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 experiences of homophobia in the game.
The results of the survey were revealed on Monday, June 11 at an event held at Watford Football Club, Vicarage Road.
Representatives from the Football Association (The FA), LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall, Watford FC – and their Community Sports and Education Trust – and Watford FC’s 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, Watford Ladies and Kings Langley FC.
Whilst the survey revealed 86 per cent of respondents agreed they would feel very comfortable if their favourite club signed a new gay player and 81 per cent disagreed that homophobic chanting at a match is acceptable, 45 per cent had heard homophobic abuse at a football match within the last three years.
Ten per cent felt having a gay player would make other team members feel uncomfortable and another 10 per cent believed that gay professional footballers should keep their sexuality to themselves.
In addition to this 19 per cent disagreed that gay football players should come out to help others do the same. The survey also revealed that whilst 58 per cent of fans would feel comfortable if their favourite club signed a new player that was transgender, 14 per cent would feel uncomfortable.
In terms of how football clubs and police should respond to homophobia in the game and the reporting of offences, 61 per cent of fans agreed football clubs should do more to educate fans about homophobia and 20 per cent stated they would not feel comfortable to report the offence if they became a victim at a match.
Ninety-four per cent 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.
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.”
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd said: “While the results of this survey show a positive attitude from the public when it comes to tackling homophobia in football, we still have a way to go when it comes to educating some fans about homophobia. I am very pleased to see the Constabulary working with the Herts FA on this important matter.
“My Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan is called ‘Everybody’s Business’, and we are all responsible for ensuring people are treated justly for being who they are and what they believe in.”