The last of the “last” taboo? Is the end of homophobia in football in sight?

A roundtable discussion as part of the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre Public Seminar Series

Chaired by Dr Andy Harvey

Room 417
Main Building, Birkbeck College
Torrington Square
London WC1E 7HX

Tuesday 3rd May, 2016, at 6pm

For directions click here.

Attendance at the event is free but you need TO REGISTER.


In this roundtable discussion, which will mark the launch of Birkbeck Sports Business Centre’s own Dr Andy Harvey’s new text Boys will be Boys? An Interdisciplinary Study of Sport, Masculinity and Sexuality, we will ask whether we are seeing the last of the ‘last taboo’ in football or whether there is still a long way to go before full equality is achieved.

The relationship between male team sports and the LGB&T (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) community has historically been marked by exclusion, mistrust and violence. That history, which has its antecedents in the late nineteenth century, ran to a lesser or greater degree throughout the twentieth century. The popular, catch-all term for the phenomenon is ‘homophobia in sport’.

Even as significant progress was made in the late twentieth century on legislative rights and acceptance of LGB&T people into different walks of life, including politics, business and entertainment, male team sports were often figured as a last bastion of heteronormative masculinity. As a result, sports, and especially football, were seen as off limits to the LGB&T community. It was an exclusion that was very often embraced by LGB&T people and gay men in particular, many of whom regarded football with a large degree of contempt. Football wanted nothing to do with the LGB&T community, who, by and large, were happy to oblige.

This scenario held (more or less) true until the recent past, since when significant and far-reaching changes have been observed in large sections of society, including sports. New research from academic sociologists, including one of our panellists at this seminar, has shown that the culture of homophobia that was prevalent in the pre-millennium years has not only begun to fade but to be replaced by a more open, inclusive masculinity among younger men that embraces difference and refuses to be figured as homophobic. Other surveys, notably from campaign groups such as Stonewall, also represented on the panel, acknowledge that significant steps towards inclusion have been made. However, in contrast to the academic studies, they still find unacceptable levels of homophobia throughout society, including sports. This seminar will help to shed some light on these divergent findings.

Expert Panellists

To help us unravel the problems and interpret the shifting patterns of data, a roundtable panel of experts and activists has been assembled to debate the critical issues.

Professor Eric Anderson, Professor of Sport, Masculinities and Sexualities, University of Winchester. Professor Anderson is one of the foremost sports’ sociologists whose empirical studies are finding dramatic changes in the sports’ landscape towards more inclusive, less discriminatory environments and practices that are radically different from a generation ago. Author of over a dozen books and scores of articles, Professor Anderson is an acknowledged international expert in the field of sport, gender and sexuality.

Chris Basiurski, former Chair of the Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN), Birkbeck alumnus and key informant contributor to Dr Harvey’s new book. Chris’s 2013 research for the GFSN into homophobic abuse suffered by Brighton fans alerted the football authorities and wider world to the continued problem of homophobia in that particular case.

Simone Pound, Head of Equalities at the Professional Footballers Association (PFA). The PFA was an early pioneer in challenging racism and discrimination in football back in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then they have widened the scope of their diversity work to promote LGB&T inclusion in the professional game.

Robbie de Santos, Head of Campaigns at Stonewall. Stonewall is the UK’s largest and best known LGB&T inclusion charity and campaign group. Instrumental in successfully campaigning for the repeal of Section 28 and for equal ages of consent, in recent years Stonewall has turned its attention to other priorities, including sport. Most notably, Stonewall run the annual award-winning Rainbow Laces campaign that aims to raise awareness of LGB&T issues in professional football.

Responding to the panel debate:

Professor Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor of Gender and Psychology in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck. Professor Segal is an internationally acclaimed feminist scholar and activist. Among her many publications, she has written extensively on masculinities, notably her groundbreaking text Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men, published in a second edition in 2007. Lynne was lead supervisor of Andy Harvey’s PhD thesis on homophobia in sport.

Chair for the evening:

Dr Andy Harvey, Birkbeck Sports Business Centre. Andy’s new book, Boys will be Boys? An Interdisciplinary Study of Sport, Masculinity and Sexuality, is published by Fisher Imprints. In the text Andy approaches the troubled and troubling history between male team sports and gay men through a truly interdisciplinary lens in order to extend our knowledge about this long-standing yet rapidly changing phenomenon. Copies of the book will be available for purchase after the seminar.

Host for the evening:

Mr Sean Hamil, Director of the Birkbeck Sports Business Centre.


Contact Details


Seminar Series Details

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6759


Twitter: @Birkbecksport

Header Image:

View all Events