Agnew’s Angle: Watching Without Prejudice

It’s nice to see, writes David Agnew, that people are now clapping and applauding the taking of the knee.

So that’s it then? We’ve sorted discrimination in football out? Some naive individuals may come to that conclusion. They will feel a rich feeling in their hearts.  Well now, that sort of thought pattern goes hand in hand with ignorance and legitimate excuses. It’s like charity being a coat you wear, twice a year. It hasn’t gone away and one filthy example of horrendous behaviour is, sadly, homophobia.

How many gay professional footballers have come out, who’ve played their majority of games in the UK? Have a guess. Bet you think it is in double digits. It’s not. It’s not even that. It is a singular figure. One. Yes one. That was Justin Fashanu, who later took his own life, as he feared his sexuality would harm his chances of a fair trial in the USA. Not only was he gay, but he was also a person of colour. So in a country that still has large parts that are so overtly racist, he faced another potential hurdle of what he could have believed was also a homophobic justice system, too.

Given the number of men in professional football, there have to be (statistically speaking) some who are gay, bi-sexual, have gender dysphoria, or identify as non-binary etc. In women’s sports, there are many high-profile people who have come out. They are not treated any differently by their fans. They appear not to be treated any differently by their peers or coaches. So why is it viewed as still ‘taboo’ in the men’s game? Perhaps, just perhaps, I can add some light to this question. Sadly, I witnessed some of the most knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal behaviour at Fratton Park, on Good Friday. Yes, Good Friday.

Once upon a time, some people at Football grounds would throw bananas and do monkey noises at black players. They would shout out the N-word too. They would also label people with long hair, as having misplaced their mobile residence or, for the even more ignorant, would call them an offensive term for a member of the travelling fraternity.

Fortunately, the vast majority of that behaviour has now ceased. There are, regrettably, pockets of it in existence. Still, we’re stamping out discriminatory language, aren’t we? I wish we were. Homophobic Abuse still exists and was evident from a large section of our support at Portsmouth.

It started, in full-throated numbskull levels during the second half, whenever Sean Raggett, came close to his 18-yard box. It was not just directed at him. It was also directed at Danny Cowley. Yes, the man that scored that goal at Burnley. Also, the man who has been our most successful manager, ever. Yet those people still clapped and sung “One Danny Cowley” at the end of the game. The slur was, and I’m not going to repeat it here, the inference that Danny and Sean were known to each other, in the biblical sense, you could say.

Why? Well? Why? Is it because they are no longer at our club and it is “just banter”. It is not just banter. Banter is gently ribbing someone because they forgot their wallet. Banter is filling up someone’s camera wall with stupid photos on their i-Phone. No, this was sung loudly and repetitively by a lot of “City fans”. How long must this go on for? This hateful behaviour, that not only breaks the law, but demonstrates to those who may have struggled coming to terms with their sexuality, that a considerable section of society realise that God’s stopped keeping score. They must be going through hell, by keeping a secret that should be celebrated.

The worst part of this hateful chanting was the fact that I saw kids, who were clearly still in primary school, joining in and also effing and jeffing too. Where were the parents? Well isn’t that what any responsible person would say? They were next to the children, laughing and applauding them. Great. A new generation of thugs and homophobes to welcome to the club. Innocence to ignorant in one moment. At that point, I turned to my best friend, an avid Norwich City fan. I said, “Sorry that you’ve had to hear that.” His reply, “I thought that sort of stuff died out at Watford in the early 80s”

It hasn’t, it is still going today. With ignorance and legitimate excuses, it will continue.

By and large, we have a great level of support both home and away, who will be saddened to read this. Believe me, it breaks my heart to have to write it. I have seen, first-hand the effects that this sort of language can used to

I have been at a night club, which decided to show their support for World AIDS Day. The club, normally a private members place, opened up their doors to the general public. I was working at the club that night and what I witnessed was some of the worst violence I had ever seen. You see some of the local football crew became aware of the open house policy that night. They came for one thing and one thing only, to “gay bash”. In their heads, AIDS was a “gay disease”.  What a collection of ill-educated dregs from worse the worst parts of humanity, to think that. The knuckleheads were shouting and chanting that inaccurate and disgraceful slur, as they were going about their attacks.

It’s not wrong to boo a player, team or coaching staff. That’s your prerogative, but by chanting what was being chanted at Fratton Park has no place in the game, street or anywhere else. It’s actually against the law. It will also get you a conviction and a banning order to boot. I must say I’m hanging on to hope, when there is no hope to speak of, for things to get better. I sincerely want those who were engaged in that awful chanting, to see how this can affect people and especially any gay players or coaching staff, of any club, who are scared beyond their wits to “come out”. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my most favourite singer/songwriters once said about a song he wrote, “ It’s my way of trying to figure out why it’s so hard for people to be good to each other. I believe the problem is conditional as opposed to being something inherent in mankind.

This above quote was over 30 years ago and not much has changed. Sadly,  I’m not sure much will in my lifetime. So, instead of spewing ignorant and abhorrent abuse, maybe we should all be praying for the time it stops.



“Editor – Sadly, whilst I didn’t say much at the time, I also witnessed a homophobic slur at the recent away game against Shrewsbury. It wasn’t a chant, just an individual, who referred to one of the opposition players as a ‘faggot’. There was no point in texting the safe text number, we were away, it was one voice and I don’t know who it was. Again, times are changing, and whereas it did seem funny to sing at Brighton fans back in 1998, times have moved on and 23 years later, these things are not acceptable in football.”

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