be looking on with great interest to see how fans, sponsors and club treat Gareth.  Let’s hope it is with respect.

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Cheltenham Town FC, the fate of Mad Dog!

“After three seasons of being the clear underdogs in the third tier of the Football league, the very prospect of being one of the top teams was an exciting one”

This is the last entry into the history section of Cheltenham Town FC web-site.  It was written after an 08/09 season that saw us finish after 46 league games with 39 points and a goal difference of minus 40 (the worst in the league).  The season had been riddled with as many problems off the pitch as there were on it.  An economic uncertainty hung over the club like a dark cloud.  With a drop to the football league two however, the fans were sure that they might see a return to form and some consistent results. 

This season we have played 18 league matches and won just 4 (drawing 7 and loosing 7).  We have crashed out of the first round of the League Cup back in August, the Johnston’s Paint Trophy saw us depart in the first round thanks to Torquay and we decided not grace the second round of FA cup with our presence, again giving the honour to Torquay. 

Perhaps things might quieten down off the pitch? No chance.  Our manager, Martin “Mad Dog” Allen has been put on gardening leave after he allegedly racially abused a nightclub bouncer (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1221611/Mad-Dog-Martin-Allen-suspended-Cheltenham-allegedly-racially-abusing-nightclub-bouncer.html).  The clubs finances look as dodgy as ever.  Loaned players are coming and going, full time players just seem to be going!  Could this be one of the worst starts to a season ever?

Never mind all this though, if you want to be A Cheltenham fan you have to have a bit of mindless optimism.  All of this turmoil (on the pitch) is what why we love about lower league football.  We don’t want to see Ashley Cole skipping around! We want to see the sort of football that is genuinely unpredictable.  We want to see referees make terrible decisions.  We want to see a side that can go 11 games without a win and then drum Barnet 5-1.  We want to see Cheltenham Town!

Want we don’t want to see is a club that can take over a month to carry out its internal investigations about what action should be taken against the MadDog.  If the players are going to have a chance at creating consistency on the pitch we first need a bit of consistency off the pitch.  This drawn out investigation is not helping matters.

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