11 Days Remaining

Wednesday 11th
posted by Kadeem Simmonds in Sport

KADEEM SIMMONDS can’t believe the FA chair really thinks a gay player in the Premier League should come out at the start of the season because supporters would be ‘happy’ and the sun would be shining

HAVE you ever listened to, or read, someone’s quotes and thought: “This has got to be some kind of joke, you cannot be serious?”

That is what went through my head after reading Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke’s quotes on gay footballers and black managers on Monday.

It’s the latest gaffe from the FA following their scheme to get more girls playing football included nice smelling pink bibs and advertising on the back of bathroom doors. I can see what Clarke was trying to say, he just worded it wrong and made himself look silly.

On the continued discussion surrounding gay footballers and why there hasn’t been a player who has come out while playing in the Premier League, Clarke said that he has spoken to the “gay community” and that some of the footballers are “happy with their sexuality and just don’t want anyone to know.”

That is totally fair and we should respect their decision. It isn’t a big deal if a player is gay or not. But the fact that no-one has ever announced it while playing has made it a big deal and it will continue to be until a player feels “brave” enough to do so.

Where Clarke sounded foolish was when he said: “The Premier League, the Football League and the FA could do it at the start of the season. At the start of the season everybody thinks it is their season, the crowds are happy, the sun is shining. I was asked [recently] if football is ready for top-level pros to come out and I said I’m not sure we were.”

When the crowds are happy and the sun is shining, really? This isn’t a Disney movie. Does he expect the birds to be chirping as well? Start, middle or end of the season, it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is that the player feels he would be supported by those around him if and when he decides to make his sexuality known. We don’t make straight players announce their sexuality at the start of the season so why would we make gay players do so?

I can just about see his logic. Supporters are generally happier before a ball is kicked because they are excited about the possibilities the season brings and haven’t been let down by shock losses or bad performances yet.

But to think that fans won’t respond negatively at the start of the season is naive. You may get supporters of the player backing him but opponents will start up homophobic chants. I say will because it already happens to straight players. Do we really think rival fans won’t do the same to an openly gay player? I would hope that it would be a small minority and that people around them make it clear that such chants will not be tolerated, and the chanters kicked out of the stadium and banned from attending games.

However, it just won’t happen. Fans are more likely to ignore the homophobic chants, like they do now. You won’t ever be able to create a safe environment for a gay player to come out because there will always be one homophobic fan in the crowd or one idiot doing it for the “banter.”

You only have to look at the tweets Alfie Barker sent to Bournemouth’s Harry Artur about his stillborn daughter to see that certain humans cannot be trusted. Can we even rely on the support of his own fans? Should the player miss a penalty or cost his team a match, what’s to say his own fans don’t turn on him? It’s a shame but you can see why gay players don’t want to come out, not just yet anyway.

Back to Clarke, he went on to say that he could see a black England manager in the future. Given that we can’t even get a black manager in the Premier League for longer than a season, why does he think England are ready for a manager from the BAME community? Once they move on from Gareth Southgate, are they really going to turn to Chris Hughton? Clarke said why not and that it would “put us forward 20 years.”

Given that the Rooney Rule trial in the Championship and below is failing, the FA needs to focus on getting BAME coaches and managers at grassroots level before turning their attention to the national game. You look at the names linked with the England role before Southgate took over and Hughton wasn’t mentioned on anyone’s list. It’s great that he was brought up in the interview but he isn’t on the FA’s radar.

They are already looking at Eddie Howe if the rumours are to be believed and will always go after Arsene Wenger until he retires. Hughton will need to be managing in the Premier League and doing extremely well for him to be considered for the role. We are well away from that and that is assuming Brighton don’t sack him if they get back into the Premier League this season. After Hughton, what BAME manager would England be looking at?

Keith Curle at League Two’s Carlisle? I probably have just as much of a chance as he does. Same with Grimsby’s Marcus Bignot. Noel Blake was part of the England set-up, managing the Under-19 side up until 2014.

However, he had a stroke in 2015 and doesn’t look like he will step back into coaching. Until there are a host of BAME managers up and down the English football pyramid, there won’t be a black England manager and that’s just common sense.

It’s nice that Clarke thinks it could happen and it might, but it is highly unlikely that it will happen in the next two decades.

I am sure Clarke is a genuine person and wants the best for English football. But he really should think before he speaks because at the moment he isn’t doing himself any favours.

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