Intolerance in Football: Fashanu, Terry, Suarez and UEFA

Intolerance in football is a problem. I don’t think you will be able to find many people who will disagree with that statement. Whether it is Luis Suarez and John Terry or the fact that there is only 1 professional football player who is openly gay, not in England, but in the entire game (for those of you interested, it is Anton Hysen of Utsiktens BK in Sweden). He is, for those who don’t know, only the second gay professional footballer ever, after Justin Fashanu. Out of the around 3,000 professional football players in England, there is not a single one who is able to be open about their sexuality. Not just for the sport, but for society, that is an embarrassment. But as John Amaechi pointed out recently, is this really a surprise when the board of the FA, who run the game in this country, have only just got their first female board member.

Some numbers:

3,000: approximate number of professional footballers in England

0: Openly gay professional footballers

£6,000: fine for former Leicester City player Michael Ball for tweeting homophobic comments

16: Number of professional clubs (out of 92) who are willing to openly back The Justin Campaign’s Football v Homophobia initiative.

These make for pretty depressing reading. The FA needs to do better – for a start by stepping up efforts to stamp out intolerance in any form (including anti-Semitism against Tottenham fans and players) by making the punishments for offences actually mean something. Suarez ought to have had a much stronger penalty – if fans are banned from grounds for racist chanting, why does a player only receive an 8 game ban? The fines for the likes of Michael Ball must be so steep that it is actually a disincentive to not display such bigotry. If clubs are made responsible for the actions of their players, then that would offer a real reason for them to police their own dressing rooms. For example, if Terry is found guilty, how about a points deduction. Similarly for Liverpool and Luis Suarez. If a player’s actions hurt not only him but his teammates, club and fans, do you think that might have an impact?

It is not just the FA who need to step up to the plate though – UEFA also need to make it known to clubs and fans that homophobia, racism and other abuse will not be tolerated. If fans at a match in Spain are making monkey chants, for example, then don’t fine the club €30,000 and say you are tackling the problem. That will make no difference to anyone. Games played behind closed doors, point deductions and exclusion from European competitions might. You did it for hooliganism, time to do likewise for bigotry. Make people think twice before they decide to hurl abuse at someone for the colour of their skin, their religion or their sexual preference.

Do I think that these things will happen? Given the record of UEFA and the FA, no.


On Luis Suarez: He has been found guilty. His punishment ought to have been much harsher. Kenny Dalglish, those supporting shirts and the actions of some of their fans should make everyone involved or supporting of Liverpool football club look at what their club has been condoning, and they should feel disappointed at the action of some of their people. I will boo Suarez for the rest of his career in England.

On John Terry: He has not been found guilty of anything yet. As things stand, I support Terry as a Chelsea player and club captain. If he is found guilty, then he deserves to be neither of these things. The club dispensed with the services of Adrian Mutu when he was found to be using drugs, (a decision I supported), and I believe that a similar stance must be taken with racism and intolerance. Leicester fired Ball after his homophobic comments, which was exactly the right decision. We must, as a club, make the same stand with Terry. There can be no excuse, and although I have sung songs in support of Terry for a decade, the club and its responsibility to the community must come first. Innocent until proven guilty. If guilty, then he must be punished.


I am a Chelsea fan, and East Stand season ticket holder. I am disappointed every time elements of our fans chant about Hillsborough, Munich or sing anti-Semitic songs at Tottenham fans, and I did not boo Anton or Rio Ferdinand for their stance on John Terry. I do not do any of these things, and a lot of the people who sit near me in the East Stand upper also don’t. It is important to know that not all football fans who go to games week in, week out sing such offensive things. But until everyone in the ground chooses not to allow songs about the deaths of fellow fans, or a players race or sexuality, we need to keep pushing for better education, more pro-active administration and harsher penalties for those who persistently display such intolerance, bigotry and hatred.

Being a lefty Chelsea fan

I’ve always found there to be something of a contradiction between my political beliefs and my support of Chelsea – especially since it was bought by Roman Abramovich.
On one hand I think that there are much better uses to which £160,000 a week can be put than paying John Terry’s wages, and yet I have a season ticket so that I can go and watch a group of hugely overpaid people play a game. It is hyped, discussed, built up, dramatised and promoted more than almost any other occupation, but it is still a game.
These incredibly well paid people are professionals, and despite the behaviour of many of them off the field (this includes several of the current squad) they are skilled at what they do – though I am still at a loss to explain the 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland. The contracts football players at the top levels are on are a fairly solid proof of the most solid foundation of capitalism – people earn what the market will tolerate them earning, for the skills they have. But just because you can pay someone £10million a year (before bonuses), doesn’t mean that you should.
From a political, and moral, point of view, there is something wrong when you have a Russian oligarch, who is not entirely free of controversy, hands over £50 million to a group of Americans, so that one Spanish player can move from Liverpool to London, and sign a contract rumoured to be worth £175,000 a week – surely there are better uses to which all this money can be put? I do not know what kind of tax avoidance is undertaken by footballers, but I am certain that, though many clubs like Chelsea are involved with a variety of charities, there is certainly more that could be done to help those not fortunate enough to be on multi-million pound deals.
The conflict between politics and football arises here, since despite everything written above, I am delighted that my team has signed Torres and David Luiz, because I love watching Chelsea play, especially when they are winning. Signing one of the worlds best strikers and one of the best defensive prospects in the game will help us do that.
I think that the contradiction is causes by how I think about Chelsea. When I use my brain, applying logic and reason to how I feel about the club, then I agree that there are better ways to spend all that money, and certainly no one person is worth handing over that much cash, no matter how skilled at his job he may be.
But when I think about how being at Stamford Bridge at the end of last season to watch us lift the Premier League trophy, all the other stuff goes out the window. I remember the elation, the joy of myself and everyone else who stayed in the ground singing, chanting, clapping and dancing as the trophy was paraded before us. I remember it being one of the best moments I have shared with my dad in years, both of us jumping up and down, clapping, cheering and generally making fools of ourselves. I remember the guy sitting in front of me, who must have been approaching retirement, who had tears running down his face. Those feelings make all the valid points about the excesses go out the window. For a fan, watching your team succeed is an incredible thing. It manages to make all the worries you have about your future, your job, finances or relationships disappear for a little while, so that you and 41,000 other people inside that small part of west London can go absolutely mental.
When I am asked by people who are not football fans how I can be happy that we have signed someone on a huge contract, making more money in a week than I might see in a decade, I don’t really have an answer. That is what they have been paid. I don’t think it is right that footballers earn the insane amounts of money that they do. But I still want my team to win.