The FA itself boasts that “An individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never be a barrier to participating in, and enjoying, our national sport.” This makes us wonder as to whether or not the FA is doing a sufficient job of enforcing this motto because in December, when confirming the members of it’s Inclusion Advisory Board, former Notts County defender and self-proclaimed homophobe Michael Johnson was added to the board.
The 40-year-old has had a long career in football which began in Notts County in 1991. He later went on to play for Birmingham City and Derby County before returning to Notts County and subsequently, finishing his career there in 2009. But it has not been his footballing career that has landed his name in the papers recently.
When Johnson was recently announced onto the FA’s equality board nobody gave it much thought until a video, in which he outs himself as a homophobe, re-emerged into the spotlight. The video shows Johnson on an episode of the BBC’s series “The Big Questions” that was filmed in 2012. When asked did he support the FA’s campaign against homophobia, Johnson replied by saying “because of my beliefs, because of the bible that I read, in that bible it does state that homosexuality is detestable unto the Lord”.
This generates a number of questions regarding the FA’s list of requirements for one to join it’s equality board. Surely “candidates must be open and accepting of all persons regardless of race, faith and sexual orientation” was somewhere near the top of that list. If the FA had done more background checks on Johnson he would have never made his way onto the equality board and this problem would have never of come to light. This indicates a lack of effort and time within the FA when they were appointing the members of it’s Inclusion Advisory Board .Does this, in-turn, indicate a feeling of negligence, within the FA, towards it’s equality board?
With no openly gay footballers in the Premier League as of yet, the FA should be doing all that it can do to make the game, that we all love so dearly, feel that it is open to everybody and that all players feel welcomed. Some feel that the immediate exclusion of Johnson from the board would be a foot in the right direction whilst trying to rid English football of homphobia.
In a recent interview Johnson stated that he felt “deep regret” regarding the answer he gave to the question on whether or not he would support the FA’s fight against homophobia. He went on to say that “it was wrong and relates to a view I no longer hold”. But does his apology for his homophobic comments back in 2012 justify what he said and his position on the equality board?
On the FA’s website it vouches that it will “combat all forms of homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic language and behaviour – whether by spectators, players, coaches or other participants”. It seems that the FA need to make a clear decision on whether or not it wishes to rid homophobia from all aspects of football. If they truly wish to do so they then need to abide by what they say and and combat all forms of homophobia and by removing Michael Johnson from their equality board they might just be on the right path.
We all knew that the road to equality for all in football was going to be a long one but with more effort from the FA and national football associations worldwide, that road might just be made a little bit shorter.