OutUK for more than 20 Years
"Wet," quips Stonewall Football Club (SFC)'s sexy star midfielder and committee member Marc Short when asked what it's like in the showers. SFC has won several league titles over the years and as a result of promotions is now just seven Divisions below clubs playing in the Premier League.

"It's getting better," claims Marc hopefully. "People are far more accepting of out LGBs within mainstream amateur sports clubs these days."

"I think a lot of people exclude themselves for fear of what they think may happen if they came out. I know of a few guys that were fairly happy and out at their old 'mainstream' clubs. But I guess they were even happier when they came on board and joined us!"

Stonewall FC's Marc Short in action.
Photo by Edward Hirst.
"I'm not sure people join LGB sports clubs because they feel uncomfortable at a 'straight' club," Short speculates. "They just feel more at ease being around people like themselves who love football and also happen to be gay. Quite a few SFC players have met boyfriends through the club. Some are still together - one couple has just celebrated their fifth anniversary."

So what's it like playing and thrashing the straight boys?

"Every game is a positive experience," insists Short. "The other team realise that these 'poofs' are actually quite good. We have had some trouble in the past, though not too much - it normally happens when the other team are losing and pick on what they think is weakness. Any trouble has to be reported to the Middlesex FA and these teams would indeed be punished."

"Yes," Short teases, "we know of gay professional football players but we would never give out names - it's not our place to. It would be great if they decided to come out but it's still hard to come out in any situation - imagine half the crowd slagging you off from the terraces."

"Of course it would be great to see some out players in mainstream professional clubs. But SFC is a non-political club - our aim is simply to encourage more LGB people to get involved in sport. Indeed, we welcome straight players at SFC - we won't exclude anybody happy to play with us. They are an integral part and it wouldn't be the same were they not around."

Until he retired, Jim Atkinson was one of Sport England's Senior Development managers and, for most of his 25 years there, was the only out member of the development staff. He also used to co-preside at the now defunct British Gay & Lesbian Sports Federation (BGLSF).

Atkinson has also coached Out UK financial correspondent Chris Morgan - who was ranked in the top 10 in the UK at 75 Kg in power lifting and a gold medallist at the Sydney Gay Games. So few people in the UK can have a greater insight into gays and sport than he.

"Sport England's Equality policy in quite clear," assures Atkinson, "both in terms of how it treats its own staff and its public posture.

Champion Powerlifter Chris Morgan winning a Gold Medal at the Gay Games in Sydney.
Courtesy OutSports.com.
"It opposes discrimination in every form - including sexuality - and promotes equality of opportunity. I never had any difficulty being openly gay as a Sport England employee or as a sports coach. Also, the conditions of Grant Aid which Sport England imposes require recipients to be non discriminatory."

He continues: "Like Sport England, some of the major sports governing bodies have also adopted Equality policies which include sexuality. The Football Association are in the process of implementing a comprehensive Equality Policy which will obtain from park football through to the International arena. They have involved Stonewall as well as myself in preparing drafts of this policy and consulted widely. They are to be applauded."

"Whether the FA will emphasise the sexuality bit in their press releases is doubtful," surmises Atkinson. "The primary issue for them is ethnicity. There have been some pretty bad cases of racism and they are determined to address them. The press are also hot on their tails. The FA can't be seen to be 'behind the game' on race. By contrast, there are very few reported cases of homophobic abuse - although they know it goes on. I think the sexuality 'bit' will be low key and will not get picked up by the media."

"There is also some sensitivity around the issue of lesbian involvement in football," he cautions, "and - although this is very well known and tacitly accepted - there have been instances reported to the FA of straight women being made to feel unwelcome within predominantly lesbian teams. This is something which the FA does not want to be publicly vented. So yes, discrimination cuts both ways!"

Says Atkinson more generally: "There are still major issues which remain unresolved. The big spectator sports which attract media interest are still hostage to the inherent homophobia and ignorance of the tabloid press. The chances of a big time player coming out are slim since they are certain in the knowledge they'd be pilloried and abused by the 'red top' press if not the crowds."

"As for the clubs - the backbone of British sport - they have a great degree of autonomy," he continues,"and although their parent Governing Body may have an impeccable Equality policy the extent to which they can possibly monitor its implementation is minimal. They simply don't have the staff on the ground. Sport England and the Governing Bodies at National Level may therefore say all the right things but they have little influence over the clubs at the grass roots and no influence at all over the media."

"Clearly," admits Atkinson, "if a case of homophobic abuse or discrimination is brought, the person who has been adversely affected can appeal to the Governing Body of the sport and expect support but how many would be prepared to confront and challenge instances of abuse? It's easier to be invisible."
"What clearly needs to happen," he advises, "is that the responsible Sports Development Agencies like Sport England and the National Governing Bodies of Sport adopt strong Equality policies - and most have now done so as a condition of getting access to Lottery funding. However, as stressed, the degree to which they can monitor the implementation in practice is problematic."

"There also needs to be action at the grass roots," he concludes. "More national standard athletes need to be open like Chris Morgan. He has shown great courage and the fact that an essentially unglamorous sport like power lifting has been supportive of him is real progress. But then Chris doesn't have a media profile, has no commercial endorsements and makes his living as a financial adviser. Far from making money out of sport, people like him pay to be excellent at what they do."

So to make sport everyone's game we need to follow Stonewall's lead and come together to show that we support LGBT fans and players - as fans, players, clubs, leagues, governing bodies and sponsors. Whether or not you love sport, you can still play your part in helping the next generation of LGBT people thrive in sport by spreading the word about their Rainbow Laces campaign.

For more information about Stonewall FC or to arrange a trial visit www.stonewallfc.com.
OutSports.com keeps you in touch with gay sport around the world.
Sign the Pledge for Stonewall's new campaign Rainbow Laces



search | site info | site map | new this week | outuk offers | home | outspoken | more
Become an OutUK Premium Membership Here



  UK gay lads | Gay news UK | Gay travel and holidays UK | UK & London gay scene

OutUK features the latest gay news, advice, entertainment and information together with gay guides to cities and holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of galleries of photos and videos of the sexiest gay guys plus intimate personal profiles of thousands of gay lads from all around the UK.