The role of sport as a potential catalyst for changing attitudes on LGBT issues “can’t be underestimated”, the Commons Speaker has said.
John Bercow used the launch of a draft bill to outlaw indecent and homophobic chanting at matches in England and Wales to praise the bravery of sportsmen and women who have revealed their sexuality publicly.
He said former Welsh international rugby captain Gareth Thomas’ decision to come out as gay in 2009 had shown true “leadership” – and it would do “wonders for the cause” if other players also felt able to be open about their sexuality. “I feel particular admiration for someone who is willing to say: ‘This is me – this is the person I am. This is what I believe – and to campaign for wider recognition,” he said.
“If we’re able at least to create a climate where people can say: ‘I’m first and foremost a player of football or rugby, but by the way, I’m gay or bisexual’, that would be such a healthy place to reach.”
Mr Bercow made the comments as Thomas joined Damian Collins, the Conservative chair of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, to launch a bill to amend the 1991 Football Offences Act.
The measure would change the law to put homophobic and transphobic abuse on a par with racial abuse at sporting events. It would outlaw “chanting or gesturing in relation to a person’s sexual orientation or gender reassignment”.
Image: Gordon Taylor, Chief Exec of the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association), former Welsh international rugby captain Gareth Thomas, and Commons Speaker John Bercow. (PC)