The world we find ourselves living in in 2013 is regulated. Our interactions are regulated by social acceptance and tolerance. As so is our behaviour. In short, the way in which we treat each other is fixed accordingly by what our social values will allow. For example, we live in a society that doesn’t differentiate between the sexes and therefore the just individual will behave in a manner that promotes this at all times. Our outward demeanour is essentially controlled by the society to which we belong and this is how it should be. When Rousseau said that ‘Man is born free yet everywhere he is in chains’ he wasn’t referring to the chains of society but the chains of fear. For a society without such regulation is a dangerous society. A society in which the individual is allowed to think and believe what he likes and act upon those beliefs isn’t a society in which anything worthwhile can thrive be it art or literature. No, regulation, governance and law far from thwarting freedom are essential in its flourishing. And of course regulation extends to the establishments and institutions that underpin the society in which we live and because of regulation enjoy the freedom of.
From the Police force to Central Government there is a sense that what occurs within the boundaries of an institution should reflect the beliefs and values of the wider society. That is not to say that there are not malfunctions within these institutions and establishments such as the institutionalised racism in the Police force which was brought to light by such as cases as the Steven Lawrence affair. However, by and large I feel that it is fair to say that we can live and operate with a fair degree of confidence that the institutions, establishments and organisations in which we place our trust, operate in a way that reflects, on the whole, our own liberal beliefs and values.
Nonetheless, there are still two institutions left in the Western world that have somehow escaped regulation. That is to say that there are two institutions in which we place so much love, trust and dedication that have chosen to repay this by ignoring the very core values that regulate the society in which we exist. They are ‘The Church’ by which I am referring to Organized Religion, specifically Christianity and Professional Football. Never have two seemingly distant establishments been so conjoined by their arrogance and sheer disregard for decency and social values. In order to illustrate this I will use tolerance, specifically the tolerance of homosexuality, within both establishments. ‘The Church’ has recently been asked by a left leaning Conservative Government to allow the marriage of same sex couples. ‘The Church’ said no. I write this on the day that a new Pope has been elected. His words of wisdom on the Argentinian Governments support of gay marriage; “Let’s not be naive: this isn’t a simple political fight, it’s an attempt to destroy God’s plan.” The situation is utterly baffling. To say that Britain is anything but secular in 2013 would be delusional, yet we still value the wishes and opinions of ‘The Church’. This is an institution that has harboured paedophiles and continues to deny equal rights to women. But I am not unveiling anything new in the case of ‘The Church’. This is not an attack on Religion but ‘The Church’ as an institution. ‘The Church’ as an institution is in fact detrimental to Religion. Shouldn’t Faith be between the believer and the Holy Spirit or Omi-Present being that the believer has faith in? In a secular society ‘The Church’ belongs to a minority of sorts. That is to say that the majority that are free thinking, atheist or at least, non-religious rational beings are tolerating ‘The Church’. The present state is that although as a society (I am referring purely to Britain) we chose on the whole not to serve ‘The Church’ we still, on the whole, chose not to speak out against the intolerance and exclusion that ‘The Church’ openly displays. It is my opinion that we are duty bound to regulate ‘The Church’ just as we would regulate our Health Service or Police Force etc. Somehow the institution that is the ‘The Church’ has escaped this regulation.
And this leads me to Professional Football. As a sport it is widely regarded as The World Game. It is true that Professional Football touches millions and unites people of all ages, ethnicities, social and economic backgrounds and genders. As an institution Football has made a concerted effort to be more inclusive. Anti-racism campaigns have been hugely successful, relatively speaking. But the game continues to be laced with a bitter homophobic and even right wing element that the authorities such as the FA and UEFA seem reluctant to tackle. Again I believe that as a society we have the moral obligation to regulate the institution and demand that the game cleans up its act. Football operates inside our society (again I am only referring to Britain) and therefore should be subject to the very same regulation that all institutions that operate in our society exist within. For rational thinking football fans I can only imagine that the whole affair is the cause of great embarrassment. But you do have a choice. You of course boycott the game until it makes a meaningful stand against homophobia in Football. Choose not to throw more of your hard earned money at the game until it accepts the social regulation that governs the wider society. But you won’t. This is because you fear social exclusion. To snub football would probably mean the cessation of the vast majority of all of your social interactions, which in itself is a sad state of affairs. So instead the rational minded football fan is like the parent of a spoiled bloated child who endlessly shouts out its demands as your work yourself to death in order to pour junk found down its gullet. You blush as passers-by shoot disapproving glances your way but still you continue empty cartons of fries into the open mouth of your little darling. By doing this, by doing nothing, you are facilitating the continuation of homophobia in football. You the fans are responsible. You have created an environment in which players are reluctant to be open about their sexuality. Football grounds across the country, populated by you football fans, have become arenas of intolerance.
Homosexuality is the last taboo in football. This is not solely because of institutionalised homophobia within the FA and UEFA, this is because of you, the fans, and your displays of homophobia on the terraces. The lack of any openly gay professional footballers in Britain is due to the fear of the retribution they will receive from the fans of the game. In a running column in the Guardian; The Secret Footballer, it was claimed that that a gay player would be accepted in a typical dressing room, and instead said that the worry for any would-be gay player would be the abuse from the terraces. In 2010 the FA aimed to shoot a video designed to discourage anti-gay hate-chants on the terraces, however, they reportedly couldn’t find a player from the Premier League willing to endorse it and so postponed the video.
Pundits believed that players were scared to associate themselves with homosexuality.
Xavier Dwyer is 31 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1