Stop this homophobic football banter, demands Leeds MP

MP Stuart Andrew.

MP Stuart Andrew.

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A crackdown on homophobic “banter” in stadiums should be part of renewed action to tackle homophobia in sport, a Leeds MP has said.

Conservative Stuart Andrew will lead a debate on the issue in Westminster Hall, in the wake of fresh evidence about the discrimination faced by the LGBT community.

Mr Andrew, the MP for Pudsey, said he was “alarmed” at a recent BBC Radio 5 Live survey of 4,000 football fans, which suggested 8% would stop supporting their team if one of their players came out as gay.

Speaking ahead of the debate, he added: “It is time that we make a renewed call for action on tackling homophobia in sport.

“Governing bodies, professional leagues and the most amateur, local associations can do so much to help tackle this issue.

“This is not only a problem for the players, whose mental health may suffer because of the abuse they endure, but for sport in general whose athletes will not be performing at their peak and for talent that leaves the game.”

Mr Andrew is set to call on clubs to take a zero tolerance approach to homophobic “banter” in sports stadiums, as well as increasing the visible presence of gay supporters through LGBT fan groups.

A poll of 1,250 sports fans for LGBT charity Stonewall earlier this year suggested that 72% had heard homophobic abuse while watching football in the past five years.

Mr Andrew also wants an urgent investigation into why many young LGBT people stop playing sport beyond junior level, with heterosexual men four times more likely to play team sports than gay and bisexual men.

He added: “The choice should not be between participating in sport and being open about who you are.

“If we are to foster talent and support our athletes, we need to take clear action to make sport inclusive and route out homophobia.

“There is lots of good work ongoing in this area - tying it all together with clear national priorities and achievable goals is the next step to make best practice widespread.”